Palóc soup

This green beans-forward soup is the creation of restaurateur János Gundel, father of the famous Károly Gundel. He made the soup as a birthday present in 1892 to his regular patron, Kálmán Mikszáth, a celebrated novelist and politician. Mikszáth wrote about the Palóc people in northeast Hungary, hence the soup's moniker. The original recipe calls for mutton, but most people make it with pork or beef these days.

Ingredients

Yield: 4-6 servings; Total time: 1 ½ hours

  • 500 grams (1 ¼ pounds) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes

  • 1 tablespoon lard (if you don’t have any, you can render pork belly or bacon fat or use vegetable oil)

  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 pinches of pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 onion, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) chunks

  • 300 grams (⅔ pound) green beans, cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces

  • 200 grams (¾ cup) sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • 2 liters (2.1 quarts) water

  • 1 bunch fresh parsley or dill, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Slices of crusty bread

Directions

  • Step 1: Heat lard or oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high, then add minced onion and sauté until translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

  • Step 2: Add meat and sear until it’s lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.

  • Step 3: Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in paprika, caraway seeds, minced garlic, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Add water to cover them, about 1 liter (1.1 quarts). Then place lid on pot and let it simmer for about 1 hour, until pork is tender (adjust accordingly for other cuts of meat).

  • Step 4: Add potato chunks, green beans, chopped parsley, and remaining (1 liter / 1.1 quarts) water, and cook on a brisk simmer until potatoes are soft but not mushy, about 12-15 minutes.

  • Step 5: In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream and flour. Ladle a few spoons of the hot soup from the pot into the sour cream mixture and stir to combine. 

  • Step 6: Turn off heat and add sour cream mixture to the pot. Then turn the heat back on and stir on a low simmer for 2-3 minutes. The soup will soon start to thicken. 

  • Step 7: Add chopped parsley and lemon juice to the soup and mix well. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in soup bowls with slices of crusty bread on the side.

Words of advice

You can prevent the sour cream from curdling by stirring in at least 3-4 ladles of the hot soup into the bowl with the sour cream mixture before gradually pouring it into the soup.

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.