Slav meals: Hungarian pie

Hungarian pie

Hungarian pie, own photo. Gubałówka, Zakopane, southern Poland.

Let’s talk food.

Is Hungarian pie Hungarian? Are Hungarians Slavs?

There is a bit of confusion regarding the naming of this delicious meal. So let’s get that part clear. The “Hungarian pie” (Polish: placek po węgiersku) comes from combining traditional Hungarian goulash (Hungarian: pörkölt) with potato pancakes, and often sour cream (which in this part of the world, Central Europe, isn’t sour at all!). That combination, to all my knowledge, is unknown to Hungarians themselves. It is a product of culinary creativity of their northern Slavic neighbours, Slovakia and southern Poland. Today, this meal is very well known throughout Poland and is served in many restaurants.

Hungarians are not Slavs either. As we define Slavs by nation-wide and traditional usage of a Slavic language, the Hungarians belong to a different group of nations altogether, belonging to one family with Finns and Estonians.

The meal, in essence, is a continuation of a series of “foreign-like” meals in Poland, so local meals done in the spirit of foreign cuisine, to which you will also count barszcz ukraiński (Ukrainian borscht), ryba po grecku (Greek fish) or pierogi ruskie (Ruthenian dumplings). People improvise at home to break out of the mundane, and the creation, sometimes, gained popularity.

So, what did the Slavs do to poor old pörkölt?

Essence of the meal

This is a dual meal, where you pour goulash onto potato pancakes, sometimes in layers. On top of it, you can add a bit of sour cream (śmietana). Some people like to sprinkle cheese on top, but this is not advised, let’s not make junk food out of an already rather heavy meal. Naturally, to make it, you need to create two meals. First you begin with goulash. Then, you fry the pancakes.

The goulash

  • 1 kg (~2.2 lbs) of beef or pork
  • 1/3 glass (assuming 1 glass = 250 ml, 8.45 oz) of flour
  • 1 litre (33.8 oz) of broth
  • 2 onions
  • 2 red peppers
  • 150 g (0.33 lbs) of white mushrooms
  • 3 spoons of oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 balls of allspice (fun fact: we call this ziele angielskie, “English herb”)
  • 2 spoons of tomato paste
  • spicy powdered pepper
  • to taste salt, black pepper

Stage 1

Meat should be cut into cubes. Put them into flour, so it sticks to each side, evenly. Preheat the pan, put oil on it, and add the meat. Fry for a moment, until it gains a nice, rosy colour. Do not clean the pan yet.

Stage 2

Boil broth. Add a pinch of salt to it. Broth could be premade by you, by simply boiling poultry with a set of vegetables (carrots, celery, etc.) for a while, but if you have none at hand, you can use bouillon cubes, known as stock cubes in the UK. Add meat and spices: bay leaf, allspice, when it starts to boil.

Stage 3

Cut garlic and onion into small cubes and fry on the pan, so they soak the aroma left after the meat. Add into broth. Boil for half an hour on small fire.

Stage 4

Prepare the vegetables: mushrooms should be cut into slices, while peppers into stripes. Fry them for a while, and then add to the broth. At this stage, you can add tomato paste and spice up with spicy pepper. If you do not like spicy taste, skip the last ingredient.

Stage 5

Slow cook for about an hour, do not forget to stir once in a while. Use small fire. Water will partly evaporate, and the stew will get dense.

Potato pancakes

  • 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) of potatoes
  • 2 spoons of flour
  • 1 onion
  • 1 egg
  • oil, salt

Those are relatively popular in Poland, used also in other meals, even eaten sweet, with sour cream and sugar (to much of my foreign girlfriend’s disgust, come to think about it, we do add sugar to weirdest meals…) on top of it. Here, we are doing the Hungarian pie, so let’s stick to the base.

Stage 1

Cut the onions to very small pieces. Grate the potatoes so it forms a wet mass, and add those onions to it. You might want to ask for help, grating a 1.5 kilo of onions can be a bit tiring for the arms, but the meal is worth the effort.

Stage 2

Remove excess water from the mass, as much as possible, with spoon and hands. Add 1 egg to it (white and yolk) and flour, mix it all with spoon or hands. Add spices.

Stage 3

Make sure the goulash is finished or nearing completion before proceeding to this stage. Add just a bit of oil (to cover the surface, do not deep fry this!) to the pan and heat it up. Pour the potato mass, gently level the surface with a spoon, and fry from both sides. It should be a wide, round piece. When one side is done, turn the whole pancake around with a wooden spoon to fry the other side. Do not try to “flip it” like a typical pancake in a tv show, it will break apart. Use a plate or second pan if you want.

Finishing

Put the potato pancake onto a place, and pour goulash on top of it. If you want, you can roll one side pancake with goulash in it, so the pancake folds in half. Then pour another layer of goulash on top. You can decorate it with sour cream, although I was told the US sour cream is actually sour, so you be the judge (ours tastes like fresh diary rather than being sour or sweet).

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