As promised, Balint has provided us with two traditional Hungarian Christmas recipes this month; Christmas wine soup and Poppy seed bread pudding (Mákos guba). For those of you who don’t know, Balint is our technical writer and he has shared with us previously his beautiful photographs and story ‘Eating tour of Hungary’.
“When I think of Christmas traditions, my mind sifts through childhood memories of rituals that always defined the ‘script’ of Christmas Eve in my family: decorating the tree, waiting for baby Jesus (a.k.a. Mum or Dad) to ring a tiny bell announcing his presence, handing over and enjoying the presents, sitting down to dinner, then half-watching obligatory TV reruns of well-worn family favourites and deciding to skip Midnight Mass just this year—it’s too cold to walk!
“But I also think of the less obvious, yet equally important—and often more fun—shared activities that assumed tradition status over time: the collective untangling of the string of Christmas lights (punctuated by accusations of suspects for putting it away like that in January), identifying the snuffed-out bulb that’s stopping all the rest from lighting up (never failed to try everyone’s patience and remind us of the blessings of series circuits), secretly grazing on chocolate decorations and skilfully folding the empty wrappers back in place to pretend they hadn’t been touched (and to dupe the next grazer)… and, perhaps most important of all, generally worrying about the Food. Will it be enough? It was always too much. Do we have all the ingredients? Well, most recipes weren’t compromised by some minor adjustments. Will everyone like the menu? Of course they did. So a short-lived, heavenly calm descended on everyone only when the last dessert fork and folded napkin was in place, and all the food-laden containers were waiting to be served from.
“And what would those serving platters and fancy soup bowls have on offer? A typical main course would feature fillets of carp fried in breadcrumbs with a side dish of potato and celeriac salad. And as for starter and dessert? See the recipes that follow, and have a very merry Christmas!
“While ‘savoury’ soups are just as popular in Hungary as anywhere else, it is also quite common to be served a bowl of cold, sweet (most often fruit-based) soup as a first course, typically in summer. There’s morello cherry soup, apple soup, strawberry soup… and the list continues. At Christmas time, when no fresh fruit is in season, a classic sweet soup is one based on mulled wine. It is often served hot, and the alcohol content makes all cheeks glow with warmth. While it is perfectly suited to a Northern hemisphere winter, the cold version below may be preferable in the middle of a Kiwi summer. Enjoy, but do not overindulge!”