ESZTER ANDOR: STILL USING THE SAME OLD COOKBOOK
Before Eszter Andor knew it was illegal, she used to ask relatives and friends traveling to Hungary to bring her back yellow peppers. Hungarian peppers – usually yellow, longer and pointier than most peppers, and with a thinner lining – are, like Hungarian paprika, a staple in Hungarian cooking.
Luckily, Andor, who is fifty-one, no longer needs to put her relatives and friends at risk. That’s because in the last few years, she’s been able to find Hungarian peppers at Montreal’s Jean Talon Market. As for Hungarian paprika, it can safely be transported over the border!
Andor came to Canada with her three children in 2011. Today, she works as the Oral History and Commemorations Coordinator at the Montreal Holocaust Museum. In Hungary, Andor worked for the Centropa foundation, interviewing Holocaust survivors and training others to do so. Judaism did not play a major role in Andor’s life in Hungary. “It was a biographical fact, but it wasn’t relevant,” she said.
On the day we dropped by Andor’s home in Cote-des-Neiges, her kitchen counter looked like a still-life painting. There were giant bowls filled with yellow peppers, sliced onion, and chopped tomatoes. She was preparing to make lecso, which, she explained with a laugh, “doesn’t mean anything. Lecso means ‘a dish.’”
Andor describes herself as a “self-taught cook.” When she was a teenager growing up in Budapest, her father, who enjoyed cooking, often invited his daughter to join him in the kitchen. But she always declined. Andor only became interested in cooking when she attended the University of Pesc in southern Hungary. Then, during a gap year, Andor worked as an au pair in France, where she learned about French cuisine. For traditional Hungarian recipes, Andor has always turned to a cookbook by Ilona Horvath called Szakaraskonyv. Andor brought that cookbook with her when she moved first to the United States (where she lived from 2008 to 2011) and then to Canada.
Many of the recipes in Horvath’s cookbook call for chicken or meat. “Hungarian cooking is very meat-oriented,” said Andor. Because she is vegetarian, she has adapted many of Horvath’s recipes. Most Hungarians make lecso with sausage. “Some Hungarians add rice, and some scramble eggs into it,” she said. Andor eats it with bread.
Andor’s parents still live in Hungary, and her eldest son returned to live there too. Andor’s father is pleased that cooking has become an important part of his daughter’s life. “But,” Andor said, “he still thinks he’s a better cook.”
Tomato Pepper Stew
2-1/2 pounds Hungarian wax or banana peppers, seeded and pith removed, sliced in rounds
1 pound tomatoes, sliced
2 onions, sliced
2 generous tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
½ pound Hungarian Kolbász sausage (or any other smoked sausage), sliced into ½ inch rounds
In a large pot with a well-fitting lid, sauté onions in vegetable oil over medium heat until transparent, approx.10 minutes.
Add paprika and continue sautéing and stirring for another 2-3 minutes until well mixed.
Add peppers, tomatoes and salt, mix everything together, bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the peppers are completely wilted and the pot is full of rich bubbly liquid.
Recipe is half done at this point. Pick a version and continue cooking as instructed.
Polish Sausage Version
Remove the lid and continue to simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until half of the liquid has evaporated. Add the chopped sausage and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until sausages are cooked. Serve warm with bread.
Remove the lid and continue simmering until most of the liquid has evaporated, 60-75 minutes. Serve warm with bread.
Add ½ cup of rice (and sausage, if using) and simmer uncovered until the rice is cooked, approx 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Egg Version (Vegetarian)
Remove the lid and continue simmering until all of the liquid has evaporated, 60-75 minutes.
Beat 4 eggs in a small bowl, then pour eggs slowly into the pepper mixture, stirring continuously. Cook 2-3 more minutes until eggs have set. Serve warm with bread.
You can pre-order your edition by writing to:
The Secret is in the Sauce! is sponsored by Canadian Heritage’s Official Languages Program.