You can tell a lot about a country's priorities by what kind of vegan food they have. At home in America, for instance, we've got delightfully rubbery soy hot dogs, veganaise, sliced cheese, and hundreds of different kinds of veggie burgers. (Are we a barbeque-oriented country or what?) Go to France and Belgium and you will find delicious soy yogurt in every variety and flavor, as well as thick vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread to die for and soy creamer that puts US versions to shame. (They like their breakfasts creamy and sweet.) Germany has vegan quark, a sort of thick yogurty-cream cheese beloved by German frauen, as well as seitan curry wurst to enjoy with spicy ketchup. And Austria? Welcome to vegan wiener schnitzel country. With a side of lemony potato salad, bitte! (see at right)
But here in Hungary, folks are wild about paprika in its every incarnation. So enter a bio-market in Budapest and you will find the most amazing paprika-spiked vegan sausages, and lots of varieties of them. Sweet, smoky, and spicy, but always with plenty of red paprika that bleeds into whatever else you're cooking. Since I can't read Hungarian (YET) I've been stocking up on these sausages when I have some extra cash, and they make a great surprise addition to whatever else I'm cooking, since I never know what spices will appear. Greens, beans, and corn all get a texture and taste boost from these sausages.
Enter my Hungarian flatmate, K, who has an even better idea. "Lecsó" is a dish made with Hungarian superstars peppers, tomatoes and onions. Its a simple dish, the only rule is, there has to be twice as many peppers as tomatoes, or it will be too bitter. You can also use up your not-so-fresh peppers and tomatoes here, it will still be great. It's very versatile- add eggplant and you've got Serbia djuvece, add a little broth or water and you have a saucier dish that would be nice over pasta. People often use bacon or sausage for a little fat, or add a fried egg on top (a dollop of soy sour cream wouldn't be out of place either). But served just with a little bread, you have a cheap and delicious Hungarian summer classic.
(Note: this is an approximation, just keep to the rule of thumb of twice as many peppers as tomatoes and you'll be fine. Also, you can sub other peppers for Hungarian yellow paprika, but you may want to adjust the flavorings .)
-1 big onion (or two small) diced
-1 Hungarian-style vegetarian sausage (or sub about 3/4 cup some other type of crumbly sausage and add 1 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika as it cooks with the onion)
-8 Hungarian yellow peppers, cut into chunky dice
-4 tomatoes, diced
-salt and pepper, sugar (optional)
1.) In a large non-stick pan, saute onion and sausage in a little olive oil over medium heat until onion is soft and flavored by sausage. (If using paprika spice, add it now.)
2.) Add in peppers and cook for 10 minutes. Then add in tomatoes, salt and pepper (and an optional pinch of sugar.) Cook for 20 minutes, or until saucy and peppers are cooked to desired "done-ness."
Serve w/ rice or crusty bread.
What vegetarian specialties does your country or region have?
Song of the Day: Gogol Bordello- Start Wearing Purple