This blog post will be about the iconic Hungarian ratatouille, called “lecsó” (pronunciation: letch-oh)
I must say it is a really controversial speciality, even among Hungarians. It can be made in different ways and obviously everybody thinks that her/his recipe is the real one. Even in families it can be a matter of debate but we all can agree in one thing: the basic ingredients are tomato, pepper, onion and paprika.
Lecsó is really unique and is the taste of summer for us. However I must admit that lecsó and me were not real friends for a long time. As a child I decided that I don’t like it and even after being a chef cooking tons of French ratatouille I couldn’t defeat my antipathy that I grew in myself. Until a few years ago. I was back on holiday from Spain where I was living and working that time. I was sitting at my mother’s kitchen table while she was cooking lecsó. The kitchen was filled by the scent of juicy tomatoes and peppers mixed with the warmth of summer and her love. “What if you just taste a bit?”- my mother asked me and suddenly I said yes. Immediately I realized how big silliness it is to waste 25 years of my life by attaching myself to a childhood decision.
Now after a couple of years we are finally at home here in the Bakony mountains in Hungary and I take a wicker basket and go to our kitchen garden to pick the ingredients for lecsó. Sun-ripened tomatoes and crunchy peppers and our own yellow onions. I can hear the baker’s van from far so I run to the street and buy a round loaf of bread. Our kitchen is filled by the scent of summer and love which is a basic ingredient in our family.
It is delicious and has the taste of our garden. I have to declare: lecsó is really something you cannot live without.
PS: I wouldn’t say it is the real, original lecsó recipe, this is only a version of it. Yesterday my grandmother tasted it, she said it is delicious but (not surprisingly) immediately added that she cooks is in another way…She cuts thicker slices of the peppers, she doesn’t add eggs, just rarely rice and she cooks pepper first not tomatoes. So as you can see possibilities are boundless so do not hesitate to experiment! (and please leave a comment if you did so 🙂 )
Lecsó, the Hungarian ratatouille- the way my mother cooks it
500 g green peppers
3 medium tomatoes
1 small yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
40 g long-grain rice
olive or sunflower oil
Cook the rice in boiling salted water and put aside. Boil water in another pan, cross the skin on the bottom of the tomatoes with a knife and drop them into the water for 1-2 minutes then immediately into cold water so you easily remove skin. Cut them into thin slices and set aside. Remove the seeds of the pepper and slice them into 1/2 cm stripes. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt. Cut the onion into half than slice it thinly. Heat some oil in a pan add onion and a pinch of salt and cook it until soft and light brown. Add tomatoes cook it until it is juicy, remove from heat, add paprika (paprika gets a bitter flavor when it gets direct heat) and peppers, put it back to the heat and cover it so it gets soft. Remove the cover, evaporate the juice and add the eggs while reducing the heat. Stir it well, finally add the cooked rice. Serve it with fresh bread.