Hungary’s love affair with vegetable stews (főzelék) is seemingly endless but perhaps none is more popular than the green pea stew. Fresh, bright-green sugar peas indicate the arrival of spring in Hungary and that’s when they’re most enjoyable but the recipe also works perfectly with frozen peas. The small amount of added sugar is meant to accent the sweet flavor of the peas. Főzelék can stand on its own as a main course paired simply with a thick slice of crusty bread — historically eaten on days of abstinence — but toppings often include a sunny-side up egg, meatball, goulash, or sausage.
Yield: 4-6 servings; Total time: 20 minutes
For the vegetable stew
900 grams (2 pounds) shelled green peas, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 pinches of ground pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup cold water
2 bunches fresh parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick or ¼ cup) butter
½ cup sour cream
For the fried eggs & finish
3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
Slices of crusty bread
Step 1: Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add peas, then sprinkle with flour and stir for 3 minutes. Pour in 1 cup cold water, then season with salt, pepper, and sugar as per the amounts shown.
Step 2: Bring mixture to a simmer, then steam-cook it for 8-10 minutes with the lid on, until peas are soft but still with a bite to them.
Step 3: Remove from heat, then add butter, sour cream, and chopped parsley and mix thoroughly (reserve a bit of parsely). Taste for salt and add more if needed.
Step 4: In a non-stick pan using butter or oil, fry the eggs sunny-side up. Make 1-2 eggs per person.
Step 5: Serve pea stew in shallow bowls topped with an egg and a sprinkle of parsley, and a few slices of bread on the side.
Words of advice
If you’re using fresh peas, you could steep the pods in water for half an hour and then cook the peas in this “herbal liquid” instead of plain water for a flavor boost.
I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.