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It was time to start using up some of those frozen goodies before this year’s bounty appears on the table. You do know that the easiest thing is to freeze tomatoes and peppers. There is no need to blanch or mess with ice water. Wash, chop, dry and pack into freezer bags. Even without a kitchen garden, buying locally grown tomatoes and bell peppers and freezing them is a good investment.

Pepper Plants waiting to be planted on the Victoria Day long weekend

Lecsó is basically a vegetable stew. There are many versions of good lecsó, my favourite lecsó is made with rice. The slightly sweet taste comes from the lard and lots of onions. Onions give a sweet taste and thicken the lecsó. If the lecsó is runny or acidic, it may be that the tomatoes were not fully ripe when picked or the recipe skimped on the onions. I have seen a lot of lecsó recipes with only one onion; I think it goes back to a very badly written, but quite popular on line Hungarian cookbook that claims to be authentic. At one time it was the only source of Hungarian recipes in English. 

There are regional differences of course. Not one of my relatives in Hungary cooked lecsó the same way, but each variation of lecsó I tasted was slightly sweet and no sugar was added. I can think of only two tomato-based Hungarian dishes sweetened with sugar, stuffed peppers and the tomato soup. 

If you put fully frozen or fully thawed out frozen tomatoes or peppers in a pot, the benefit is transferring the flavour, but apart from the flavour, the tomato will just cook apart and the pepper will become limp and soggy. That is pretty much the case for all frozen vegetables, unless we are cooking corn or peas. Therefore a dish based virtually on frozen tomatoes and peppers, such as this lecsó, requires special treatment. Both frozen tomatoes and peppers should be slightly thawed [more like partially still frozen] when put in the pot.

2 cups partially frozen tomatoes, chopped
2-1/2 cups partially frozen yellow or red peppers, chopped
1 cup diced good quality meaty bacon
 3 cups diced onions
3 smashed garlic cloves
salt to taste
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
 parsley [I used frozen parsley]
 ground pepper

• Plunge the frozen tomatoes into a bowl of warm water, and quickly rub off the skins. Don’t leave them sit in hot water, transfer them quickly to a large sieve and let them drip for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a plate and set them aside. Within 5-10 minutes they can be cut in half and then chopped. Add the tomatoes in a partially frozen state to the pot.

• Frozen peppers require a similar treatment. Plunge the frozen peppers into a large bowl of cold [not warm] water, promptly remove them to a large sieve and separate all the pieces. Wait 5-10 minutes and chop them with a chef’s knife to the desired sizes. They will be still partially frozen, but sliceable. Add the partially frozen peppers to the pot as needed.

• Meanwhile chop the bacon and in a non stick skillet on medium heat lightly brown it.
• While the bacon cooks, chop the onions and smash the garlic cloves.
• Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
• Add the onions and garlic to the bacon fat and sprinkle with salt.
• Slow cook onions until very soft. Do NOT burn it.
• Transfer the tomatoes, peppers, bacon and onions to a dutch pot.
• Add the paprika, basil and parsley and stir.

• On medium heat bring to a low simmer. 
• Slow cook for 12-15 minutes until the peppers are tender. 
• Adjust the salt and sprinkle with ground pepper. 
• Cover the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes. 
• I served the lecsó with buttered pasta, so I sprinkled it with grated parmesan cheese.



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