Or magyar március, I suppose.
Right at the end of February Buzzfeed came out with an article about Hungarian foods the world should try. As much as I like Hungarian food, I don’t usually cook it at home because… well, because outside my door it’s pretty much everywhere and unavoidable, so at home I prefer to cook other things. If I were feeling snarky I would say something like, “When I’m cooking for myself I prefer recipes which don’t use the same ten ingredients over and over.” But, in March I decided to put my prejudices aside and focus on cooking and eating some of the best and most wonderful Hungarian foods.
First up was paprikás csirke. I used a combination of several recipes. By which I mean I read several recipes, and then threw things into a pot in the order that I thought I remembered and in amounts that I made up as I went. I may have over done the onion, pepper and tomato (I mean, if you’re the type of person who believes there is such a thing as too much onion, which I am not) so it turned out a little lecsó-y, but it was pretty amazing. Better than “real” paprikás csirke even.
The first attempt at palacsinta was not so successful. When you read a half dozen recipes and they tell all you to grease the pan, then probably you should grease the pan. We managed to get a couple done, which to be fair was all we could eat anyway after filling up on paprikás csirke.
Fitting rakott krumpli (layered potatoes, or potato casserole) into the March menu was easy, since we eat it at least once a month anyway. Since Tomi prefers it with egg and I like it with onion, he has become an expert at making Siamese twin rakott krumpli – two different kinds in one pan.
Pogácsa was something I’ve wanted to try for a long time and finally got around. First I had to learn to pronounce it, because I always want to call them polgácsa. Just like my pronunciation, the recipe also turned out a little different. The folding and waiting, folding and waiting was going wonderfully; everything was rising up beautifully. See evidence below:
Then came the final roll out, and the moment when I realized that I really should bake them in two batches because they weren’t all going to fit on one tray. So of course I threw them all on one tray, smothered them with cheese, and shoved them into the oven. The result was something like a baking-tray-sized piece of cheesy bread. Not bad, quite tasty in fact, but not exactly the picture-perfect pógacsa I had been hoping for.
Of course eating a túró rudi or several was easy to do, as was drinking a bit of Tokaji wine. I also made some körözött, which I make so often that I almost forgot to add it to this list.
And my crowning achievement was that I made a dobostorta from scratch. That is all. I was so impressed with myself that I already wrote a whole separate post about it.
I also made some nokedli (spätzle, if you prefer German) and we had them with cabbage, túró, and ham. Yum.
And another great Hungarian food that wasn’t on the Buzzfeed list but should have been: roasted duck with cabbage. It was actually Tomi who cooked this up, and it was so amazing that he made it twice within the month.
So what did I learn from this month of Magyar food? First, that I really need to learn to take better food pictures. Hungarian food is fatty, but really nowhere near as greasily shiny as these pictures would seem to show.
Second, no way around it: traditional Hungarian cuisine is not veggie-friendly. On the one hand, there are several excellent dishes like lecsó, the many types of főzelék (stewed vegetables), and all of the amazing pickles available. But greens are never the heart of a Hungarian meal – it has to be meat. Preferably accompanied by meat, and some starch. Vegetables are a garnish, an afterthought, or plate decoration. Towards the end of the month I definitely started to get annoyed with the lack of fresh vegetables, although I might be being unfair to blame it on the Hungarian diet – it is March, after all, not exactly the most fruitful (pun intended) month.
On the positive side, it was a great experience to try cooking all these new and semi-new things. We tend to get into a rut of cooking and eating the same old recipes; naturally, I cook the things that I know how to cook, so I was glad to get out of the rut this month. In fact, the best thing of all is the fact that I tried and failed at so many new recipes. Was there anything, actually, that turned out picture-prefect? Nope. And yet, it was all delicious. So long story short, a successful month!