So when someone asks my Grandpa Joe what his favourite dish is, he never has an answer for you. Growing up poor in Hungry, and being drawn into World War II, food was scarce at times in his life. My Grandpa is not picky, and at the age of 90 is grateful to this day that is he fortunate enough to have food on his plate every day.
But secretly, my family’s best guess is that my grandpa does have a favourite food after all. That would be the Hungarian dish lesco.
Lesco (pronounced letch-o) is a Hungarian pepper stew. The first time I tried it, my mom had invited my grandparents over for dinner. But as a twist, my grandparents decided that they would cook for us. They worked together and brought over a big pot of lesco to serve. And it was delicious!
So I decided I needed to learn how to make lesco myself. For this, my grandma volunteered to come to my house to show me how.
To start, you need to make sure you buy the special Hungarian peppers. These peppers are seasonal and you will only be able to find them in August. This is one of the reasons I am sending this email out today, to give you a chance to locate these peppers to try making your own lesco. I get them at the Italian center. These peppers have a different taste and texture then the regular peppers we buy year round, and they really add something special to the lesco. You can make lesco with any peppers you like, but I’ve only ever made it with the Hungarian peppers. They also come in unusual colours. When I went this week to purchase them, they had them in yellow and purple
You need about 10-15 peppers depending on the size of your pot. I think I used about 12 or so to fill mine. Additionally, you need about ½ the tomatoes that you have peppers. As I bought small roma tomatoes, I probably used about 8 or 9 tomatoes to go with my 12 peppers. There is really no science to this.
Next select your sausage. There is no specific kind of sausage to use. This week, I used a spicy Italian sausage as well as a ham kubasa. I have had lesco with chorizo before as well. Just pick any sausage you like.
Also, add bacon! (this is optional)
So once we had all our ingredients, my grandma and I made lesco together. It is actually a very easy dish, with the vast amount of your total effort required for the chopping part.
In a large pot (I use my cast iron pot) throw in your sausage and cook until edible. I put my raw Italian sausage in first, and the dry kubasa in later. Once the sausage is cooked, add chopped onion, minced garlic and 2 tbsp of paprika, Hungary’s favourite spice. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onion is tender. Add your pile of peppers and tomatoes, and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly.
This is my lesco before simmering. Don’t worry, it will cook down!
Add your salt to taste, and simmer on low for 20 minutes, or until peppers are cooked to your liking.
It’s that simple.
– Lesco is one of those magical dishes that get better in time. When I made it this week, John and I didn’t even have it for dinner that night, we had it for lunch the next 2 days, and froze some as well!
– Serve with a piece of rye bread with butter. This is classic.
Ingredient I can’t live without:
Such a unique flavour and texture to these yellow peppers, you really have to give them a try!
Spice/herb of the week:
A key ingredient to ALL Hungarian cuisine – at the Hungarian cuisine I have experienced!
I had a lovely afternoon making lesco with my grandma that day, and always make a point to make it a few times each summer since I learned how. As the peppers are so seasonal, lesco has become a special summer treat!
So what are you waiting for! Go and grab some of those peppers and try to make some lesco for yourself. As I mentioned, I really wanted to get this edition out before the peppers go out of season!
Click here to view printable Word version of recipe:
Lesco – Hungarian Pepper Stew
Lesco – Hungarian Pepper Stew
Sausage – chorizo, ham, Italian – 2-3 cups, or 3-4 sausages
10 to 15 Hungarian peppers – alternatively any red, yellow or orange peppers in season
Tomatoes – 2 parts pepper to 1 part tomato1
2 cloves Garlic
2 tbsp Hungarian paprika
- Saute sausage in oil.
When meat is ready to eat, add garlic , onions and paprika.
Cook 5 minutes to soften onion
- Add peppers and tomatoes
Turn from the bottom so flavours combine.
Simmer for 20 minutes until peppers are tender.
Add salt and pepper to taste