What’s Cooking in… Budapest

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 25 of the December 2020 issue.

I think we all have a grandmother who had some incredible recipes. My Hungarian grandmother made the best pie crusts. The secret? Lard, preferably home-cured.

Many Hungarian recipes call for lard, and, it turns out, there is a reason for that. The extensive use of pork and lard originates from when the Ottomans occupied Hungary (1541 to 1699). The official religion of the Ottoman Empire was Islam, which forbade the eating of pork, so the occupying forces confiscated all of the domestic animals for themselves except for pigs.

For the best flavor in many dishes, lard is still suggested. Needless to say, it is high in cholesterol, so using plant-based oils is an often-recommended substitute.

One of my favorite dishes that my grandmother made was Chicken Paprikash. When I was in Budapest, Hungary, in October 2019, I booked a cooking class with Chefparade Cooking School (Páva Street, 13, Budapest; phone +36 20 316 1876, cookingbudapest.com).

On the website’s home page, scroll down to where it says “You will be cooking a 3-course typical Hungarian menu: soup, main dish and dessert.” It shows the current menu, with the lesson rates below. The menu changes, but I paid $80 for the 3-hour lesson.

Following Chef Geri Hajas’ instructions, one other participant and I learned how to make three dishes, including Chicken Paprikash (Paprikás), one of Hungary’s signature dishes.

This recipe, like many in Hungary, calls for paprika. Hungarians are the number-one producers and consumers of paprika per capita. Hungarian paprika is made from peppers of the Capsicum annuum species, which are toasted and blended to create different varieties, ranging from mild to fiery hot.

Sandra Scott can be reached by email at sanscott@gmail.com.