We’re back from our trip to Florida and it is suddenly cold here. I know you probably aren’t feeling too sympathetic to my complaint especially since we were warm and basking in the Florida sunshine merely days ago. But now we are cold, have finally seen some snow (which turned to freezing rain and then melted again) and are being treated to a not-so-nice few days forecasted ahead. Emma’s take on things here: “Mummy, our garden looks terrible. It really needs some work!” She’s right – we don’t have the varied red and golden leaves of fall blowing about nor do we have the fresh green growth of spring back there right now.
Seems like a good time to dig out some cozy sweaters and cook up a few comforting dishes for the last hurrahs of winter. Well, that and close our eyes to the dreadful looking garden!
When I was young, my mother would make a few dishes in particular during this type of weather. Like chicken paprikash with fresh dumplings (aka nokedli). Seasoned with paprika we would bring back from our visits to Hungary. I used to love it then and I still do. As a result, I thought it would be a perfect dish to introduce to Emma. As did my mother – who made it for her when she was about a year old. And to my mother’s delight, Emma enthusiastically gobbled it up.
My mother’s modern day paprikás csirke (aka chicken paprikash) has a bit of a spin on the traditional by adding mushrooms to it. In fact, when we need a vegan version of the dish, it can be made with mushrooms and vegetable broth rather than with chicken. She also uses lots of paprika (which we have no trouble sourcing here now available in most European delicatessens and grocers) and when it’s only for the adults, we add a healthy spoonful of Eros Pista, a hot paprika paste. In our household, we’ve opted to use olive oil (rather than animal fat) for sauteing the onions and garlic. Also, G and Emma are not fans of sour cream so rather than mix it into the dish, I add a dollop on top of mine and leave theirs dairy-free.
After eating (and subsequently cooking with) paprika for my entire life, I recently learned a few interesting tidbits about this well-known Hungarian spice. The flavour and colour are released only once it has been added to hot fat. You can sprinkle it over dishes as garnish, but this will provide it only with the colour rather than change the flavour much. And an important note, don’t burn the paprika when adding it to your cooking. Yes, it can burn easily – permeating your kitchen with a not-so-appetizing smell and releasing a very bitter flavour into your dish.
All that being said, this dish is delicious, very easy to make and ends up with a deep and rich reddish-orange colour. It can be served over homemade dumplings, or rice, potatoes or noodles – your choice based on your taste and time constraints. Either way, it will bring a little sunshine to your wintry/wet/whatever weather-we-are-seeing-these-days table.