In Hungary officially everybody knows how to cook pörkölt. This is something which is very Hungarian, very basic and a kind of must for everybody. I have learnt it at the chef’s school but if I hadn’t I could take a look at any Hungarian cookbook or search it up online and could find many variations from traditional to modern low-fat ones. Even if they are similar there are little, but quite significant details that makes one different from the other one. I am looking for one certain unique recipe because this is what Taste of Memories is all about. I am looking for the taste which is not so easy to reproduce, the taste of the childhood, which I would like to find and preserve and share. I know who can help me in this. I call my grandmother, my mother’s mother and the next day I am already sitting at the square table in the living room while she is explaining the cooking class’s program. Because “Mami” (how we call her) is like this, she takes everything seriously including me and my project. “We won”t cook only chicken pörkölt but also three other dishes”- explains Mami- it will be easy and fast if we prepare them simultaneously! “ She gives me an apron and a brown, blank notebook. “So my dear, this will be your recipe book. Begin on the first page with the date of today then let’s begin, write down “chicken pörkölt”, below comes “ingredients”. So starts our cooking that day. My grandmother suddenly seems to be 30 years younger, moving around the kitchen, giving instructions. I am cutting, stirring, listening and writing full more and more pages in the brown notebook. While we are waiting for the meat to get cooked and soft it pops into my grandmother’s mind that she has a good sausage recipe, a list of herbs and another one which gives information about vitamin content in fruits and vegetables. The small kitchen slowly becomes filled by the scents of paprika, vegetables and spices. We are standing at the kitchen table, our elbows leaned on it like schoolgirls and Mami is dictating from her old, worn cookbook which is here and there stained but carefully written with her round letters. “Now taste it, how is it? Well, it needs some salt, good, add some and also a teaspoon of duck fat, just for its taste”- gives Mami the instructions and soon we have the chicken pörkölt ready. Tender chicken in a thick, delicious paprika sauce- it is the one I was looking for no question about it! Although it is the best in summer when peppers and tomatoes are full with flavors but it is still amazing! I can’t wait to cook it from my own vegetables, hopefully already this year. Normally we eat it with dumplings or rice but now I feel like eating it with only a slice of bread so not a single drop of the sauce will be wasted.
I don’t want to bother my grandmother with a camera and tripod in her small kitchen so I cook the pörkölt again at home following the recipe in the brown notebook.
Mami calls me: “So how was it, was it THAT KIND OF?”
“Yes, Mami, it is exactly the one!”
Ingredients: 1 middle sized chicken breast, 2 small tomatoes, 1 green or yellow pepper , 3-4 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp duck fat, 1 red onion, 4 tbsp sunflower or olive oil, freshly ground black pepper
Dice the onions, peppers and tomatoes, cut the chicken breast into pieces. Heat the oil and add onions, season it with salt cook it for a while then add first the green peppers, then tomatoes, and finally the chicken. Add some salt, black pepper and duck fat and cook it slowly covered, until the chicken gets white. Take the pot off the heat, add the paprika and a tablespoon water. (If paprika gets too much direct heat it gets a bitter taste) Put it back to the stove and cook it slowly until the chicken is half- cooked. Remove the cover and cook it slowly until the meat is tender and vegetables transform to a thick sauce. Important is that you cook it slowly so it doesn’t evaporate water content too quickly.