Christmas menu á la Hungary
Posted by Ágnes Taraszovics · Dec 24, 2015

Christmas is as much about food as gifts, and we show you what to expect in this area, if you spend your holidays in Hungary.

The traditional Hungarian food tables include three main dishes: fish, cabbage and beigli. The variations of these raw materials provide the backbone of the menu, but also wine soup, chestnut soup and gingerbread can show up on the Christmas table. Now we share the three most basic food: fish soup, stuffed cabbage and beigli.

Fish soup


  • 2 x 800 g whole perch, filleted, bones and heads reserved (Traditionally, the male members of the family should catch the fishes from the river and women have to prepare them, but ask your fishmonger to do the preparation for you.)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • sour cream, flat-leaf parsley and crusty white bread, to serve


Traditionally fish soup is made in a Hungarian cauldronover open fire, but we show a kitchen-optimized version to keep it simple. First of all, cut fish into 3 cm pieces and refrigerate. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat, add fish heads and bones and cook, turning once, for 2 minutes. Add 3 litres cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve lined with muslin, discarding solids.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and capsicum, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 5 minutes. Add paprika and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant, then return strained stock to the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add fish pieces and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked. Season again.

Divide soup between serving bowls and top with sour cream and parsley. Serve with bread.

Stuffed Cabbage


  • 1/4 cup rice cooked in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes and drained
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground chuck
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 finely chopped medium onions
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 head cabbage, about 4 pounds
  • 2 pounds drained sauerkraut (rinsing optional)
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1/2 pound cooked or uncooked smoked pork butt, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


First of all, mix ground pork and beef with garlic, half the chopped onion, egg, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon paprika and drained rice in a large bowl. Set aside.

Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. You will need about 18 leaves. When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through.

Place about 1/2-cup of meat on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, and then flip the left side. Once again, roll away from you to create a neat little roll. Cut any remaining cabbage leaves into fine shreds and set aside.

Place sauerkraut in a large casserole dish or Dutch oven (about 6 inches high, 16 inches long and 8 to 10 inches wide) and pour tomato juice on top, followed by slices of pork butt and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook 5 minutes. Place reserved shredded cabbage in casserole. Nestle cabbage rolls in the sauerkraut. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt lard in a small skillet, and add flour and remaining chopped onion to make a roux. Cook slowly for about 10 minutes or until golden yellow. Turn off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon paprika and 1 cup cold water until smooth.

Gently remove the stuffed cabbage from the casserole to a warm platter. Take a ladleful of sauerkraut broth and whip it into the roux. Return this liquid to the main casserole, stirring well. Bring to a boil. Gently replace stuffed cabbages, cover and bake 15 minutes. Mix some of the pan juices with sour cream and pour over the stuffed cabbages when serving.

Poppy seed beigli


  • 1100g plain flour
  • 500g butter or margarine
  • 2x 7g sachets of dried yeast
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 5 eggs beaten with
  • 3 tablespoons yoghurt or soured cream

For the poppy seed filling:

  • 600 g ground poppy seeds
  • 250g sugar
  • 160 ml honey
  • 15ml (1tbsp) rum (optional)
  • 150g raisins or sultanas


Rub the butter or margarine into the flour with the yeast. If a food processor is used, divide the quantities into two halves. Blend until it looks like fine crumbs. Add the sugar, eggs beaten with yoghurt or soured cream. Pulse until dough clumps together. Then mix and knead well until very smooth. The pastry should be fairly soft. Allow to rest for an hour and a half.

After this, take one half on the dough and divide into 5 balls. Roll each ball out on a floured surface to approximately 12in by 8in Spread 1/5 of the filling and roll up. With the seam underneath place on a sheet on non stick baking paper. Brush twice with egg and prick with a fork. (Optionally leave overnight in a cool place to "marble"). Take the other half of the dough and divide into 5 pieces, roll out each as before and fill each with 1/5 of poppy seed mixture. Roll up place on baking sheet covered with non stick paper, paint with egg and prick with a fork. To make the poppy seed filling, cook the ground poppy seeds with the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan, remove from heat and add rum and raisins.

The next day (if you let your dough to marble) brush the tops of the 10 rolls with egg cook in a preheated oven at 160 degrees for about 25 minutes until nicely browned. If the filling is not too wet the roll should not split. Cut into 2-3 cm slices to serve.

  • beigli
  • christmas menu
  • fish
  • hungary
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