It had been several years (like 10) since I had been to Budapest. This past June, I had the opportunity with my wife, Mary, children, parents and in-laws (all Hungarian in varying degrees) return for my 4th visit. We enjoyed the sites, visiting with distant family, eating the food and drinking traditional Hungarian drinks of Pálinka and Unicum, learning how to toast in Hungarian — Egészségedre. That always gets harder as the night goes on.
Lecsó is one of those warming comfort foods that you can find variations of all over Europe. Similar to a ratatouille or vegetable stew this is the version I remember most from my Hungarian grandmother growing up and my father still makes today. You can use store bought kielbasa but the true dish for me is with a style of smoked Hungarian style sausage called Kolbasz.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 3/4 pound Bende Hungarian Brand Smoked Sausage, "Gyulai Kolbasz" or kielbasa sliced into thin rings
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved then sliced into rings
- 3 medium tomatoes, skin removed and sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds late season sweet banana peppers (preferably Hungarian but any sweet pepper will do), tops cut off seeds removed and sliced into quarters
- 1/2 pound hot Hungarian banana peppers, tops cut off seeds removed and sliced into quarters
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup rice
- 1/2 cup water, more as needed
- 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Once shimmering add the sausage and fry until brown about 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Add the onions, tomato, salt and pepper stirring to coat.
Add the peppers and again stir to combine. Over medium low heat cover and cook the peppers slowly for about 30-40 minutes, opening the pan and stirring often. As the peppers cook they will create there own juice and an amazing smell. Once the peppers are soft and wilted it is time to add the rice.
Remember, rice is going to absorb a lot of the liquid in the pan. I start by adding a half cup of water into the pan before I add my rice. So, add your water, stir and then add your rice stirring again. Cover and allow to cook over medium low heat checking and stirring frequently, adding more water as necessary not letting the pan go dry, about 20 minutes more.
Rice should be tender and the overall dish should not be soupy but moist. Sprinkle with a little additional paprika and dinner is served.
Other variations are made with simply peppers and onions, omitting the sausage and meat for a vegetarian version. This is also traditionally scrambled in eggs for breakfast! As always...
E.A.T. local E.A.T. well