Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christina's Kitchen in Budapest: Jokai Bableves

One of my favorite places to visit in Hungary is the town of Eger, which has a lovely basilica, a big ruined castle and terrific wines, which you can sample by the glass by going cellar-to-cellar in the part of town known as the Valley of the Beautiful Women (Szépasszonyvöl in Hungarian). Eger also has some terrific restaurants, including a pancake (palacsinta) restaurant called simply Palacsintavar and the charming, friendly HBH Bavarian Beer House. On my most recent visit, HBH had taken goulash off the menu and replaced it with a soup just as addictive: jokai bableves. (I should note that true Hungarian goulash is not the beef-stew type dish we're used to in the States; it's more of a beef and vegetable soup.)
Jokai bablevesh (pronounced "YO-ky BOB-le-vesh), or Bean Soup a la Jokai, was named after the 19th century novelist and politician Mor Jokai. I'm still not sure why, exactly, but I'm sure if he ate the version at HBH, he'd love it. It has beans, root veggies, ham and sausage in a spicy, onion-flour-vinegar broth, and I've recently tried to make it at home.
I've been using a cookbook called Culinaria Hungary that was a going-away gift from my co-workers when I left for Budapest. It's a wonderful primer on Hungarian cooking, and while some of its recipes, like for chicken paprikas, are spot-on, the one for this soup was confusing, so I found an adaptation of it online that I, in turn, fiddled with to get that HBH flavor.
The soup gets its thickening by adding a roux of butter, flour and onion towards the end, which reminds me of Cajun cooking. If you're concerned about adding even more fat to the ham-and-sausage-and-stock dish, you can use margarine instead.
I used ham that I bought at the market, which wound up being super-salty (and with lots of fat, and on the bone, to boot!). I should have soaked the ham for at least a few hours to reduce the salinity; as it was, I didn't need to add any salt to the recipe.
Another salty ingredient was the sausage I used. It's a smoky, spicy, dried link sausage from the wine town of Szekszárd. Next time I will try using Csabai kolbász, which is from the town of Békéscsaba. Whatever the sausage, this recipe's an easy way to get my Jokai bableves fix between visits to Eger.

Jokai Bableves
(serves 4)
1 15-ounce can of kidney beans
8 to 10 ounced of cooked ham, cubed
2 bay leaves
1 large carrot, chopped
1 medium parsley root, chopped
1 medium celeriac, chopped
6 to 8 ounces sausage, chopped
4 teaspoons butter
4 tablespoons Flour
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 to 3 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water

1. Put beans, ham, bay leaves, carrots, parsley root, sausage and celeriac in a pot with the stock and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. In a separate pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and onion and stir to mix the roux. Saute until the flour turns golden brown. Add garlic and paprika, and saute for 1 minute.
3. Add this to the stock pot along with vinegar. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
4. Stir in sour cream and parsley. Serve with crusty bread, and maybe some hot paprika on the side.

1 comment:

  1. We ate at HBH in April and I have been dying to find this recipe. It was so good and one of the most memorable meals we tried in Central Europe. Can't wait to try it, thanks!


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