When I was in law school, back in my beloved home city of Wroclaw, Poland; one of my German friends came to study at my University. Her mother was Polish but she was born in Germany. Her grandmother had lived in Wroclaw and she would visit her often when she was a little girl. As girls, we use to play together a lot. She had been studying the law in Germany and when she learned that there was an opportunity to do a year abroad, she wisely chose Wroclaw. This was a ton of fun! Not only I was happy to hang with her often, but also thanks to her I met some pretty cool people from throughout Europe. As an exchange student she was a member of the international student organization and therefore opened those doors to myself.
One of the best ideas that she had during her year was to organize ‘International Tuesday’s Dinners.’ Every Tuesday about 10 people from different countries would meet for dinner at her place. One of them would cook a meal from his or her native country and the rest would bring wine and cleaned up the dishes. We had people from France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Hungary and few other countries, which I cannot remember right now. There were countless nights of amazing conversations, great food and wine (a winning combination). Two dishes that really rooted in my mind were: (i) Chicken with white wine and cream sauce prepared by one of the French girls (which until this day I continue to make often for my family as a quick weeknight dinner), and (ii) a Hungarian Lescho, prepared by a guy who was originally from Hungary but moved to Germany for work. This dish was absolutely amazing!
This tomato and peppers stew, a classic Hungarian Lescho, was a very popular dish in Poland. I assume the reason being was that many Poles would vacation by the Hungarian lake Balaton and therefore brought some of these popular dishes back home. My family went there on few times and I very much remember the smell of cooked peppers and tomatoes everywhere I went. I used to make this dish often, back in Poland, and I must admit had I totally forgot about it! How did that happened???
Recently I went to my local farmers’ market and while standing in line to get some peppers and zucchini I heard my native language spoken. Two Polish ladies were debating what to cook for dinner. One said: how about lescho? I was stunned. OMG, I totally forgot about this dish called lescho. It is/was beyond delicious. I felt compelled to go home and cook it immediately. I purchased all of the ingredients and went back home to start cooking this peppery, tomatoey goodness for dinner. Our house smelled like a vacation by the famous Balaton lake.
It takes no more than 30 minutes to make! Can it get any easier than that? After I made it and took some photos, I went online to do some research about the dish (….and make sure that I had a proper English spelling of the name). Then I found one website discussing what are the basics of this dish are and possible ingredients which could be the added on. So, the basics are: peppers, tomatoes and hungarian paprika (you can use any kind of sweet paprika; you can also add some cayenne for a little extra kick). As for additions: you can choose zucchini, sausage and … brace yourself: an egg mixture. What ignited the light bulb in my head was the Hungarian guy, on the International Tuesday’s Dinner, had added this egg mixture and said that this was how his family used to make Lescho (just mix couple of eggs like you would do for a scrambled egg breakfast – and pour it into the pot stirring at the same time). Obviously this dish can be vegan – just the veggies, vegetarian – with the egg mixture added, or with meat – just add sausage. But let me tell you, the smell of cooked peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in the house is enchanting. This was the first time that my husband had eaten a Hungarian dish and he absolutely loved it. In that it’s now tomato, zucchini and peppers season, try it and let me know how you like it.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that it is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Just after I had made it, we chose to eat it with a fresh baguette. The next day I served leftovers of this delicious tomato and peppers stew over rice. Again, no words can describe it… Cheers
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 6 roma tomatoes, cut in quarters
- 2 banana peppers, cut in square pieces
- 1 green bell pepper, cut in square pieces
- 1 summer zucchini, cut in square pieces
- 1 cup cubed cooked sausage (optional) - I use Polish sausage, but you can use whatever sausage you'd like
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- In a dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Add chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes
- Add garlic and fresh thyme, cook for another 2 minutes
- Add tomato paste and cubed sausage, cook for another 5 minutes
- Add peppers and zucchini, tomatoes, tomato sauce, sweet paprika, smoked paprika
- Cover and cook until vegetables are soft but still crunchy, about 15 -20 minutes
- Season with salt and pepper
- Serve with fresh baguette or rice