Hungarian recipes
November 4, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

My kitchen is full of cabbage, and some dried Hungarian peppers (whole) and sweet Hungarian paprika (powder). What do you recommend I make?? Bonus level 1: South or Eastern Hungarian, if you know any regional specialty. Bonus level 2: vegetarian, but includes more than just the cabbage.
posted by whatzit to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Stuffed cabbage rolls (töltött káposzta)

Just leave out the ground meat to make it veggie-friendly.
posted by ladybird at 10:23 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My Mom's side of the family was Hungarian, and I grew up with a lot of dishes that I have been unable to find online at all. One of these is an unleavened, cabbage-stuffed flatbread called Balesh (pronounced BAYlesh). I learned how to make it from my mom, who learned from her mom and paternal grandmother. I was lucky enough to be able to watch great-grandma make it a few times. None of us were able to replicate hers, but I've gotten better at it over time. Here's the recipe (pasted from an old email to my sister & aunts) along with some tweaks & tips:

Balesh Recipe


3 Cups Bread Flour (All-Purpose will work, but makes a more fragile dough) 1 ¼ Cups Water, 1 ½ teaspoons Salt, 1 ½ Tablespoons Olive Oil (or vegetable oil). The added oil is non-traditional, but this makes the dough more moist & tender, and easier to work with.

1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil to brush before baking


Half of an avg. size cabbage, cored & shredded. I just cut mine into quarters & slice finely with a knife, but Mom used to grate hers. Either way is fine.

Half an onion, sliced thin (optional, but I like it)

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

A shake or two of garlic powder, if you like

Mix the cabbage filling in a large bowl well enough to get the salt evenly distributed. Cover let let stand at least half an hour before making the balesh, so some of the juices come out and can be poured off. It’s not necessary to strain or squeeze the mixture, just to remove some of the excess water.

For the dough, mix the flour & salt, then add the oil & water. I like to mix the dough together in a large bowl until the flour is all incorporated, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for about a half hour before kneading. It will be easier to work and much less sticky. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary to keep from sticking. I usually add from ¼ to ½ cup more flour during the process, but nothing is exact. Shoot for a firm, smooth pizza dough consistency. This can take 5 to 10 minutes of kneading by hand.

At this point, you can make the balesh, but I’ve found that the more you let the dough rest, the easier it becomes to work with and the better it tastes. I usually let it rest for a couple of hours, or I even make it the night before and refrigerate it. If you do refrigerate it, allow an hour or more for it to warm to room temp.

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a standard cookie sheet

Flour a large board or clean surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick, and large enough to extend about 3 or 4 inches beyond all sides of a cookie sheet. Use plenty of flour and lift the dough as you work, so it will transfer easily to the sheet. Lay the dough over the cookie sheet. It doesn’t have to be perfectly rectangular, but center it the best you can.

Add the cabbage mixture and spread evenly to the edges of the sheet. Starting with the corners, stretch the excess dough outward, then fold over toward the center. As the adjacent pieces meet, pinch them together. Work patiently, and you’ll have the whole thing covered. Small gaps are OK, but if you have large ones, look for a corner area with excess dough that can be pinched off to make a patch. After doing this a couple of times, it gets easier to do without any gaps or patching. I promise!

Brush or pat on the melted butter or oil to lightly cover the top surface. This is another optional, non-traditional step that I added for extra moisture and to help with browning.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 or until top begins to lightly brown. I have a gas oven, so it may take less in an electric.

Remove from oven. Cover with foil & let rest for 5 – 10 min. before cutting & serving. This helps to steam & soften the crust a bit, and takes the place of Grandma’s step of covering with a moistened towel. A pizza cutter or scissors work much better than a knife for cutting. Top with sour cream & cracked pepper. Enjoy!
posted by gimli at 11:15 AM on November 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: gimli, I am definitely going to try that out. Thank you for your effort. Do you have any pictures of the final product, so I am sure I understand the form correctly? If you have any more wonders to share, I am definitely listening! (Same for all you others) (And I am sure to love the cabbage rolls: I suspect they are similar to the Romanian ones I had last week. What a surprisingly wonderful country.)
posted by whatzit at 11:34 AM on November 4, 2013

How about vegetarian but not hungarian? Here's a cabbage strudel from the Moosewood cookbook that my family really loves. In searching for that, I found a hungarian cabbage strudel recipe, but I haven't tried it.
posted by CathyG at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures. It comes out like a larger, flatter version of a strudel, roughly the shape of the cookie sheet, but an inch or so smaller in each dimension after the edges have been folded in to create the top layer. It's not a very refined dish at all, more of a peasant-fare, comfort-food kinda thing.

If you do make it, I can't emphasize enough how much easier it is to work with the dough if you give it plenty of time to rest!
posted by gimli at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2013

I've helped make cabbage rolls using tofu to replace the ground meat. Drain the tofu and then knead it between your hands and it goes crumbly like ground meat. (I can't remember if the seasoning got tweaked for the tofu ones or not. I just remember what seemed like insane amounts of paprika.)
posted by hoyland at 12:36 PM on November 4, 2013

Best answer: June Meyer's page (please pardon everything about the layout) has some interesting recipes. The Cabbage and Noodles or Sour Cream Slaw might fit the bill, and I bet the Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup could be made with vegetable broth and would be completely yummy with some sour cream stirred in. Side note - a 50/50 mix or even higher percentage of plain Greek yogurt to sour cream tastes great and can greatly improve the nutritional profile of a lot of Hungarian dishes that call for sour cream.
posted by gimli at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2013

Not sure about Hungary, but when I lived in Romania various fast days (no meat no dairy) were so common I almost consider meat substitutes to be a part of traditional Romanian cuisine. We ate soya cutlets (which I believe were something like TVP) in tomato and potato soups like this one, which could only improve with the addition of cabbage and paprika, and probably a good dollop of oil to replace the lost lard. Bet you could easily use it in cabbage rolls instead of pork, too. Get the dry stuff and rehydrate it in a good strong broth, maybe with this stuff for an authentically porky taste.
posted by theweasel at 4:54 PM on November 4, 2013

How about some delicious lecsó?
posted by ironicon at 1:32 AM on November 6, 2013

Response by poster: First cabbage recipe went to gimli's bread. I asked a Hungarian friend who had never had such a bread. For reference, I mentioned it to a Romanian and a Bulgarian who also did not know the dish. Maybe your family had some real innovators?

The feedback was double-thumbs-up among our party of 12. I made the recipe as directed with a couple small modifications: more onion than called for, some powdered sweet paprika, and using an actual damp towel over it instead of plastic wrap. I let it sit an exceptionally long time (36 hours for the bread dough, 18 for the filling) due to circumstances.
posted by whatzit at 6:30 AM on November 19, 2013

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