I was in Budapest, Hungary for three days, most of which were spent walking around as many parts of the city as possible. I strolled around the Castle District,
the Jewish Quarter,
up the steep incline to the base of the Liberty Statue,
through numerous outdoor and indoor marketplaces,
and across the many gorgeous bridges that connect the city’s “Buda” side with its “Pest” side.
During these exploratory walks, I came across all kinds of food I still think about regularly. There was catfish paprikash with noodles along the Danube;
Kürtőskalácsa (or “chimney cakes”), a Hungarian treat of yeasted sweet dough, cooked over a fire to create a sweet, caramelized crust (and sometimes topped with chocolate);
a plate of “Cold Goose Homemade Delicacies” eaten while watching the afternoon sun illuminate the Szent lstván Bazilika;
and of course, many servings of goulash, the iconic Hungarian paprika-spiced stew of meat and vegetables.
While I loved all of these, there were few dishes I appreciated as much as the humble meggyleves, a simple cold soup of sour cherries, sugar, sour cream, and spices, traditionally served just before a main course.
Hungarian cuisine is comfortingly heavy, and this light, tart soup is always the perfect way to precede a rich and meaty entree.
Because meggyleves is a summertime delicacy, it typically requires the use of fresh cherries; however, in the midst of a cold, Canadian winter, I discovered a bag of frozen B.C. sour cherries buried in my freezer. Turns out, they work just as well.
I borrowed (and slightly adapted) this recipe from Visit Budapest’s website. Because of their rich colour, Morellos are the ideal cherries for this dish, but since my freezer stash was made up of the blushier Montmorency variety, I made a slightly paler (but just as tasty) version of this Hungarian specialty.
Meggyleves (Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup)
500 grams frozen sour cherries
3 cinnamon sticks
4–5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
In a medium saucepan, bring the cherries and about 1 litre of water to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and add the cinnamon sticks, sugar, and cloves. Let it simmer until the cherries are soft, about 10 minutes.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the sour cream, flour, and a pinch of salt. Add in 1 cup of the hot cherry liquid and whisk until smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the cherry soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes, but make sure the soup does not start to boil again. Add the red wine to the soup, if desired.
Remove the cinnamon sticks, and let the soup cool down. Refrigerate until service. Serve cold on a
hot summer stormy January day.
The rare mid-winter tastes of these succulent orchard fruits are to be savoured, and freezing a bag of sour cherries is just about the best thing you can do for your mid-winter mental health. Tasting this soup brought me back to the busy streets of Budapest, and I immediately started craving a paprika-spiced meaty stew.
I guess I’ve got some more cooking to do…
**check out The Funnelogy Channel for more posts celebrating Culinary Travel Week