Found Recipes
2:43 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

From Down Under, A Paprikash To Warm You All Over

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 3:32 pm

For many people, paprikash means winter. After all, it's a dish fit for cold, gray days: A belly-warming mix of meat and spices, it's the perfect cure for the doldrums of late January.

For Merelyn Chalmers, though, the classic Hungarian casserole recalls someone far dearer: her mother, Yolanda. A survivor of Auschwitz, Yolanda had rebuilt her life in Perth, Australia, after the war. "My mum was Hungarian," Chalmers explains. "We ate paprikash probably five nights a week. This was something that she just threw together when I wasn't feeling well."

Merelyn and her mother both considered it a "nothing special" dish, one that was just thrown together in a pressure cooker. But when Merelyn moved to Sydney many years later, she was surprised to learn it was also a favorite among other daughters of Hungarian women. "We have quite a large Hungarian population, and they had all grown up on the same dish."

Chalmers is now one of the women behind Australia's Monday Morning Cooking Club, a group dedicated to collecting recipes from the best home cooks in Sydney's Jewish community. The group very much wanted to include the recipe for Mum's Rice Paprikash – "mum" being Chalmers' late mother.

And her mom passed down a few tricks for her paprikash. Chalmers says, "My mother would put in a touch of garlic and a little bit of carrot to give it a little bit of extra sweetness – only a little."

Even half a world away and many years removed, Chalmers makes the dish herself several times a winter. And it still calls comforting memories to mind.

"For me personally, it's like mother's milk. It is tenderness emotionally, as well as tenderness in the bite of the meat." And, she adds, "It really minds me of my mum."


Mum's Rice Paprikash

Makes about 6 servings

80 mL (1/3 cup) olive oil

1 kg veal shin (off the bone), cut into large dice

3 large onions (500 g), very finely chopped

60 mL (1/4 cup) white wine

500 mL (2 cups) boiling water

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 red capsicum, sliced

1 heaped tablespoon mild paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

220 g (1 cup) long-grain rice

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

1 small tomato, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat and fry the veal until very brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and fry until very brown, adding more oil if necessary.

Return the veal to the pan and add the wine and boiling water. Add the garlic, capsicum, paprika and cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the rice, carrots and tomato, stir to combine, then continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes, or until the veal is tender and the rice is cooked. Stir regularly and add more boiling water as required. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today's Found Recipe is perfect for a cold winter day. It's spicy. It's meaty. It's a real belly warmer. But we start with a scene from a real heart warmer, the romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY")

ESTELLE REINER: (as Older Woman Customer) I'll have what she's having.

SIEGEL: No, not that scene. No.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY")

BILLY CRYSTAL: (as Harry) Please, to repeat after me: pepper.

MEG RYAN: (as Sally) Pepper.

CRYSTAL: Pepper.

RYAN: Pepper.

CRYSTAL: Pepper.

RYAN: Pepper.

CRYSTAL: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.

MERELYN CHALMERS: A paprikash is essentially a casserole, a Hungarian casserole.

SIEGEL: That's Merelyn Chalmers. There's never too much pepper in her paprikash - only about a fourth a teaspoon, in fact. Chalmers is one of the women behind Australia's Monday Morning Cooking Club, a group dedicated to collecting recipes from the best home cooks in Sydney's Jewish community. Their cookbook includes a recipe for Mum's Rice Paprikash. Mum being Merelyn Chalmer's late mother, a woman who survived Auschwitz.

CHALMERS: My mum was Hungarian and we ate paprikash probably five nights a week. This was something that she just threw together when I wasn't feeling well or my brother. And I moved to Sydney many years later thinking that this was a nothing dish that my mother threw together in a pressure cooker. And I realized that there were all these daughters of Hungarian women in Sydney. We have quite a large Hungarian-Jewish population, and they had all grown up on the same dish.

I make it a couple of times a winter. You can do it with veal or beef or chicken. You fry off onions till they're very, very dark golden brown. You sear the meat till it's a very dark golden. Then you add in a little bit of fresh capsicum, as we call it in Australia - that's pepper, red pepper in America. And then you put in some beautiful, good quality Hungarian paprika spice.

My mother would then put in a touch of garlic and a little bit of carrot to get some extra sweetness, only a little bit. You cook it slowly like a casserole.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHALMERS: For me personally, it's like mother's milk. It is tenderness emotionally, as well as tenderness in the bite of the meat. And it really minds me of my mum.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: That's Merelyn Chalmers of the Monday Morning Cooking Club. And you can get the recipe for Mum's Rice Paprikash on our Found Recipes page at NPR.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.