Daylight hours, a rare commodity. Extra layers of clothing become the set to do. Cravings for comfort and warmth mingle with the renewed desire to be nestled indoors, seeking solace and fortifying nourishment. It’s incredible how drastically our lives can change when the mercury begins to make its dramatic dip.
This year I feel the yearning for comfort more strongly than I ever have before. As I approach the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, I find myself striving to keep my connection to her and to nurture the warmth of her presence in my life.
For me, food is the easy way to approach this experience of longing, grief and love. I grew up sitting on the kitchen counter, happily perched by the stove, watching my mother prepare supper for our family. The connection to good food coming from a place of love is a concept I must have picked up through osmosis as a toddler. It’s something, which I have always carried with me.
The recipe I am sharing with you is one of my favourite dishes from childhood and is classic Hungarian comfort food. My mom was born in Hungary, and cooked many traditional dishes of her homeland for our family. I am so thankful for that, as it serves now as a thread that tethers me to my mother and to her essence.
Chicken Paprikash is a braised dish that is cooked on the stove and served with dense, toothsome dumplings known as Galuska. My favourite part of eating this dish is the sour cream garnish. It’s essential, and when I was a kid, my mom would always let me scoop a little extra onto my chicken stew because it was the “good Hungarian thing to do”.
Don’t freeze this dish as it doesn’t hold up well. It is, however, one of those braises which improves in flavour over the following three days. If you don’t want to make the Galuska, simply serve the Paprikash with some buttered egg noodles or some rice.
Food is a part of our story and conveys experience, love and moments in time quite often in more meaningful ways than words ever could. An aroma has the power to conjure an entire piece of your past. As we approach these darkest days of the season, let the light of comfort and connection shine through by taking the time to celebrate the meals that tell the story of your kin. The warmth of these moments will nourish you whenever you come back to them.
Recipe to follow below the video:
2 large onions, peeled and diced as finely as you can possibly manage
1.5 tsp salt
2 TBSP of lard (or oil)
2-3 TBSP Hungarian sweet/mild paprika
1 kilogram (2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 plum tomatoes, seeded, and chopped
*1 Hungarian yellow wax pepper, sliced into rings (if you can’t find it, use a cubanelle pepper, or skip it)
2 TBSP sour cream, plus more for garnish if desired
1 TBSP flour
2 TBSP heavy cream
Heat the lard (or oil) in a heavy bottomed pot; add the onions, and sprinkle with half of the salt, cook covered, over very low heat until the onions take on a shine, while ensuring no browning happens. Take the pot off of the stove, and stir in the paprika.
Next, add the tomatoes and half cup of water and mix. Turn the heat back to low and place the chicken pieces in the pot. Sprinkle the remaining salt on the chicken, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, checking every few minutes to see whether it needs more water.
Remove the lid, add the sliced peppers, and cook for a further ten minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, flour, and heavy cream.
Remove the pieces of chicken and place the pieces on a serving platter.
Add the sour cream mixture to the paprika sauce and stir until blended. Cook for a minute or two, but don’t let the sauce come to a boil. Pour the paprika sauce over the chicken pieces. Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream, if desired, and sprinkle with paprika, and some finely chopped parsley.
Galuska (Hungarian Noodles)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup water
2 TBSP melted butter
In a bowl combine the flour and salt using a wooden spoon. Make a hole in the center, pour in the eggs and half of the water; mix vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Your batter should be thick but pourable, and a little bit sticky.
Have a pot of boiling salted water ready. Pass all of the batter through a Galuska maker or a potato ricer directly onto the water. Stir the noodles a bit with a spoon to prevent them from sticking. The noodles are ready once all of the noodles float to the top. Once done, drain them using a sieve, rinse them with some running hot tap water to wash off any surface starch and transfer to a bowl. Pour the melted butter over the noodles, toss, and serve.
Chef Ilona Daniel's food column, Food Seductress, runs on the last Thursday of each month. She welcomes comments from readers by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: Twitter.com/chef_ilona.