An almost forgotten tradition: Hungarian home-made noodles for soup

I strongly believe that every human being is unique and unrepeatable. We have a few things we were born with, other things we learnt and others which are in our blood. Each one of us become special with this mixture but still, it is always astonishing for me when I discover gestures, customs and taste of former generations in my own behaviour. I am most probably not the only one, who promised as a teenager, that I will be different, while fighting against the world’s order. And then a few decades has passed by, and my teenager ego gets a smack. 

In autumn I obsessively and tensely try to pick all the apples from the tree, before they fall, as if fallen apple would be a reason for death sentence. When Áron asks me- carefully, because he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings- what if some apples will fall and the neighbours’ goats will eat them up, I look at him with wide eyes and would feel like shouting: “But it is WASTING!”… , I realise that actually this is my grandmother who considered wasting as the biggest sin. 

I start and cannot stop listening to the music of Louis Armstrong, then following a sudden inspiration I look for the Blue rhapsody by George Gershwin and just later realise that I am actually listening to my father’s favourites which I was listening from a cassette while playing with Lego as a child. 

One really cold morning before leaving to an early meeting, I send a message to my friend, Meli advising her to take warm gloves because there was minus 9 ºC in the mountain and I warn her to consider driving to Győr when it is snowing. Exactly like my mother. 

When I start to think about the next blog post, it pops into my mind, that I should make some noodles for soup. I don’t need a lot of time to find out, why. 

Christmas meat consommé is not the same without my grandmother’s home-made noodles. I am not sure, that my grandma made them before Christmas, especially because I find a line about home-made noodles in a cookbook from 1941, saying: ‘The most economic is to make noodles in summer, because eggs are cheaper and drying and storing is easier’. I guess my grandmother knew that as many other things, that my generation didn’t learn any more. 

I missed the opportunity in summer, but I follow my inspiration and I look for the wooden box in the kitchen pantry where I put all the tools my grandmother used for noodles. I take the angel hair pasta maker into my hand, which brand is written on the side: ‘Blessing’, as if it were a guarantee for a blessing whatever you make with it. Then I find the wooden tool for making spiral noodles- that she didn’t use often- and the rolling cutter for the so called “strawberry leaves”. She dried the noodles on the dining table which she covered with a white apron. Then packed noodles carefully into paper boxes, separated by type, mostly into emptied praline boxes because she recycled whatever she could. 

To me, as a child and even a young adult, was so natural that we had home-made noodles.  Being a few decades older and wiser, by the time she doesn’t bring her boxes any more I could say thanks to her from my whole heart. Feeling a ball in my throat I knead into the dough what I would have said to her. 

Home-made noodles are the best if we only use egg and flour and don’t add any water. However, that makes the dough more difficult to work with. I remember when we learnt how to make home-made noodles at culinary school, I asked the teacher while trying to make the the dough, whether I can finish kneading. Having 50 years experience he didn’t even look at my dough, just said: ‘Continue Judit!’ Next step was rolling, then trying to massage fingers and palm to relieve pain. My grandmother kneaded and rolled the dough by hand throughout her life and it was always perfectly thin, because she was born to a time and a family that put the biggest emphasise on neatness be it the garden, the household

If I want I can use my kitchen machine to knead instead, and a pasta maker to roll out the dough. I admire her strength and her precision and I regret not appreciating it well enough when she was still with us. I cover the table with her tablecloth whose one corner- almost unnoticeably-  is embroidered with a monogram 

At the moment I start to turn the “Blessing”, I realise that I did this before. Moreover, we did this together with her. The sun hit in the living room and she allowed me to turn the handle. She held her palm underneath and placed the noodle on the tablecloth carefully in order to avoid tangling. As I hold my palm under the machine, I am thinking about, that my movements are much more uncertain as hers, even at the age of 80. If she stood by my side now, she would add her comments on the process for sure. 

‘Judit, you are placing them to tight to each other, it won’t dry properly. Cover the piece of dough you don’t work with, because otherwise it will dry out. Try to cut more straight with the roller pin, the strawberry leaves won’t be all the same size. Oh, no… give it to me”. And she would have taken the rolling cutter or the handle off my hand and would have finished the work with her routine at ease as no-one else could. 

In any case the tablecloth will be slowly covered by drying noodles, and if my father reads this blog post then this is a message for him to get him know, that I will bring the noodle at Christmas. 

In emptied praline boxes, of course. 

Hungarian home-made noodle (for soups)

Ingredients:  

to 100 flour 1 egg 

Put the flour on a wooden board and make a well in the centre. Break the egg into the middle and starting from inside mix the egg and flour until it becomes a kneadable dough. Knead it well, until smooth and soft, collect little crumbles meanwhile and knead it into the dough. Wrap the dough into a plastic foil and put aside for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

Work in batches, roll out the dough with a pasta machine starting at the highest setting until setting 2 or 3. Cut pasta sheets into equal sizes in order to get nice equal angel hair and cut it with the angel hair pasta maker, or use the rolling cutter in order to make “strawberry leaves”. Place the noodle on a tablecloth and let completely dry at room temperature. Store at cool and dry place, preferable in paper boxes. 

Hungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.com Hungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.comHungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.comHungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.comHungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.comHungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.comHungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.com Hungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.com Hungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.com Hungarian home-made noodles for soup from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www. tasteofmemories.com

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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