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How to make lecsó, Hungary’s tasty ratatouille

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  • Vidra Bernadett

08/09/2021 12.52pm

At the end of summer, Hungarians like to make lecsó. This tasty Hungarian one-pot meal is easy to make and uses up any pepper and tomato leftovers you may have. Here is a recipe to show you how to make traditional lecsó, Hungary's own tomato-and-pepper stew.

First brought from the Balkans by Bulgarian gardeners, lecsó became popular in Hungary in the 20th century. The dish is, basically, a tomato-and-pepper stew and several versions of it exist across Hungary. It is also quite famous in some neighbouring countries such as Austria or Poland. Here, it is often referred to internationally as the Hungarian ratatouille after the similar French vegetable concoction.

Hungarian ratatouille, alias lecsó

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

Lecsó is usually cooked at the end of the summer, from early autumn until October, as that is the season of its main ingredients. The base of lecsó comprises green peppers and tomatoes, which are fresh and ripe, and there are lots of them in late August.

Quite often the weather is still good at this time of the year so it’s widespread in Hungary to cook lecsó outside on an open fire in a big cauldron. Either in the garden or inside the house in a huge pot, lecsó is best when a big amount is made, so it’s better to invite friends over for a so-called Hungarian barbecue.

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

Bográcsolás, the Hungarian barbecue

The Hungarian bográcsolás is similar to a regular barbecue, but in Hungary people usually gather together to cook lecsó, goulash or stew outside in a huge cauldron called a bogrács.

Classic lecsó contains only peppers, tomatoes, onions, paprika powder and maybe lecsó sausage, as sold by name. Other households might add eggs to absorb the liquid and fill the void, or occasionally use rice as a side dish. However, lecsó also works on its own, and in that case it’s usually consumed with bread or even without, just as plain stew. There are plenty of variants, what to add depends on your preferences.

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

There are also more discerning chefs in the family who experiment with spicing up lecsó a little bit by using several types of onions or two different kinds of tomatoes to make the stew slightly tastier. Lecsó is a Hungary-wide phenomenon, liked by all.

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

Ingredients


 100 grams (or about 6 slices) of fatty bacon
(szalonna), chopped (or 4 tablespoons oil)
 2 medium onions, finely chopped
 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika powder
 1 Hungarian sausage (lecsókolbász) finely
chopped
 1 kilogram (2 pounds) sweet peppers, cored,
seeded and chopped
 500 grams (1 pound) tomatoes, roughly
chopped
 Salt to taste

Instructions

Put the bacon with the onions into a slightly bigger pot and cook it until the onions are browned.

Then remove the pot from the heat and put in the sweet paprika powder and stir it in. 

Add the sausage slices. 

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

After that, add the peppers and cook for about 20 minutes (until the paprika becomes soft) and add water if it needs liquid.

Lastly, add the tomatoes and cook uncovered until the peppers soften completely and the liquid reduces.

Lecsó sausages

Photo: Vidra Krisztina Lili

Lecsó is Hungary’s annual staple. Housewives tend to make a huge amount of plain lecsó to store in jars and set aside for the winter, ready to be enjoyed all year round. This is just as common in the countryside as it is in Budapest, as Hungarian cuisine uses the same base for other traditional recipes.

Lecsó with bread

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

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