Even after fifty years in Canada, I am completely satisfied with a bowl of fresh vegetable stew. But this was a problem in 1967. I knew that főzelék or vegetable stew required rántás [roux] or habarás [slurry] to thicken so I wrote home for help. The turn around for mail those days could be three to four weeks, and in the meantime I kept on making "wallpaper paste". My roux sometimes was so thick the spoon stood up in the pot. Lumpy too. Roughly a month passed before I began to receive instructions how to make roux. It would begin with “put some lard in the pot, add some flour...” It never entered their minds to write down the steps for me. I soon realized I could not rely on my family for cooking. The struggle with roux continued and I was making less and less főzelék as the years went by. You might say I was roux challenged. No matter what I did, my roux was always lumpy, either too thick or it simply failed to thicken the vegetable stew. Often times I had the painstaking task of forcing it through a sieve, then it would lump up again in the hot broth. If you share my bewilderment with roux... this one is for you. 

There is more than one way to thicken a vegetable stew. You can use nut meal, coconut milk, heavy cream, mashed potatoes, potato flakes or a small amount of puree made from the vegetables. Some methods are more satisfying than others. But the most common thickening agents for Hungarian vegetable stew remains to be roux or slurry.
Chop the vegetables uniform and put them in a pot. Add hot water barely covering the vegetables. Bring it to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove the pot from heat and set it aside. Next make the roux. The components of roux is fat and flour, roughly half and half in volume. Always start with the fat. Heat it up on medium low heat before you add the flour. If the fat is butter, melt the butter just, don't heat it up too high, butter on its own burns easily. Add the flour gradually, maybe you will need less maybe more. This will depend on the type of fat and flour you use. Stir the flour into the fat and cook it for 2-3 minutes. Remove it from heat before you add the seasoning. Seasoning burns in roux and you end up with a bitter taste. Now add cold liquid, always cold and never hot. Stir to combine to a smooth paste. The next step is what every roux instruction leaves out. Diluting the roux with cold liquid is the most crucial part of thickening with roux. When you stir in the cold liquid you get a lukewarm slurry, this lukewarm slurry  is what you add to the pot. Stir and slowly bring it back to a simmer. Continue to simmer until your stew has the desired consistency.

To Make Roux:

2 Tbsp oil or lard or butter
2 Tbsp flour

  • Begin by heating 2 tablespoons oil or fat in a saucepan over medium heat until a pinch of flour sprinkled in the oil begins to bubble.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour to form a paste. 
  • Continue stirring as the roux gently bubbles for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not cook longer.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the seasoning such as paprika or chopped up herbs if desired. Do not cook the roux with the seasoning or it will turn bitter.
  • Add 1/2 of a cup of cold liquid: water, stock, or the cooled down broth from the stew.
  • Stir smooth. You now have roux.
To Thicken with Roux:

  • Add the roux to the slowly simmering stew and continue to slow simmer until the desired consistency. Do not cook it longer than 2-3 minutes, because continued cooking will eventually break down the flour and the liquid will be thin again.
  • This amount is sufficient to thicken 2 cups of liquid.
    You can make roux ahead of time, freeze it in small blocks and use it as needed. Works rather well, but this method requires planning ahead. Check out the following video.

    To Make A Slurry:

    2 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
    1 cup cold liquid

    • Add the flour or cornstarch to a small bowl and gradually stir in the cold liquid.
    • Stir until a smooth. This is the slurry.
    To Thicken With Slurry:

    • Whisk the cold slurry into the hot, simmering liquid you want to thicken.
    • Bring it back to simmer and continue in a slow simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the starchy taste is cooked away. Don't cook longer or the starch will break down and the liquid will be thin again. This will thicken 2 cups of hot broth.
    Note: When thickening stews with slurry, a small piece of butter or a few tablespoons of full fat sour cream helps with the flavour. Cooking low fat sour cream into the stew tends to break apart into floating white bits. So if you insist on using low fat sour cream, add it at the table. 

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    It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!