Hungary is the homeland of főzelék, which can be described in English as a thick vegetable stew. Főzelék is a special category in the Hungarian cuisine, thicker than a soup, but thinner than a stew. It’s a typical home-made food, that rarely appears on restaurant menu cards. It is simply cooked, typically by simmering, not mashed. It’s often eaten as the main course for lunch or like a garnish for different meat courses.
Főzelék can be made of any kind of vegetables ( cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, lentils, spinach, sorrel, green beans or mixed vegetables), and seasoned with different spices like chopped onions, paprika, bay leaf, black peppercorn, dill, caraway seeds, garlic, lemon juice, parsley or vinegar. It is usually thickened with roux and/or sour cream.
The traditional green pea stew is sweet, made with milk or cream, without paprika; nine out of ten Hungarians cook it in this way. The following recipe is known by only a few, as much as I know, my grandma learnt it from her Slovak acquaintances. It only takes a couple of minutes to prepare. But there is something you should pay attention to: the way of preparation depends on whether you use fresh or quick-frozen green peas. Fresh peas only need a few minutes to become tender, so they can be cooked with the roux, whereas frozen green peas have to be braised at first in a small amount of water, flour is added when peas are already tender.
- 2 tbsp lard or oil
- 3 heaping tbsp flour
- 2 tsp sweet ground paprika
- 800 ml (~3 1/3 cups) water
- 800 g (~1 3/4 lb) green peas
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 dsp salt
- vinegar to taste
In case of fresh green peas heat up the lard and add flour to make a blonde roux. Remove from the heat, sprinkle sweet ground paprika in the roux and stir to combine. Pour in water, place back onto the heat, then add green peas, bay leaf and salt. Cook, while stirring constantly, until green peas are tender and the stew thickens.
If you use frozen green peas, heat the lard, add a little water and peas along with the bay leaf. Cover and let the green peas braise until tender. Remove from the heat, add flour and paprika and mix thoroughly. Return to the heat, pour in water, add salt and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
Serve with vinegar.