No doubt about it – Hungarians love their peppers. The last time I went grocery shopping, four out of the five people standing in front of me in the check out line held plastic bags filled with them. Stroll across any market in Budapest and you will see peppers (paprika) in a wide range of colors, shapes, and flavors – from the sweet tomato paprika to the mild apple pepper to the innocuous-looking but lethal cherry chili.
Stuffed peppers or töltött paprika are very popular in Hungary, particularly at the end of the summer when both peppers and tomatoes are in season. For this dish, Hungarians like to use sweet, long yellow peppers. Known as banana peppers abroad, in Hungary they’re called tölteni való paprika (peppers for stuffing), or TV paprika for short. The first time I saw a sign for TV paprika, I thought how charming it was that these pepper-loving Magyars even have their own special peppers for watching television.
Hollow out the peppers. Finely chop a quarter of the onion and sauté in the hot oil. Add the rice with a little salt, and cover with water. When almost cooked, set aside to cool.
Add the ground pork to the rice then season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill the peppers with the meat mixture to about ½ inch/1.25 cm below the edge as they expand during cooking. Bring the tomato juice to a boil and pour around the stuffed peppers. Add the remaining onion and celery leaves. Cover and finish cooking over a medium heat for about 50 minutes. Remove the peppers from the tomato liquid and discard the celery leaves and onion. Add flour to the hot butter, stirring continuously until it turns golden. Use to thicken the tomato juice. Season with sugar.
Finally, return the stuffed peppers to the sauce and let set for 10 minutes. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream.