My family’s secret Hungarian Christmas Recipes

Christmas and Joulupukki (Santa Claus) – as my Finish friends call him, – will be knocking on the door soon. So it is time to start preparing ourselves for this nice holiday. During this time everybody is thinking heavily about Christmas gifts. I think we can easily agree that this is a big job to find the right one to give to our loved ones.

I was also thinking about what kind of present I could give to my kind and highly respected readers. Finally I got the idea; maybe some of you would like to surprise your families with a special Christmas menu. So, I have an idea: Why don’t you try to make traditional Hungarian Christmas food? It is a good idea, isn’t it? So, my Christmas present to you is my family’s secret Hungarian Christmas recipes. This is a full Christmas menu for Christmas Eve coming directly from my Grandmother.

I hope she won’t give me a slap because I blurt out her secret Hungarian Christmas recipes :). But, she is so nice that I’m sure she will forgive me this impishness. In Hungary we eat Fish soup, Stuffed cabbage and Bejgli, (Poppy-seed or Walnut roll) on Christmas Eve. In some families, like ours, we also eat fish fried in breadcrumbs.

OK, I think it’s time to start with the promised Christmas recipes!

The recipe for the Fish soup

Just try Hungarian fish soup once and you will never forget it! I guarantee!I have to tell you the truth: this is the most challenging part of these Hungarian Christmas recipes. I would say it is not very difficult to cook Fish soup, but it requires lots of patience and time.

There are many variants of the Hungarian Fish soup.The two main trends are the Bajai Fish Soup and Szegedi Fish Soup.

As you probably know there are two big rivers flow across Hungary, these are the Danube (Duna) and Tisza. Both river regions have its own style of making Fish soup.Bajai Fish soup originates from the town Baja by the river of Danube, and guess what: Szegedi Fish soup comes from Szeged, which is the main town of the river Tisza region. What a surprise, isn’t it?

The main difference between these two fish soups is that we put noodles into the soup if we cook in Bajai style. That’s all.Of course next to these two main trends every family has its own style of cooking this superb soup; therefore I’m sure that lots of people could have totally different ideas about fish soup cooking than mine.

So, are you ready to become acquainted with one of my family’s secret recipes? OK, then… I’ll share with you the way we cook the world famous fish soup in my family.

What do you need for this gorgeous soup?

Of course FISH! But it is very important to choose the right fish! It cannot be sea fish. The original Hungarian Fish Soup is made mainly from carp; of course you can use other types of fish other than carp too: catfish, starlet and bass are all good choices. If you want to make an unforgettably good fish soup, use several types of fish.

Buy 250-300g fish per person. If you have just one type of fish I recommend buying smaller ones too.
The ingredients:

  • Carp, catfish or sturgeon (4 people = 1-1.5 kg)
  • 1 kg small freshwater fish
  • 1 Onion per 1 kg fish
  • 1-2 green pepper
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • Appr. 2 table spoon ground paprika (Hungarian paprika is the best for this soup)
  • Salt
  • Water

How to cook it?

  • Clean and wash the fishes, open them and remove the chitterlings. Remove the heads, fins and tails.
  • Slice the big fish (carp, catfish…etc) in finger width pieces and salt these slices.
  • Clean and chop the onion and fry it in some lard as you do e.g. when you cook Hungarian goulash.
  • When the onion is transparent put the small fishes, the fins, the tails and the heads (without eyes and gills) into the pan with the onion, and sprinkle with ground paprika.Fill up immediately with enough water to cover (e.g.3Liter) and cook for 30-40 minutes.The cooking time could be longer, it is ready when the fish meat comes off from the bones. This will serve as broth for the salted fish fillets.Be careful with the paprika, if you burn it the fish soup will be bitter!
  • After these small fishes are cooked, mash the whole broth and fish mixture through a colander.
  • You can add more water if it’s too thick.
  • Put the salted fish slices, the cleaned and diced tomato and sliced green pepper into the broth and bring it to the boil. Taste it and if needed add a little more salt.
  • Cook the Fish soup for 10 minutes. Don’t stir the soup because the fish meat will be broken. If you’re afraid the soup might stick and burn, just move the pot a little.

If you want you can cook some noodles for the Fish soupand then you will get the Baja style soup. It really depends on your taste, and what you prefer.

…the Stuffed cabbage?

The most critical ingredient of the Stuffed cabbage is thesour cabbage.Its success largely depends on not only the preparation methods, but also on the quality of the ingredients you use. The guarantee of success lies in the tasty cabbage, the smoked products and the pork you use.

Ingredient for 4 persons:

  • 400g minced pork
  • 300g smoked pork ribs
  • 1 egg
  • 80g rice
  • 100g smoked bacon
  • 1kg sauerkraut
  • 8 pickled cabbage leaves
  • 50g lard
  • 2 onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 200ml creme fraiche
  • 30g plain flour
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Marjoram
  • Ground paprika

How to make it?

  • Add the semi-steamed rice to the mince, then mix with the browned onion and fried bacon, the egg, the herbs and mix thoroughly.
  • Remove the veins from the cabbage leaves, then spread the fillings on them fold the edges and roll up.
  • Put half of the sauerkraut on the bottom of a pan, than place the stuffed cabbage on the top, continue with the smoked ribs and top with the remaining cabbage and simmer with the lid on.
  • Then, remove the pork and the stuffed cabbage, reduce the juices with the cr?me fraiche liaison and bring to the boil.
  • Serve by putting the sauerkraut in a deep dish, then topping it with the stuffed ones and drizzling with cr?me fraiche. Finish with the chopped, smoked rib.

What else could top off our Christmas menu better then the famous…

… Bejgli

(Christmas rolls, or as others call it, Poppy-seed or Walnut rolls)? This delicacy originates in Bratislava, from where the holiday dessert arrived in Hungary.

Ingredients:

  • 500g plain flour
  • 250g butter or margarine
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 50g sugar
  • 20g yeast
  • 200ml milk
  • A pinch of salt

For the walnut filling:

  • 300g walnuts
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g breadcrumbs

For the poppy-seed filling:

  • 300g ground poppy-seeds
  • 200g sugar
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar

How to make it?

  • On a flat surface mix the flour with the salt, the butter and the sugar using your hands
  • Mix the yeast with some lukewarm water, then add to the flour mixture and knead the whole lot with the eggs.
  • Cover, and leave to rest. Then, roll the pastry out to a rectangular shape and spread the cold poppy-seed or walnut filling on top.
  • Roll up and tuck in the ends, then lay your rolls on a baking tray, keeping an appropriate distance between the two.
  • Prick the top with a fork couple of times, then brush with a whole beaten egg and let it dry.
  • Bake in a hot oven. The rolls should look like nice and pretty. I recommend checking your rolls regularly. It is ready when it has nice gold brown color.

To make the walnut filling:

  • Make a syrup from 200ml water and the sugar.
  • Pour the ground walnuts in the mixture, then add the raisins, the lemon zest and the breadcrumbs.
  • Simmer the whole lot and let it cool.

To make the poppy-seed filling:

  • Bring the milk to a boil.
  • Add the sugar and the vanilla sugar and the ground poppy seeds.
  • Simmer, then season with a pinch of ground cinnamon.

We also like to bake another type of Bejgli. We use raised dough for this type of Christmas roll. Making it takes a little bit more time than the traditional Bejgli, but it is worth it to try it out. I like this version much better.

So, here is the recipe if you want to try out:

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour
  • 80g butter or margarine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 full table spoon sugar
  • 30g yeast
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt (from this amount you can make two Christmas rolls)

For the walnut filling:

  • 200g walnuts
  • 5 full table spoon of granulated sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • 50g raisins
  • 100ml milk

For the poppy-seed filling:

  • 200g ground poppy-seeds
  • 1 table spoon honey
  • 1 table spoon apricot jam
  • App. 4 full table spoon of granulated sugar (according to your taste)
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar
  • Lemon zest

How to make it?

  • Put the yeast and one tablespoon sugar into a small amount of warm milk and wait until the yeast comes up
  • Mix the rest of the sugar, the salt and the two yolks with the warm milk. If you like you can add a little dark rum.
  • Make dough from the flour, the prepared yeast and the mixed milk.
  • When the dough is almost ready add the melted butter (it shouldn’t be hot) and knead the whole lot until it is even and clean-boled.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, cover and leave to rest in a not too warm place.
  • When the dough has doubled itself divide it in two on a floured bake board.
  • Then roll the pastry out to a rectangular shape (it is done when the dough is finger width) and spread the poppy-seed or walnut filling on top.
  • Roll up, and then lay your rolls in a baking tray, keeping an appropriate distance between the two.
  • Brush the top with a beaten egg yolk.

You can make the Christmas roll so that you fill one roll with walnut and the other with poppy-seed, but in this case use just half of the indicated amount of the filling ingredients.

To make the walnut filling:

  • Grind the walnuts
  • Bring the milk to a boil and put the walnuts and the sugar into it and mix well.
  • 3. Take the whole mixture from the stove; add the washed raisins and lemon zest.
  • If the filling is too dense you can add more milk
  • Let it cool before you fill the Bejgli.

To make the poppy-seed filling:

  • Bring the milk to a boil.
  • Add the sugar and the vanilla sugar and the ground poppy seeds.
  • Simmer and add the honey and apricot jam.
  • Boil the whole lot a bit and take it from the stove and let it cool.

The filling has to be easily spreadable!        Good luck and I wish you Merry Christmas!

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