Tomatoes and peppers were introduced to Hungarians by the Ottomans and were incorporated into many dishes, among them lecsó (pronounced “letcho”). This ragout is popular throughout Hungary for breakfast when it’s traditionally eaten with bread and some meat, or as part of lunch or dinner with rice or pasta and roasted meat or a traditional thin fried steak. Some people cook it with sausage. My friend and Budapest resident Katalin Bardi makes it a meal by mixing in scrambled eggs, which reminds me a bit of shakshuka. Kati introduced me and my son to lecsó when we visited Hungary a few years ago, and it’s been a favorite ever since.
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-2 1/2 pounds green peppers, preferably sweet Hungarian or sweet Italian if you can find them
- 1 pound tomatoes
- 1 1/2-2 tablespoons good ground Hungarian paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- In a pot that can hold all the ingredients, sauté onion in oil over medium low heat until just soft. Meanwhile, clean peppers of stalks and seeds. Cut into strips about ½-inch wide. Roughly chop and seed tomatoes, saving as much juice as possible. When onion is ready, add paprika and stir just a few moments over the heat. Add the peppers and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, cover and cook over medium low until everything is soft, about 45 minutes more. Stir occasionally and taste to adjust seasonings, adding red pepper flakes a few minutes before the dish is done.
- To make Kati’s lecsó, softly scramble 2-3 eggs and add to the stew when it’s almost finished cooking. Stir until the eggs harden a bit and then eat.