Soups are an integral and extremely important part of Hungarian cuisine, a meal will almost always start with a soup and be normally followed by a main dish (and eventually dessert). When eating out in restaurants, even for dinner(!) a lot of people will order a soup as an appetizer. A restaurant menu in Hungary will always include a very wide choice of different soups, much more really then in other countries.
I live in Brussels, Belgium at the moment and whenever I have Hungarian friends flying over and visiting, the second day at the very latest I’m going to whip up a soup for them beause I know how badly they miss it.
The majority of Hungarian soups are thickened in some way, the almost only traditional „clear soup” being „húsleves”, (meat soup). This is a classic meat broth cooked mostly from chicken or beef and eaten at Sunday lunch family gatherings but also at festive occasions. At weddings, even in the city, this is often the highlight of the menu. In my family the cooked vegetables and meat are being served separately with horseradish or a light sauce (like the French pot au feu or the Austrian Tafelspitz) and after that the clear broth is eaten with vermicelli or some other noodles.
Veloutés and puréed soups are also popular but the really typical, more rustic soups are red in color, contain pieces of vegetables, maybe some meat, Hungarian paprika and are thickened with a browned roux (prepared with oil or lard) or sour cream. Nowdays, there are a lot of efforts to make our rather heavy dishes a little lighter and so often cornstarch is being used as a thickening agent in soups.
I cooked this mushroom soup a few days ago and thought that it’s a nice traditional recipe which is maybe appreciated also by people abroad. You don’t need any special ingredients except of the good quality bright red Hungarian paprika.
Recipe (2 servings)
1/2lb (ca. 250g) mushrooms, sliced
½ onion, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
2cups (500ml) chicken stock
4tbs sour cream
4tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
salt, freshly ground black pepper
(optional: a piece of a fresh white pepper and half a tomato)
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the finely chopped onion and cook on low heat until translucent. Take the pan off from the heat and add the paprika. (This is an important step as on high heat the paprika would quickly acquire a bitter taste) Put back and keep stirring. Add the sliced mushrooms, keep on stirring and browning. Now add the stock. Season with salt and pepper, cook for a few minutes. (If you manage to get some fresh white peppers and a good tomato, add now and remove when the soup is ready) In a separate bowl or mug, mix the flour with sour cream until smooth. Add a few tbsp of the cooking liquid and mix to get a lumpfree mixture. Pour this slowly back into the soup. Bring to boiling point and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add fresh chopped parsley at the end.