Friday, June 15, 2012

Fish Friday: Hungarian Vegetable Soup

OK, this week's post for Fish Friday doesn't have any fish in it, but it is a vegetarian meal so still in the no-meat Friday theme. 

Recently I've been purchasing a number of Hungarian and Austrian cookbooks, trying to recapture the food my Grandma used to make when I was younger. My Grandma was born in Veszprem, Hungary and travelled to Australia in the late 1940s with an infant son (my Dad), who was born along the way in Graz Austria
Veszprem Hungary (the little A) Photo Courtesy of Google Maps
My Grandma worked as a Chef when she came to Australia and cooked in a number of cafes, restaurants and hotels in Sydney and the Blue Mountains. At one point, she even owned her own small cafĂ© in North Sydney. As a child I would go there and have ice cream at the small table out the front of the shop. 

Naturally, all family gatherings at my Grandma’s were always culinary events. I kick myself now that I wasn’t interested in cooking back then because I could have learnt so much from her. If only she wrote everything down in a cookbook I could have had a little bit of her culinary magic with me forever, and given my children someday, some of the same culinary memories that I had. But sadly, when she passed away in 2002, all her culinary knowledge and recipes went with her. Since then, I have been trying to recreate her magical meals. As teh days get colder here in Sydney, I thought I would pull out some Hungarian recipes (and buy some new ones) to try.

Below is my adventure with Hungarian Vegetable Soup. This was a winter staple at my Grandma’s house (and most winter birthdays, mine included). She never made it with a lot of vegetables, but the flavour was delicious. So I pulled out my Magyar cookbook, purchased all the ingredients and off I went (I'll be very honest it's a homemade book of recipes photocopied over the years and I can't remember where this particular recipe came from originally, however it was an old Hungarian cookbook that I borrowed from the Library years ago). I will admit that I attempted to make small semolina dumplings with the soup just like my Grandma used to but they didn’t work out so I haven’t written about them here. When I perfect them I will do another post J

What you will need:
½ small Onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp/30g Butter
2 medium Carrots, cut to the size you like
2 medium Parsley Roots or Parnsip*, cut to the size you like
2 Tbsp Flour
½ tsp Ground Paprika, mild
1 Tomato, left whole
1 Capsicum (Bell Pepper), left whole
Bunch of Parsley, finely chopped
* Parsley Root is very similar to a Parsnip but not as widely available. For my soup, I went with the Parsnip. 
Chop the vegetables as big or small as you like. Traditionally, my Grandma always cut them into sizeable chunks but it’s really up to you and your personal preferences.

Add the butter to the pan and when melted, toss in the onions and sautĂ© until they just start to colour (approximately 1 minute). 
Onions in to saute
Add the parsnip or parsley root and carrots into the saucepan and stir, allowing the butter to coat the vegetables. Stirring regularly, cook the vegetables, covered, until they start to turn orange-yellowish in colour (approximately 5 minutes). 
Carrots and Parsnip in the pan
Stir in the flour and when the flour starts to turn orange-yellowish, pour in the water, add the paprika and the capsicum and tomato (note that I didn’t use the capsicum for my soup). Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer on the stove for at least 20 minutes. 
Flour and paprika in 
Remember to stir occasionally to avoid burning or sticking. The tomato will start to lose it’s skin which is perfectly fine. The point of the tomato and capsicum is to add flavour to the soup.
Tomato in and boiling - see the tomato skin has peeled off the tomato
Taste the soup as it is cooking so you can season to your liking. During this cooking stage I attempted to make semolina dumplings to add to my soup but sadly they were a flop. They looked OK but just refused to cook properly. Another time I will try them again. They really are the perfect accompaniment to vegetable soup. Once the soup is ready, you will know because the vegetables will be super soft, take out the capsicum and tomato and discard them. Top with parsley and serve with crusty bread (in place of the semolina dumplings). Serves 4 – 6.
Hungarian Vegetable Soup
In the end I was happy with my soup, it didn’t taste exactly like my Grandma’s but a hint of her flavour was in there.

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