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Every Hungarian should be well acquainted with köménymag leves. This was the dreaded soup while I was growing up, perhaps even more despised than rántott leves. Memories flooded me as I was preparing it and most of it was sad. My dad periodically lived on this soup for nearly three decades. Apa suffered from stomach ulcer before it could be cured with antibiotics. I remember him working in his laboratory, half doubled over in pain, my mother stirring the little pot for him in the kitchen. Sometimes he could only eat caraway soup; everything else would flare up his ulcer. Made with water, not with stock and there was no paprika or croutons to flavour it. Most Hungarians ate this soup when there was nothing else to put on the table. We have been married for nearly 45 years and this was the first time I made it. Making this soup was a spur of the moment decision, in other ways… a momentous occasion. Will I make it again? Maybe I will, my grownup tastes found it surprisingly tasty with croutons.

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp Hungarian paprika
salt to taste
4 cups chicken stock
croutons to serve

• Place oil in a medium Dutch pot and add the caraway seeds.
• Sauté caraway seeds for one minute on low medium heat.
• Add the flour and keep stirring until flour begins to get a golden color.
• Remove from heat and add the paprika.
• Gradually add the chicken stock and keep stirring until flour is well blended with the stock.
• Taste it and adjust the salt. [the stock would have salt in it already]
• Bring soup to slow simmer and slowly simmer for 3-4 minutes.
• Remove from heat and cover pot. Let soup rest for 5 minutes.
• Serve piping hot with croutons.


  1. It's funny how our taste changes... The soup sounds very light and must be a great starter before a heavy meal I suppose... I like caraway seeds a lot, so I might try this on a cold day.

  2. This was one of those poverty meals. The good stuff, well… everyone had the good stuff some of the time, but I don't think my mother knew what whipping cream was until she had me and the doctor advised her to give me whipping cream to gain some weight. She had to ask around what it was and where to get it.

    I decided I had to include some of the less stellar foods in my cookbook. It's just more real that way.

  3. Hi Zsuzsza, I know what you're saying about the bad times. I was reading in Julia Child's cookbook about how dreaded rutabagas were during WWII (though the turnip was perfect acceptable, in fact one village on the upper Seine is actually literally called "Turnipville"). The French would call it by a pseudonym "Swedish Turnips" so they would sound palatable. Previously, these rutabagas were considered food for the swine, so WWII poverty had them gagging them down. Just like in England, folks encouraged to eat rabbit for food (but couldn't eat them, or would eat them with tears streaming down their faces because rabbits were pets NOT food much like dogs in the US). I have to say, I've eaten a nibble of caraway seeds for a bad tummy and it does help. I can appreciate your dad managing a bite or two of sustenance in his lab and thanking God there was something he could at least eat now that I have celiac and dreams of bagels and thick gravies and bread are off the table.

    1. Ah I am so sorry about the celiac - if you have to eat gluten free - there are lots of good recipes for gluten free bread and the gravy can be thickened with mashed potatoes and onions. If you use a food processor you can make lovely thick gravy without flour. Years ago I cooked for a child who had to eat gluten free, I made cakes and bread and all sorts of good things for her. It is possible to make delicious food without flour besides the palate can change over time. I am getting old and I can no longer eat spicy, heavy stuff and bagels are definitely out for me too.

  4. So many great memories for me in your blog. This is one of them. I LOVE caraway, it was a treat. Thanks for the recipe.

  5. My children loved this soup as little ones. I did not use stock, just water but did make the croutons and most times drizzled a beaten egg through the soup as "noodles". Excellent for upset tummies as well!!

    1. Yes precisely! Thank you for the reminder you are absolutely correct. I should really add the drizzled eggy version and of course we didn't flavor this soup with paprika either, it was more of a health food type of thing for sore tummies, but I wasn't overly fond of this as a kid. :-)

    2. My Hungarian mother-in-law used to make me this soup (without the flour and with the beaten egg drizzled in) when I was nursing. She said it was good for me and my baby. I loved it.




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