More and more, as I get older, I run a lot of what I eat through my dad’s Hungarian (Magyar) background. It played a large role in my food development as a kid. Usually at least a few meals a week had a traditional Hungarian element to it. A specific cabbage dish, a paprikás, a goulash, a Hungarian style chicken soup. These recipes seeped deeply in my pores.
Recently, I started to think, “What if you explained the idea of mac and cheese to a Hungarian without showing them a picture or letting them taste it? What would they make?”
One of the first things I thought was Csirkeleves, Hungarian Chicken Soup. One of it’s characteristic flavours was always parsnips. The Hungarian variety, Turga parsnip, was always growing in my dad’s garden in the summer time. He’d specially order the seeds each winter to ensure a crop of these heirloom variety of parsnips.
The flavour was always a little more peppery. Although, he usually planted them near his Hungarian banana peppers so the “spicy terroir” may have been created by him. After slow simmering a chicken soup, he’d always have the simmered vegetables alongside the soup. That flavour is a lingering culinary memory for me.
I thought if I incorporated that flavour, along with carrots and rutabaga, into a purée with chicken stock, it would make an interesting base for a cheese sauce. Spooning it over the Hungarian fresh egg noodle, nokedli (a cousin to the German spaetzle), makes this dish complete! Jó étvágyat (bon appetit)!!
Magyar Mac and Cheese:
For the Root Vegetable Cheese Sauce:
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup peeled and chopped rutabaga
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup peeled and chopped parsnips
1 tsp finely grated fresh garlic (about 1 clove depending on size of your garlic)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
75g/3 oz shredded maple smoked aged cheddar cheese (or any intensely flavoured cheddar)
75g/3 oz shredded pecorino cheese (or any dry aged cheese like parmesan)
1/3 cup cold pressed camelina oil
For the Nokedli (Hungarian Egg Dumpling Noodles):
2 cups einkorn flour (or whole wheat all purpose flour)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
To prepare the Root Vegetable Cheese Sauce, place the chicken stock, rutabaga, carrots and parsnips in a medium pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat, lower heat to medium, cover with a lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft. Purée the mixture with a hand blender or by transferring the mixture to a food processor or blender. While warm, add the sour cream, paprika and cheeses. Stir to combine. Pour the sauce through a strainer, return the mixture to a blender, add the garlic and oil and purée to emulsify. Set aside and keep warm.
To prepare the Nokedli, stir together the flour and eggs until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually stir in the milk until a smooth batter is achieved. Allow the batter to sit for 10-15 minutes to relax and thicken slightly.
Place a coarse grater, flat side up, over a medium pot of boiling water. Ladle the batter, 1/4 cup at a time on the grater. Press the batter through the grater into the boiling water with a flat spatula, making small dumpling-like noodles. Cook in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon to a baking sheet.
To serve, divide the prepared Nokedli over four plates. Ladle about 1/2 cup of prepared Root Vegetable Cheese Sauce over the Nokedli on each plate. Serves 4.