Lecsó (Bell Pepper & Tomato Stew)
Sometimes called the “Hungarian Ratatouille”, this dish is ideal if it’s summer and you just want a light lunch or dinner that you could make in large quantities and eat over the course of a busy week. I must say though, half of knowing how to cook lecsó is knowing how to shop for it; the only reason to cook lecsó is if peppers, regardless of the colour, are super cheap that day and buying a whole bag of them fits your weekly grocery budget. Otherwise, you’d just be wasting money. (´･ω･`)
This dish is also great for vegetarians who want something Hungarian that doesn’t include meat, and it’s also great on Good Fridays, if you’re catholic. However, if you’re one of those excitable teenagers who claim they “can’t live without meat” and then laugh thinking that what they just said qualifies as humour, you can throw some kolbász in there. (´･ω･`)
1 sack (approx. 7-8) of bell peppers (any colour will do, just get what’s cheapest)
5-6 beef steak tomatoes (depending on how many peppers you use, but you generally want a volume ratio of 2:3 with the peppers)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp lard (or olive oil if you don’t have lard on hand)
2 tbsp paprika
salt/pepper to taste
1 hot pepper (jalapeño, chili, thai, etc)
1 large Hungarian sausage (kolbász), or any meat you wish to cook that day
1. Dice onions and toss them into a wok or a large frying pan with some lard or a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally.
(Optional) If you’re adding meat, add it in now so it cooks with the onions)
2. While onions are cooking, chop peppers into large strips and gradually add them to the sizzling pan, occasionally giving the stew a stir.
3. Every 2 peppers or so, dice a tomato and add that to the stew. Once the first tomato is added, turn the heat up to high.
4. Once all your vegetables are added, season with salt, paprika, and a generous amount of black pepper, adjusting amounts to taste.
5. Add a spoonful of tomato purée/paste. If you like your lecsó with a bit of a kick, add in the hot pepper now. Or just season with chili powder.
6. Give it a nice stir and leave it for a minute or two. Once your tomato fluid starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until your peppers change colour and lose their crunch.
7. Serve as is, or with a piece of schnitzel, maybe some baked potatoes or served on bread to soak up the juices. Sour cream is also a popular topping.
Like I said, only cook this dish when peppers are cheap. Personally I think banana peppers (or Hungarian wax peppers, if you can get them somehow) are the best for this recipe, but green bell is second best. The sweeter varieties of peppers I’m less inclined to use, but some people may prefer it. I’d definitely try it if they’re ever cheaper than greens or bananas and I’m craving some lecsó.
Lard is the traditional oil used for lecsó, but since not everybody has lard on hand, olive oil is the second best choice. The tomato purée isn’t really a traditional ingredient, but I had some left over and had to use it up somehow, and so I decided to throw in a spoonful and it actually made a really huge difference. The sauce was more flavourful and a little thicker, which is always a plus.
This is best served as a side for Hungarian schnitzel (rántott hús),
which I shall be making a recipe for eventually. (´･ω･`)
(Lecso, rantott hus, puree, kolbasz, jalapeno, lecho)