Főzelék is a special category in Hungarian cuisine. It’s not quite a soup, but neither is it a stew. They are made in many ways and provide a cheap source of nutrition and yuminess. There is a potato főzelék, green bean főzelék, bean főzelék, spinach főzelék, pea főzelék, lettuce főzelék, squash főzelék and many, many more. Usually they are served with topping like a sausage, hot-dog, meatballs, or boiled or fried eggs. In my family we used to serve them with pörkölt (thick meat stew).
This is the ultimate Hungarian fast food. If you will be traveling in Hungary, try one of these cafeteria-style places and have a főzelék with topping. You might spend around 600 Ft (forints – something like $3) and have a great, satisfying meal.
My favorite főzelék is lencse, which is translated as buttered or stewed lentils. The process of making it can be very complicated or very simple. The complicated version requires you to cook smoked meat the night before and to keep the smoky water. Also you must soak the lentils for at least 12 hours. My family goes for the simple version. We do not cook smoked meat a day before and we do not soak lentils. Anyway, modern processed smoke meat is full of junk, and if you cook it you get rid of some of the junk. And then that junky water you use to cook the lentils. No thank you. So my mum skips the “smoked” part all the way. I found that liquid smoke works pretty well (I recently read that liquid smoke isn’t anything too awful, which was nice to know).
If you buy fresh and good quality lentils you can skip the pre-soaking too. Unfortunately the organic lentils I bought from the bulk bin at WholeFoods (sometimes known as Whole Paycheck for a reason) were apparently a mixture of fresh and old lentils, and some of them overcooked while others were still crunchy. You need a place where there’s good turnover for these kinds of bulk foods; I am still learning about where to shop in California.
Buttered Lentils – Lencse-fozelek
For this ultimate Hungarian recipe use ordinary brown lentils and common sense with the amount of water.
Serves 6 humans.
- 2 cups lentils
- 10 cups water
- 1 tsp and a pinch of salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 lemon
- 8 oz sour cream (small tub)
- 4 oz milk
- 4 tbs all purpose flour
- 1tsp liquid smoke
- 4 oz milk
- Wash the lentils, put them in a large pot with water, garlic, salt and bay leaves.
- Prepare a mixture of sour cream, milk (half of the sour cream container) and pinch of salt. Let it sit and bring it to room temperature while the lentils are cooking.
- Cook the lentils on medium-low heat until the lentils are tender. If necessary add water. Keep the water level approximately half an inch above the lentils.
- When lentils are fully cooked, stir the flour into the sour cream and milk mixture. Blend it well and add it to the lentils. Add the sugar and the liquid smoke, bring it to boil and cook it for another 5-10 minutes. The lentils and the sour cream mixture should make a thick stew-like consistency. Then turn off the heat.
- After it cooled a little bit (5-10 minutes) add a juice of a lemon (you can substitute it with 1-2tbsp of white vinegar).
- Serve it with sausage or meat balls or hot dogs or cooked eggs. Do not forget a good bread.