Picture this: a small brick house sits on an expansive lot, perfectly situated across the road from a blue river under an even bluer sky. Two children, a boy and a girl, similar in age and appearance, sit huddled over a campfire, having just been force fed a lunch of stewed onions, tomatoes and peppers, much to their chagrin. Heating over this campfire is a rusty pot filled with hose water that will later be used to brew some tea, consumed by the two children.
Many hours later, the girl loses her lunch and the tea. She blames the lunch, not the unsanitary tea, and does not eat those stewed onions, tomatoes and peppers for many years thereafter. Around 18 or so years later, at which point she can’t believe how delicious this dish actually is. This dish is called lecsó (pronounced lech-o), and it’s the one I’m showing off today.
That’s my history with lecsó. It’s one filled with pain and rusty memories and I was so adamantly opposed to this dish all through my teen and early 20s, that any mention of it scrunched my face and turned up my nose. That is, until Yam had the good sense to order it in Budapest, despite my warnings of protest and we all henceforth became in love.
In my time there as a student, I was convinced that I needed to eat the “authentic” versions of all my family favorites, and in checking off dish after dish, I realized that mom and grandma made it better than any restaurant in Hungary ever could, and each bite of veal paprikash had me craving my original back home. Such is the irony of life, it seems. The lecsó, however, made me a believer once again and since summer with its plethora of peppers and tomatoes bursting from everyone’s garden, it seemed the perfect dish to share.
Lecsó is nothing more extraordinary than a onions, peppers (any color you want- red, orange or yellow) and tomatoes stewed on the stove with salt, pepper, paprika and parsley. Grandma made hers with bacon; grandpa with Hungarian sausage, and Mom’s favorite way is topped with a runny egg. This is really one of those “what did I overbuy at the market that needs to be used up?” dishes. I confess in my adulthood what my young self would not admit- it’s damn delicious, any way you make it.
Today I used a few links of some Hungarian kolbas that I had in the freezer, but Polish kielbasa would do. I also put an egg on it because that’s my jam and it makes for the perfect breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner- much like the shakshuka before it and the ratatouille yet to come.
- 1 orange bell pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
- 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
- 1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 ounces smoked Hungarian sausage, cut on a bias, then halved (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 1 TB olive oil
- 2 pan-fried eggs, to serve (optional)
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onions, peppers and tomatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until heated and any liquid is mostly absorbed.
- Sprinkle in parsley, stir it up and serve with a fried egg.
Written after mom-talk.