Palóc soup

This bright-tasting green beans soup is the creation of restaurateur János Gundel, father of the famous Károly Gundel. He made the soup in 1892 as a birthday present to Kálmán Mikszáth, his regular patron and 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 hour 30 minutes

  • 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

  • 3 pinches of ground pepper

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1 onion, minced

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

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

  • 250 grams (½ pound) green beans, cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch) pieces

  • 200 grams (¾ cup) sour cream

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 2 liters (2.1 quarts) water (or stock)

  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

  • 1 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Slices of crusty bread

Directions

  • Step 1: Heat lard or oil in a large pot 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 leaves, salt, and pepper. Add water to cover them, about 1 liter (1.1 quarts). Then place lid on pot and let it simmer until pork is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes (adjust accordingly for other cuts of meat).

  • Step 4: Add potato chunks, green beans, and cover with remaining 1 liter (1.1 quarts) water, and cook at a brisk simmer until potatoes are soft but not mushy, about 15-20 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 at a low simmer for 2-3 minutes. The soup will soon start to thicken.

  • Step 7: Add chopped parsley and dill and the 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

For the seasoning at the end, some recipes call for chopped dill (including Károly Gundel's) while others use parsley. I've found that the combination of the two yield a nicely layered flavor with woody notes of fresh green.

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. Do you have any feedback? Please let me know!