Hungarian lecsó could be classed as one of Hungary’s great national dishes. There’s even a lecso festival in Zsambok. Make the basic recipe when the ingredients are fresh and ripe and bursting with flavour. Bottle it, preservative and additive free, and it keeps for over a year, bringing back the scents of summer during the winter months.
As is usual with many dishes that originated from the farms and villages of Hungary, there are as many recipes of lecsó as there are cooks. In its simplest form, it’s a combination of tomatoes, onions, and TV paprika, a special light yellow skinned capsicum, very popular in Hungary. These three ingredients, quickly cooked, became the basis of a simple family meal – the vegetable side dish accompanied with potatoes and kolbasz.
Although the basic ingredients are tomatoes, capsicums and onions, you can use your imagination when it comes to eating the dish, serving it as is, or adding garlic, okra, eggplant, or any other vegetables. It makes a delicious meal, free of any additives, preservatives, colours or flavours.
Uses of lecsó
- Can be used a vegetable dish with meat and potatoes
- With the addition of soup stock, rice and other vegetables, and perhaps a spicy sliced sausage, it can be turned into a substantial soup. Served with bread with becomes a meal in itself.
- Blitzed in a blender, it forms the basis of a spicy cold tomato soup
- Add some chilli, either in powder form, or finely chopped fresh chilli, heat or eat cold, and it becomes a dip to eat with tortilla chips
- Use on pizzas instead of tomato sauce
Basic Lecsó Recipe Ingredients
- 1 kg light yellow capsicum – roughly chopped
- 500 grammes very ripe tomatoes
- 1 large onion – roughly chopped
- Wash the tomatoes and chop roughly
- Remove the hard white section where stems are
- Put into a large cooking pot
- Add a little water at the start of the cooking time
- Have the tomatoes cooking, and breaking down while you process the capsicum and onion
- Then add the washed and roughly chopped onion and capsicum
- Boil the mix vigorously until the onion and capsicum are soft and almost cooked through, and mixture is reduced to about half.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot, bring water to the boil, enough to cover the glass jars with screw top lids that you have collected.
- When the lecsó is cooking, put the first jar and lid carefully into the boiling water pot, so it’s completely covered.
- Let the jar boil for about a minute to sterilise it.
- Pull it out with tongs and place it on a towel next to the pot.
- Turn off the heat, and using a ladle, fill the hot jar with the hot lecsó.
- Tap gently on the bench to remove air bubbles, and screw the lid firmly shut.
- While filling the first jar, have another jar and lid in the boiling water.
- Work quickly but carefully as the ingredients and the jars are hot!
- Continue until all the lecsó has been bottled.
- Cover the jars with a towel and let cool overnight, date and label, then store.
The lecsó will keep for over a year, so you can make a good supply when the vegetables are in season. Refrigerate after opening – it lasts over a month then. If you enjoyed making and eating this relish, also try the spicy hot tomato relish, the apple chutney, and the plum chutney.