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Culinaria Hungary (by Aniko Gergely)


Hungarian food is much more than goulash and paprika. It’s a rich cuisine that you can learn about through the pages of this book.

While presented as a cookbook, I think that the recipes could have been a bit more detailed. For example, when I tried making one of them, Paprikás Csirke (chicken paprika), I felt I needed more instructions as they seemed too vague, perhaps more aimed at experienced cooks.

What I found enriching was that I learned a lot about Hungarian culinary traditions and their historical context. About the ingredients, I noticed that it’s a cuisine heavily based on meat and, to my pleasant surprise, pasta is widely eaten.

I learned that, to release the full flavour and aroma of paprika, it is best to dissolve its powder in hot fat. But to avoid it burning and turning bitter, you must add and stir it in only after you have removed the pan from the heat.

Paprika – Image by jirikraus from Pixabay

Hungarian cuisine uses a large variety of cheese. In the book, there’s a two-page picture with a whole variety of cheese, which made my mouth water! They all looked delicious. I pictured eating them with a fragrant, freshly baked slice of bread, accompanied by a glass of Tokaji, the famous Hungarian wine, known as “the king of wines and the wine of kings“, as King Louis XV referred to it.

Reading about the cultivation of apricots (my favourite fruit, along with peaches) made me nostalgic because here in the UK I haven’t found apricots as juicy as I was used to in Italy. Also, reading about the morello cherries suddenly made me jump to my childhood. I loved sour cherries! The fascinating thing is that they’re used in soups in Hungary. Hungarians use other fruit as well in soup, such as apple. I find it a very interesting combination, and I wonder how it tastes.

I “armchair travelled” to some of the iconic coffee houses, such as the “New York Café“, and to the bustling big market in the heart of Budapest, also known as the “iron cathedral”. While reading, I felt like I was there, hearing the hum of the people talking and gazing at the busyness of the vendors.

Great Market Hall Budapest – Image by Sinihte from Pixabay

I loved learning about how Hungarians traditionally feed themselves, but I hope the traditional division of gender roles is not as marked now as it’s described in the book (which was originally published 23 years ago).

Finally, I think that the book is cleverly structured, with its division into the different regions of the country. Also, the big, colourful, and mouth-watering pictures throughout it were a feast for the eyes, making it a truly immersive read.

Recommended For:

Anyone who is interested in Hungarian cuisine. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to Hungarian cooking, including traditional recipes, cooking techniques, and ingredients.

It is also a great resource for those who want to explore the history and culture of Hungary, as the book covers the country’s culinary traditions and their cultural significance.

Title: Culinaria Hungary
Author: Aniko Gergely
Year First Published: 1999

From Goodreads:

Food and culture are inexorably tied together. Culinaria reports on every aspect of a country’s cuisine within the context of the people who created it. Profusely illustrated with spectacular photography and abundantly peppered with authentic recipes, these volumes are a treat for both the mind and the palate.