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Hungarian “tarhonya” pasta pellets with “pörkölt” stew

Tarhonya Hungarian Pastapellets

Tarhonya is best described as a pellet like pasta, similar to giant couscous though it is cooked somewhat differently. Interestingly the word “tarhonya” /ˈtɒrhoɲɒ/ itself is likely to come from the Ottoman Turkish influence in Hungary, the modern Turkish spelling is the undoubtably similar “tarhana”. Historically the small pellets were formed by hand at first and later pushed through a sieve to break the pasta into a small even crumble. As this dried pasta kept well, it became part of the staple diet especially amongst shepherds and herdsmen on the plains of Hungary. It was used in soups or rich meaty one pot dishes. Usually large batches of pasta were made over several days, these were then dried in the sun and used for a couple of months. Nowadays tarhonya production is largely mechanized and the product is sold in shops and markets across Hungary.

An illustrative video on making tarhonya pasta the traditional way, looks like skill and hard work were essential ingredients of the recipe:

The difference in shape between industrial (left) and handmade (right):

Pörkölt stew

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 700 g pork (tenderloin or leg) or beef (neck or shanks) diced
  • 6 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 120 g green bell peppers, diced
  • 60 g tomatoes, diced
  • 300 ml water
  • 1 pinch of caraway seeds, grinded
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make

  1. Finely chop the onions and add to the heated oil, cook until it’s translucent.
  2. Add the diced meat and fry together for a few minutes carefully checking that the onion is not burning on high heat.
  3. Sprinkle over the paprika powder, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and caraway seeds.
  4. Pour in the water and cook on slow heat till the meat tender and nearly ready, the time for this will depend on what kind of meat is used.
  5. Finally drop in the chopped tomatoes and peppers, add a bit more water if needed and slowly cook for another 20 minutes or so.
  6. Serve with tarhonya pasta as image above, but pörkölt goes very well with potatoes too or even rice.

Tarhonya pasta

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 500g ready-made tarhonya pellets
  • 8 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1100 ml water

How to make

  1. Heat the oil in a dish with a lid.
  2. Pour in the tarhonya and fry till its lightly toasted and turns golden brown speckled in appearance, requires constant stirring as the pasta would burn easily.
  3. Take off the heat add the water, stir and replace onto heat to cover and cook at a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes.
  4. Ideally the tarhonya when ready is still somewhat “al dente” with a bite and the pellets are well separated.
  5. Once cooked take the lid off and leave it to rest for a few minutes so the last of the water is well absorbed.
  6. Serve as an accompaniment to “pörkölt” stew.

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