Ofer Vardi‘s Going Paprikash is a nicely organized cookbook in the form of an app for the iPhone and iPad…
Ofer Vardi is a journalist with 25 years of experience, currently the Life Style Editor at Israel Hayom. Having always been a foodie who’s been gravitating more and more to write about Israeli and Hungarian cuisines, this app is a loving tribute to his late Hungarian grandmother whose food and kitchen aromas he grew up with. It is based on a well worn notebook of recipes he found after she passed away.
Here are two recipes from this app:
Grandma passed away on a Saturday afternoon. Her apartment remained empty for many long days afterward. The aroma of her cooking was no longer there, and the fridge, where we’d always rush on a Friday afternoon to see which cake awaited us for dessert, was now bare.
On the balcony table sat her well-worn notebook of recipes, with which she’d concocted her delicacies like only a grandmother can. The yellowed pages are still adorned with her notes and comments. Five eggs instead of eight, she wrote alongside the ingredient list for a chocolate cake. Here, it turned out, is where the secrets of her success were hidden.
We called her Nana; this was the name I gave my grandmother the day I started to speak, and that’s what it remained, though her name was actually Rózsi.
Armed with this culinary inheritance that Nana left behind, along with countless memories, I embarked on a quest: to try and recreate the beloved flavors of a time gone by.
I gained a lot over a year spent in Budapest, and not just when it came to my weight. During my long stay in the Hungarian capital I became even more connected to one of, if not the, world’s best cuisines.
Grandpa, who passed away when I was four, was known as a ‘leveses’ – ‘soupy’ or ‘soup lover’ in English. That’s how Grandma liked to tell it. Every meal began with a steamy and comforting soup course.
Hungarians love soup, and every self-respecting meal begins with a liquid course, or at least offers one on the menu, even in the middle of summer. Only soup, they believe in Budapest, properly awakens the appetite.
The most famous and beloved of the summer soups, which Grandma often prepared, of course, is meggyleves (MEDGE-LEVESH) – Cherry Soup, or, as my grandmother called it, ‘dud-va-vanil soup’, because, despite 50 years in Israel, she never could say the Hebrew word for cherry, ‘duv-de-va-nim’, correctly.
Cherry Soup :: MEGGYLEVES
What you need (for 4 servings)
- 1 lb. 2 oz. (½ kilo) cherries (pitted)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup (250ml) whipping cream or 1 cup (200ml) sour cream
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 4 cloves
- 1 level tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
What you do
- In a large pot, cook cherries with water, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and sugar for 10 minutes.
- In a separate dish, mix flour and sour cream or whipping cream well until a smooth and uniform mixture forms.
- Keeping pot over heat, add the flour-sour cream mixture to the pot very slowly while stirring continuously. Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Important: if you are using sour cream, do not to boil the soup because boiling will cause the sour cream to separate.
- Cool thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Preparing the soup one day in advance is recommended.
Here is another great recipe, (I have to try it!) and a delightful little story to go with it:
What do Dragons Eat?
Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a huge dragon with 24 heads that ate 24 beautiful young girls every day for lunch, fed to him by residents of the town in the valley. If he wasn’t given what he wanted, threatened the dragon, he would breathe 24 flames of fire onto the village. When the time came for Balaton, one of the village men, to feed his beloved to the monster, he flat out refused. “Over my dead body,” he declared.
The dragon grew very angry. The hills shook with 24 ear-splitting roars and the dragon, with his 24 fire-breathing heads, emerged from his lair. In a rage he scraped at the earth until he’d dug a deep crater. Water seeped into the crater, turning it into a large lake whose water seeped over, filling the valley, and whose waves almost drowned the village. Balaton donned his sword and armor and set out to fight the dragon. There was a mighty battle. One by one, Balaton valiantly cut off the dragon’s heads. But when the last head fell, Balaton collapsed, fell into the water and died. In his memory, the village people named the lake after him – Lake Balaton.
During the hot Hungarian summer, the natives retreat to the shores of the large lake. While the lake appears to be dressed for a party, the guests themselves are entirely stripped down. As the seasons change, it isn’t just the clothing that changes in Budapest, but the menus as well. In summer there’s no need for an insulating layer of fat, and even the traditional Hungarian dishes make an attempt at dieting. A favorite main dish for a blazing hot day is Paprikás Krumpli (PAP-RIH-KASH KRUM-PLI), a potato dish in a juicy smoked sausage paprika sauce.
On a boiling day, cooking is done in a bogrács (BO-GRATCH), a traditional cast-iron cauldron, hung over a fire. On the shores of the Balaton, while half-naked revelers grow red from the sun, the boiling potatoes get some color of their own. Though Grandma Nana made do with her made-in-Israel stove and pots, the Paprikás Krumpli she made in the middle of heat wave – a hamseen, as we call it in the Middle East – is impossible to forget. Perfectly square cubes of potato, soft to chew and swimming in purplish pepper sauce. After we’d cleaned our plates with the soft white insides of a loaf of bread, we too were flushed with warmth and pleasure.
Potato Paprikash :: Paprikás Krumpli
What you need (for 4 servings)
- 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 pepper, diced
- 1 tomato, peeled and diced
- Water as needed
- 9 oz. (¼ kilo) kolbasz (dried or smoked Hungarian sausage) or 2 fresh sausages, sliced into rounds
- 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika
- Salt to taste
What you do
- Brown onion in oil. Remove from heat and season with paprika.
- Add a cup of water, pepper, tomatoes and salt – to taste – and return to low heat to cook for half an hour. Add more water as needed during cooking to prevent burning.
- Add potatoes and enough water so that the potatoes are completely immersed. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft.
- Add sausage and cook for another five minutes.
Some people also add crushed garlic, a pinch of marjoram or hot pepper.
Well organized, with a nice search feature, the recipes are easy, delicious and do not demand any “rich” ingredients, as super Chef and four times piblished cookbook author Lévana Kirschenbaum puts it, “it’s evocative, short and to the point!
On the minus side, however, sometimes the ingredients are not in the order in which they are used. All in all a delightful little app for your iPhone or iPad. Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!