In Gyula Krúdy’s The Cookery Book and the Toy Shop, Sindbad says, “Since I find it impossible to eat the local fare, I carry a Hungarian cookery book about with me and satisfy my appetite by browsing through it everyday. It is written by everyone’s Aunti Rézi, but from this book I can lunch and dine to my liking.” I, like Sindbad, like to look through cookery books, too. And I agree with Krúdy who also writes, “a cookery book such as this is your best friend abroad.”
No doubt Sindbad’s cookbook contains lots of soup recipes. An important first course in Hungary, Hungarians love to sup on soup. Actually, several well-known Hungarian soups are associated with a famous person or groups of people. János Gundel created Palócleves (Palóc soup) for the novelist Kálmán Mikszáth, who wrote about the Palóc of northern Hungary. Újházy tyúkhúsleves (Újházy chicken soup) is named after the 19th-century actor Ede Újházy. A starving artist, he couldn’t afford much more than soup when he ate out. So a chef created a hearty soup just for him to satisfy the poor actor.
My absolute favorite Hungarian soup is Jókai bableves (Jókai bean soup). It’s named after Mór Jókai, a prolific 19th-century Hungarian writer. Flavored with vinegar and lots of sour cream, this deliciously heavy soup is made with beans, smoked pork, carrots, and parsley root.
Today it’s cold outside in Budpaest. Soup weather. So I’m going to make myself a nice big batch of Jókai bableves. I already soaked the beans. And when it’s finished, I think I’ll sit with a big mug of it, gather my cookery book friends around me, and enjoy the afternoon. What’s your favorite soup to curl up with?
Recipe for Jókai Bableves (Bean Soup à la Jókai) from Culinaria Hungary
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups/250 g red kidney beans; 10 oz/300 g smoked ham shank (boned); 1-2 bay leaves; 1 large carrot; 1 large parsley root; 1/2 small celeriac; 7 oz/200 g Frankfurter sausage; 4 tsp/20 g butter; 4 tbsp flour; 1 small onion; 1 clove of garlic; 1 heaping tsp sweet paprika; 1-3 tsp vinegar; 3/4 cup/200 ml sour cream, bunch of parsley
Directions: Soak the beans overnight and also the ham shank so that the dish will not be too salty. Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans, ham and bay leaves in a saucepan with 6 cubs/1.5 liters cold water and bring to boil over low heat. Peel the carrots, parsnip and celeriac, then dice them finely. After 30-40 minutes, add the vegetables to the saucepan with the sausage. Remove the ham shank and sausage from the soup. Melt the butter, then add flour, stirring all the time until the flour turns pale gold. Take the pan off the heat. Stir in the diced onion, crushed garlic, and paprika. Stir the roux into the soup to thicken it, and bring the soup to a boil again. Dice the ham shank and slice the sausage. Season the soup to taste with vinegar. Add the sour cream to the soup and bring it to a boil again, then add the ham and sausage. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the soup, serve immediately, and enjoy!