Brief resume about the Hungarian foods made with paprika
I’ll go bail that if you ask anybody in the world which nation can be connected with the world “goulash”, most of them reply immediately, and they will say “Hungarian”. Well, yes! We have become a goulash world-power in the last 100 years. It is not a problem at all! We must be proud of it, and we are, because the Hungarian-style goulash is an excellent food. If we learn the three basic types of foods – stew, papricache and goulash – then we will easily know our way around the names, preparations and enjoying the countless excellent and traditional Hungarian foods.
The mixture of the meat (including the fat), the onion and the grained paprika gives the typical Hungarian style taste to the foods, which cannot be reproduced by any other nations in this form.
The quantity and the timing of the paprika given to the food are very important. If you add too little paprika, it won’t give its beautiful color to the food, it will be vanished. If it is too much, it will deform the original flavor, and will make the total effect mawkish. It is a basic rule that you have to put the needed amount into the food 10-15 minutes before the end of the cooking, to let the flavors and the color culminate. Be careful in the beginning of the cooking, don’t let the paprika catch in the dish, because it will go brown and will be bitter. For the typical Hungarian flavor it is important that the hot fat or oil could get in contact with the paprika only for a short time, because the red color will loose this time and the typical flavors will spring this time. If the fat is too hot, it will make bitter even the best quality paprika.
The matter of greasiness could be an important thing too. This is why some foreign trior loses their moods, who would like to make some of the recipes at home, because they think they can replace the fat with anything – which is unfortunately not true. You can get the most pleasant flavour without adding any other fat, which means the food contains only that type and amount of grease which is in the meat.
We must say some words about the dish, wherein you the most tasteful Hungarian foods are made, and this dish are called: the kettle.
The traditions and the usefulness made its shape to the one known nowadays. But don’t be so hard to please. You can cook excellent foods in any other dishes, if you know what are you doing and why you are doing. The steel dishes are especially good for cooking, you can easily wash them and they are available for a good price in various sizes.
You can choose the size and the type of the dish with the amount of the food. The dish must be filled to the half, maximum to the three fourth with food, because you can hand that easily only this way.
If you fill it too much, it could run out of the dish and the fat with paprika will catch to the side of the dish. If you have too little juice, it could be easier to catch into the dish, mainly to the side. You can use a topper if you want, because the food in the dish will be softening earlier and the food will be more pleasant.
Choosing the meats once was a science. Usually the fresh meats have the best flavour, the frozen and the dried meats are not the best for this purpose.
If you cook smaller animals (hen, chicken, rabbit, lamb, or fish) the best is to cook the meat in full and freeze the rest boiled, because it has a poor flavour than if you cook only little amounts.
Usually 0,2-0,3 kg of meat per capita is enough, but if you cook lamb or chicken 0,5 kg of meat per capita can be consumed.
The salt is an indispensable ingredient, an important part of the Hungarian cuisine. These traditional foods are made and eaten by those people, who have made hard physical work constantly. For them, the eating was the replacement of the salt lost by sweat at the same time. So don’t be scared, the Hungarian paprika foods must have salted very well. If you cooked smoked meat, be careful, because they are impregnated with salt, not only with preservatives. Before cooking, water them, it is better, if you salt them after cooking.
The onion is an important ingredient. If you are searching, choose the ripe, healthy, well stored ones; prefer the bit older ones. From full leaves, cooking onions, young red onions you cannot cook a very good paprika food.
For a kilogram of meat a chicken egg sized onion is enough. After peeling the onion, wash them.
Other seasonings can be used to taste:
The bay leave is a relative widely used, but it is not grows in Hungary. That is why we import them from Mediterranean or even hotter countries. It is excellent for the bean goulash, souse soup, and for foods made with sour cream, cabbage or pickled foods. Be careful, if you cook them too long, they will become bitter. 1-2 dried leaves are enough for a family dose.
The garlic is equally popular everywhere. Originally is has not been added to many foods, but the folk therapeutics have ranked them high, so it has been spread quickly, and does it nowadays too. So we put the garlic into everything we can. Avoid letting the garlic to distort the taste of the food. Add only 2-3 whole cloves only into the food without peeling, and after the important part have made.
The pepper is one of our beloved spices. Both of the white and the black pepper is used, the latter is used in whole too. You can reach a better taste, if you add the pepper to the food immediately before serving, or in the end of cooking. Every paprika food can bear a pinch of pepper per plate.
The cumin is mainly used for beef foods; they are necessary part of them. You can use a pinch of cumin for every kilogram of beef.
The tomato and the green paprika can be added into every paprika food, it depends on the taste. You can dress the plate with green pepper when serving. If you add tomato to the food, it can easily catch, so stir it constantly and don’t let it congeal. When using tomato, think about that some sugar can improve the taste of the foods.
The celery leaves and the parsley are equally good idea for decoration and for seasoning too. If you use them well, they can make out and improve numbers of pleasant tastes. You can add a string in whole, but you can add them chopped onto the top of the food. Use only the fresh ones, if possible.
We know many other spices, but be careful with them, because they can give a different smell and taste to the food we used to. Of course if you like experimenting, try them.
Excerption from the book “Paprikával fűszerezett hagyományos ételeink” (Our paprika seasoned traditional foods) by Árpád Kopasz