Újházi chicken soup

A classic of Hungarian wedding receptions, the Újházi is a flavor-rich chicken soup stacked with a mountain of vegetables — most of all: carrots, green peas, and mushrooms — and noodles. This reviving soup traces its moniker to Ede Újházi, a 19th-century Hungarian actor and a Rabelaisian figure who had the kitchen staff of Wampetics restaurant (the predecessor of the renowned Gundel) make it for him. The original recipe used capon instead of stewing hen and this recipe also works with regular chicken.

Ingredients

Yield: 6 servings; Total time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

  • ½ stewing hen for the classic recipe but you can also use 1 small chicken, 1 ½ kilos (3 to 3 ½ pounds), cut up

  • 2 teaspoons salt (more to taste)

  • 12 black peppercorns

  • 1 fresh ginger root (5 cm-long; 2-inches), peeled

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 onion, cut in half (don’t peel)

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered

  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled and quartered

  • Wedge or a few outer leaves of savoy cabbage

  • ½ head of cauliflower florets, rinsed

  • ½ celery root, peeled and halved

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (for the broth, to be discarded later)

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned (for the soup)

  • 1 tomato

  • 1 teaspoon tomato purée

  • 1 Hungarian wax pepper or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded

  • 100 grams (⅔ cup) green peas

  • 125 grams (¼ pound) mushrooms, cut into 2 ½ cm (1-inch) pieces

  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, tied together

  • 75 grams (2 ⅔ ounces) noodles, ideally snail-shaped (csigatészta) or angel-hair pasta

  • 3.5 liters (3.7 quarts) cold water

Directions

  • Step 1: Place the cleaned chicken parts in a large stockpot filled with 3 ½ liters (3.7 quarts) cold water. Bring water to a boil while using a ladle to remove impurities that gather on the surface. Then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and occasionally skim off any scum that still appears on top. 

  • Step 2: Add kohlrabi, cauliflower florets, parsnip, carrot chunks, celery root, onion, garlic cloves, tomato, tomato purée, wax pepper, ginger, black peppercorns, parsley (tied together), and season with salt. Cook uncovered at a bare simmer until hen is very tender, about 3 hours (1 ½ hours if using regular chicken).

  • Step 3: Using a slotted spoon, remove all vegetables from the liquid and discard (they’ve released their flavor). Remove chicken parts and put aside. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a pot.

  • Step 4: Add julienned carrots and cook at a low simmer until carrots are fork-tender, about 20 minutes, then and green peas, mushrooms, and pasta, and cook for another 10 minutes.

  • Step 5: In the meantime, remove chicken skin and bones from the meat, and cut up the meat parts you'll want to eat into bite-sized chunks.

  • Step 6: Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in individual soup bowls so that each bowl contains a mix of chicken, julienned carrots, mushrooms, green peas, and noodles. Serve while still hot.

Words of advice

(i) It’s worth using all parts of the chicken (bones, skin, offal, meat) to maximize the soup’s flavor and texture. (ii) If you cook the onions with their outer layer on, the liquid will adopt a more appealing, darker hue, and this is also the reason for the addition of the small amount of tomato purée here. (iii) Feel free not to discard the spent vegetables and serve whichever you see fit.

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!