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Cecilia Kulcsar, from Hungary, shows how to make paprikas csirke, chicken paprikash.
Kulcsar came to New Zealand in 2005 with her husband Tamas and they lived and worked in Queenstown for four years before moving to Papua New Guinea for three years. They returned to Dunedin three months ago with their 19-month-old daughter Nina so Tamas could study information technology at Otago Polytechnic.
This is traditional Hungarian comfort food and Cecilia's mother used to cook it often when she was a child. It tastes best made with skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs but it can also be made with skinless chicken breast.
In Hungary it is usually served with small dumplings, but here it's easier to serve with rice or potatoes, she says.
Paprikas csirke (chicken paprikash)
1 kg chicken pieces
2-3 Tbsp oil
2-3 large onions
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian
½-1 tsp hot paprika or chilli powder (optional)
½ cup sour cream
1½-2 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
rice to serve
If using chicken breasts, cut into small pieces. Heat the oil in a large pot and when it is hot, add the chicken and sear it on all sides, stirring. If there is a lot of water in the chicken, let this evaporate. When the chicken is sizzling and slightly coloured, remove it from the pot.
Chop the onions finely and add to the oil left in the pot. Add a little more if necessary.
Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time until the onions are softened, translucent and beginning to brown at the edges. Season with salt and pepper.
When the onion is cooked, add 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste and a cup of water so it does not burn. Stir in the sweet paprika.
Return the meat to the pot. Stir so it is coated with the tomato, paprika and onions, then add enough water to cover it. Add hot paprika or chilli to taste if you wish. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 20 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Mix the sour cream to a smooth paste with the flour and a little of the cooking liquid. When the chicken is cooked, stir in the sour cream and leave for a couple of minutes before serving with rice, potatoes or small dumplings.
To cook rice Cecilia's mother's way.
Wash the rice and allow to drain. Heat about 2 Tbsp oil in a pot. Stir in the drained rice and allow to sizzle, stirring over medium to low heat until the rice is coated with oil and starting to colour. Be careful not to let it burn.
Add hot water, about twice the volume of the rice. Stir, and add salt to taste, cover the pot and turn the heat low. Simmer for about 15 minutes. The water should have mostly evaporated. Taste the rice to check for seasoning, and to see if it is done. You can add a little more water if it needs longer, or take the lid off and allow the water to evaporate faster if it is done. When all the water has evaporated, serve the rice with the chicken paprikash.
• Traditionally Hungarians used lard (pork fat) instead of oil, which makes it taste wonderful, Cecilia says.
• Some traditional recipes, especially from eastern Hungary do not use tomato paste, but she comes from the west where tomato is more common.
• If you are using chicken thighs with skin on, brown them in oil for 3-5 minutes on one side, turn carefully so the skin does not stick to the pan, and brown on the other side for 3 minutes. It is a good idea to use a non-stick pan or bake the chicken in the oven.
• If using chicken thighs, slice the onion finely instead of chopping it into small dice.
• Use sweet paprika, not smoked. Hungarian paprika will give the best flavour.
• Do not add paprika straight to the oil and onions or it will go bitter. Make sure there is water in the pot first.
• Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.