Hungarian Easter Ham Meal: Part 1

Over the Easter break I decided to try a new recipe.  I broke from British traditions and went in search of Hungarian Easter fare.  For the Hungarian celebration of Easter, the table is richly laden, like most East European countries!  Alongside slices of fragrant ham, sits a braided Easter loaf, eggs, grated horseradish, lamb dishes and poppy-seed cake.  I have always been rather partial of gammon so I thought I would give that a go.

Ingredients:

Uncooked ham

Water

Although the Hungarians appear to cook their ham quite simply, I chose to also add the following in order to make a delicious stock which I could use immediately or freeze:

Parsley

Carrot

Celery

Parsnip

Black Pepper Corns

Instructions:

Soak the uncooked ham in cold water for several hours to extract the excess salt.

Soaking

If the ham is smoked, soak overnight.

Rinse, then place the ham in a large saucepan with plenty of water.

(At this point I chose to add carrot, celery, peppercorns, and parsnip)

Bring to the boil, and simmer slowly.

The ham is tender when a fork easily pierces the rind and the bone can be turned easily.

Leave the ham to cool in the cooking liquid.

Slice

Ready to serve

Just plate it up in portions for your guests…

Serve

The Hungarians would then boil eggs in the cooking liquid, peel them, cut into halves or quarters, and serve with the Easter meal.  However, I opted to serve the ham hot with a Creamy Mushrooms and Aubergines, the recipe of which will be posted in Part 2.  I have retained the stock to use to make soup the same way my Grandmother taught my Mother to.

Another Hungarian Easter tradition is the annual water fight.  The originated when young men would sprinkle girls with cologne.  The tradition evolved so young farmhands could throw a bucket of cold water over girls of marriageable age.  Although the girls scream and resist, they are said to be secretly delights (though if someone threw a bucket of cold water over me, I think I would be less than happy to put it mildly).  This tradition is not solely acted out in Hungary, it is also popular in Poland and many British Poles even take part in the ritual.

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The Perfect Canapes: Part 2

When I made blinis lavished with smoked salmon and prawns, I also made some Hungarian stuffed mushrooms (Sonkával töltött gomba).  The woods of the Bakony Mountains in the Transdanubia region, boast an incredible selection of wild mushrooms.  It is estimated that Hungary is home to between 20 and 30 varieties of wild mushrooms and these are regularly used in Hungarian cooking.  However, bizarrely, it is the button mushroom which finds itself most frequently on the menu.

Ingredients:

500g mushrooms

80g butter

100g cooked ham

200 ml milk

4 tbsp flour

2 egg yolks

1 tsp paprika

100g parmesan (or other hard, grated cheese)

Instructions:

Wipe the mushrooms.

Mushrooms

Cut off the stalks.

Grease flameproof dish.

Place mushroom caps in the dish.

Mushrooms, stalks removed, in greased dish

Season with salt and pepper.

Chop up cooked ham.

Chopped ham

Heat the milk.

Melt 40g butter in saucepan.

Butter in saucepan

Stir in the flour (do not let it brown).

Butter & flour

Gradually pour in the hot milk.

Butter, flour, milk

Stir continuously and simmer until the mixture thickens.

When mixture leaves the sides of the pan, add ham.

Butter, flour, milk, ham

Add egg yolks and paprika.

Eggs & Paprika

Mix thoroughly.

Fill mushroom caps.

Filled mushrooms

Sprinkle with cheese.

Drizzle with melted butter.

Ready for the oven

Bake in preheated oven at 200ºC for about 15 minutes.

Serve!

If you have any stuffing mixture left over (as I did), let it cool, put it in the refrigerator and when you fancy a snack, smother on some toasted, grainy, bread, top with grated cheese and grill!

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