Here we are. I am officially in triple digits for this challenge and it just happened to coincide with my, now yearly, tradition of crossing off a cool country for my husband’s birthday meal. In the history of this little challenge, I have tried to not do neighbouring nations so close to one another. Given that this was my husband’s pick, I guess that this will have to be an exception seeing how my last country bar one was Austria.
Had 2020 not been the dumpster fire of a year it was, there was a high chance that Budapest would have been the destination of my recent annual visits to a European Christmas market. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of how beautiful they do up their capital and the idea of walking through that with a piping hot langos in my hand and trying to not think too hard about their recent political situation.
Alas, twas not to be and I wonder if my husband sensed my slight wish to have been there in December when making his pick. I mean, this is one of those countries that has the weird honour of being universally linked to a particular spice: paprika. When looking at what to make as a main, there was the obvious pick of goulash and then there was nearly everything else which involved paprika at some point. Would I make my own liptauer to top some open-faced sandwiches, or some delicious paprika chicken? I could have gone for some cold sour-cherry soup, but there really isn’t a place for me to find that.
Similarly, there was an obvious choice for a dessert – dobos torte. I loved it when I had it many years ago and, having recently seen it on an old episode of The Great British Bake Off, I had that fancy again. However, there are many other desserts to try and make in Hungarian cuisine – many of them with apricot jam, nuts or poppy seeds. So, I decided that I would go for one obvious dish and one that was less so. Plenty of paprika was spilled along the way.
Goulash may have been one of the first dishes that was locked in as a certainty when I started doing this challenge. It’s one of those things that is so iconic for Hungary and is a dish I always love when it is in front of me. There are a number of different recipes online, each one talking about different starches to have it with. You get some with potato in the goulash, others serve it with noodles or spätzle.
In the end, I went with a recipe by the Hairy Bikers as it looked good – but where they talked about serving it with rice, I decided to make some potato dumplings to make it feel properly Central European. The key for this dish is to have good paprika, maybe even a few types for a complex flavour, and to have this cook for so long that the meat can easily come apart with a fork. This meal did just that and, like most stews, was even better when we warmed up the leftovers for dinner later that evening.
Now, I opted to not make dobos torte because of the nightmare that would be to make a number of evenly thin cake layers. I looked it up in a bunch of recipes and it felt like nightmare fuel, especially as I am still somewhat in post-covid recovery. However, this was for my husband’s birthday meal and so I wanted to make a cake that was somewhat special. Enter the Gerbeaud cake which, much like Sachertorte, is named after the establishment that came up with it… which was named for the founding chef Emil Gerbeaud.
This is a cake (recipe from Kitchen Nostalgia) made of three layers of pastry, with the in between layers made of apricot jam, chopped walnuts and a sprinkling of rum. The whole thing is then covered in a layer of dark chocolate glaze. Not going to mince words, but it is delicious. It was an absolute devil to get out of the baking tin because of a bunch of sugar caramelizing, but it was fine in the end. I mean, hey, I managed to take a picture of a wonderful slice. Made for a decent birthday cake too.
Now it is time to go back to the world of Oceania cooking. I am still avoiding Australia for now as I want to knock out a few more of the island nations – which means I am setting sail for the cuisine of Tonga.