Happy Easter everyone! Hope you all had a lovely weekend. In Canada we have Good Friday as a holiday. Some things like the LCBO are closed on Sunday as well. Saturday will be a busy day, so better get there early to stock up for the family dinner!
My earliest memory of eating Hungarian Lecsó was when I was about 8 or 9 years old and my father made it for us. We were a typical Eastern European family in that the father virtually never cooked, that was ‘woman’s work’ but my Dad did step up on the occasion that my dear Mom had to go into the hospital and have an operation. I don’t remember much else about this time except that Dad cooked lecsó. One other thing, my 6 or 7 year old brother was beside himself with worry when our parents told us that Mom was going to be away in the hospital for a few days, and through tears a great degree of anxiety he asked, “Who will cook for us?” Our obsession with food runs deep.
My experience has been that Lecsó is to Hungarians what Lasagna is to Americans or Bangers and Mash are to the English, it’s a fairly common staple. It’s easy enough to put together and it’s comforting and satisfying without being overly filling. The Hungarians generally use a Hungarian green pepper which is more like a Cubanelle, longer and lighter in colour with a more subtle flavour than the green peppers we are accustomed to in North America. I switched up this dish by using colourful red, yellow and orange peppers (capsicums) and Vidalia Onions which are much sweeter.
The traditional protein accompaniment in our household was Debreceni Kolbász which is like a thick hot dog, named after the city in which it was made. Most Hungarian sausages are coarsely ground pork seasoned heavily with paprika and garlic where as a Debreceni is subtly seasoned very finely ground pork that has the texture that resembles what you would know as a hot dog. The only difference from North American hot dogs and Hungarian Debreceni is that Debreceni has a very distinct ‘pop’ as you bite through the casing. I haven’t had a Debreceni in many years for the same reasons I haven’t had a hot dog — they are just too unhealthy to be worth it for me. I made poached Cod to eat with this dish and it was exceptional.
- 2 red peppers, sliced
- 2 orange peppers, sliced
- 2 yellow peppers, sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped (peeled and seeds removed)
- 1 medium sized Vidalia onion, finely sliced
- 200 mL home made tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
- salt and pepper to taste
- parsley for garnish
- In a light spray of olive oil, cook the onions until translucent.
- Add the sliced peppers and tomatoes and cook until very slightly softened.
- Add the tomato sauce and seasonings and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium temperature.
- Hungarians traditionally use lard as the fat which adds flavour but is extremely unhealthy so I add a pinch of smoked paprika which also adds to the depth of flavour that the debreceni would bring.
- Traditionally the peppers are cooked until limp but I prefer a little texture to my lecsó so I don’t cook them as much.
- Like most stewy dishes this is a lot better the second day.
- Consider adding a poached egg to this dish (Hungarians might eat this with scrambled eggs).
- Sour cream or yogurt are also used as a garnish to this dish.
- Cubanelle peppers come in both hot and sweet varieties and look virtually identical. You will want to make sure you buy the right one and not make the same mistake we did for a meal we served at the cottage several years ago — that was a rude awakening!