Hungarian lecso (lecsó) is a typical Hungarian dish that consists of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. How lecso turns out can differ, depending on the type of pepper used. Some swear by the bitingly hot bogyiszlói (banana chili), others prefer the sweet, mild varieties. However, there is always room for compromise by adding a few hot ones to the milder ones. However, care should be taken when adding very hot peppers, since just a single one can ruin a dish for an unaccustomed palate.
In winter, fresh tomatoes and peppers for many Hungarian dishes, such as pörkölt, are traditionally replaced by preserved or deep-frozen lecso. To preserve it, the hot cooked mixture is spooned into sterilized jars, and a tablespoon of fat poured over the top. The jars are immediately sealed, and dry-sterilized by wrapping them in paper.
If using Hungarian lecso as a seasoning for other dishes, it should immediately be poured into small jars, whereas larger preserving jars are more suitable for winter provisions for complete meals.
To freeze it, the lecso is prepared using the basic recipe and portions placed in tightly sealed containers, which can then be put in the freezer.
Hungarian lecso basic recipe
2 1/4 lbs/1 kg bell peppers (capsicum)
Generous I lb/500 g tomatoes
1 large onion
4 tbsp oil
1 heaped tbsp ground paprika
Remove the stalks and the seeds from the peppers, and cut into finger-width strips or rings. Remove the stalks from the tomatoes, and squash or slice them. Finely chop the onion and fry in the hot oil, stirring continuously, until translucent. Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika.
Add the peppers and salt, and cover with a lid. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until soft.
Lecso with sausage
Add 7 oz (200 g) sliced or mild smoked sausage (Debrecziner) to the lecsó just before it is ready, and cook for a few minutes. The sausage can also be left whole; use one pair for each person.
Fry 1/2 cup (80 g) rice in a little oil. Prepare the lecsó according to the basic recipe. Then add the rice and leave to swell in the vegetable juices, adding a little water if necessary. Extra salt is usually required if you add more water.
Lecso with pasta pellets
Sauté 1/2 cup/80 g pasta pellets in a little hot oil, then proceed as in previous recipe.
Lecso with bacon drippings
Prepare the lecsó in accordance with the basic recipe, using bacon drippings instead of the fat. Dice about 5 oz/150 g smoked bacon and heat until the fat runs, then remove the cracklings.
Lecso with egg
Beat the eggs (1-2 per person) until smooth, and add a little salt. Pour over the cooked lecsó, and heat the mixture, stirring continuously, until the egg begins to set. Both the basic recipe for lecsó and the versions using bacon drippings and sausage are suitable for this recipe.