For many Hungarian people, a plate of semolina cooked in sugary milk is the quintessential comfort food, evoking fond childhood memories. Growing up, I used to eat it at least once a week, sprinkled with cocoa powder, cinnamon sugar, or runny fruit preserves. In the 16th and 17th centuries, tejbegríz also appeared on the dining tables of the aristocracy, who lavishly spiked it with saffron for a deep-yellow color and added aroma.
Yield: 3-4 servings; Total time: 15 minutes
For the porridge
1 liter (1.1 quarts) whole milk
5 tablespoons sugar (60 grams or ⅓ cup)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (if you don’t have either, you can also use 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar)
10 tablespoons semolina (110 grams or ⅔ cup)
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
For the toppings
Popular options include cocoa powder, cinnamon (sugar), and runny fruit preserves
Step 1: Wet a medium pot or Dutch oven with two tablespoons water to prevent scorching, then add milk and heat on medium-high.
Step 2: Add sugar, vanilla beans and pod (or extract), pinch of salt and stir well to dissolve. Then gradually start adding semolina, one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously to prevent any lumps from forming. Once you’ve added all semolina, continue whisking for a minute at a low simmer, then turn off heat, drop in the butter, and combine.
Step 3: Porridge should still be a little runny when you turn off heat because it will continue to thicken as it cools down. Remove vanilla pod and pour immediately into serving plates while hot and before it turns solid and harder to handle. Let diners add the toppings for themselves.
Words of advice
I prefer when the tejbegríz remains a bit runny and creamy in the plate instead of coagulating into a solid mass. An additional spoonful of semolina to the measurement listed will yield a more firmed-up texture.
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.