Paprika is the key to this dish. Try to buy only as much as you need and don’t keep opened packets of paprika for weeks as it loses flavour quickly and then has no more subtlety than brick dust.
In Hungary it is sold in four grades ranging in strength from quite mild rose paprika to the quite hot. As paprika available here is usually mild I have added a chilli to the ingredients. Creamy sauces need enlivening.
Paprika should fry for a few seconds, but mustn’t burn or it will turn bitter. This is best accomplished by removing the pan from direct heat and then adding it. Added any other way paprika will taste uncooked – like a Frenchman’s curry. You may then boil it forever without achieving the warmth and spiciness of the properly used product.
The cucumber salad which finishes the sauce also makes a good side dish with any braised meat or a rich stew and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.
Pilaff rice is ideal to serve with this dish for there is plenty of sauce to mop up. In Hungary you would probably be offered galuska, an eastern European spaetzle made by rubbing thickish batter through a colander into boiling water. However this is not the moment for such touches of authenticity. Concentrate on the paprika chicken with marinated cucumber.
© 1990 Shaun Hill. All rights reserved.