Here in Hungary, we’re deep in winter, which means that everyone at the Eminence Certified Organic Farm is turning to soups, stews and comfort food for the season. One of the best-loved winter meals in the Koronczay family household is Hungarian lecso, a delicious stew that simmers together peppers, tomatoes and the country’s national spice – paprika. Read on to find out more about this authentic dish as well as our favorite lecso recipe.
What Is Hungarian Lecso?
Similar to France’s ratatouille dish, lecso is a simple yet versatile dish which can be adapted in different ways. In its simplest form, the stew is a perfect vegan meal that’s tasty and filling. For a heartier meal that’s paleo friendly, add a few slices of Hungarian Debreceni sausage. Or, whisk in several eggs at the end of cooking for another traditional variation. Whichever way you choose to whip up this staple recipe, a bowl full of lecso and a slice of crusty bread makes an authentic meal in the Hungarian countryside.
You might want to dig into your stew immediately after cooking, but lecso can also be preserved for months. While hot, lecso can be poured into sterilized jars and a spoonful of fat layered on top. The jars are then sealed, dry sterilized and stored for later meals.
Hungarian Wax Peppers
A key ingredient of this recipe, the Hungarian wax pepper looks similar to the banana pepper, but watch out! The Hungarian wax pepper is usually mild but can range in heat up to a jalapeno-like inferno. If you’re looking for a sweet and mild version of the stew, make sure that you’re using the tamer versions of this Hungarian pepper, or substitute with regular bell peppers.
Hungarian paprika not only spices this flavorful stew but is also used in Eminence Organic Skin Care products to turn up the heat. Paprika can come in several different varieties – from the sweet or mild version used in this recipe, to smoky or spicy types. For spicy paprika – like the type used in our skin care – the seeds and membranes of the pepper are mixed in when the powder is produced. As the pepper is dried and ground into powder, the spice takes on a zesty heat.
The Hungarian Herbal Mud Treatment, for example, not only refreshes the skin with the minerals and sulfur in Hungarian mud but also contains spicy paprika to invigorate the complexion and promote a radiant glow. Not only does this versatile pepper add a hit of flavor to food but also, a jolt of heat to our “spicy” skin care.
Traditional Vegan Lecso Recipe
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1 medium organic onion, sliced thinly
- 1 pound organic peppers (Hungarian wax peppers, or red, yellow or green bell peppers, cut into 1/4 inch strips)
- 3 large very ripe organic tomatoes, peeled and chopped. Or 1- 28 ounce can of drained diced organic tomatoes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika (or substitute with smoked paprika for a smoky flavor)
In a large skillet, saute the onion in oil over low heat for five minutes. Add pepper strips and cook another 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and paprika and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture resembles chunky tomato sauce. Serve with crusty bread.
For a vegetarian version which is not vegan, beat four eggs and mix into the stew near the end of the cooking time.
For a paleo version, you can substitute bacon grease for oil. You can also add one and half pounds of sausage cut in bite-sized diagonal chunks when adding in tomatoes, and reduce the amount of salt. Hungarian Debreceni sausage or kielbasa are ideal choices – and if you select a smoked sausage, you may want to choose sweet rather than smoked paprika.
What comfort food do you turn to during the winter months? Let us know in the comments below or share on social media