Papricas, pronounced ‘papricash’, is a dish of Hungarian origin and in Romania it is most popular in the Ardeal region of Transylvania where a large proportion of the Hungarian population live. Although every family will have their own version of this recipe the basis of the dish is chicken, onion, paprika and some form of cooking fat. Other people add tomatoes and peppers and some kind of sour cream (smantana). If you want, you can serve it with potatoes or polenta (mamaliga) or even with pasta, but the more traditional way to serve it is with little dumplings which are cooked in the sauce, in which case serving it with potatoes/pasta is a bit redundant. Make sure you have nice fresh paprika, the sweet kind (boia dulce) rather than the hot variety (boia uite).
I was fortunate enough to receive from a friend, and this is his family recipe for papricas I’m presenting here, a large bag of sweet paprika which originated from a village populated by Hungarian somewhere near Arad. It’s rich orange colour is astonishing. As regards the meat, I’ve plumped for bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, separated into two, but if you are making a larger amount you can buy a whole chicken and joint it into ten pieces – the two breasts halved – and make enough papricas for 4-5 people. For a healthy version you can use skinless chicken breast and cut it into chunks.
Time: 90 minutes
3 tablespoons of oil (vegetable, olive oil/butter mixture, or dripping)
2 chicken legs, separated at the join to give four pieces, skin on or off according to preference
2 mediums onions
1 level tablespoon of Hungarian sweet paprika
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 glass of liquid – this can be chicken stock, simply water, or a 50/50 mixture of water and wine.
4 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper
Parsley for garnish (optional)
1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a high-sided pan and fry the piece of chicken at a low to moderate heat until cooked through and brown on the outside, probably about 30 minutes for leg on the bone. If you are using a jointed whole chicken you may find some parts cook quicker than other, so just remove the various pieces to a plate once they’ve cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, cut the onion quite finely. Some recipes call for larger pieces of onion, which is fine too. Personally I prefer the onion finely cut so it almost melts into a sauce.
4. Add the onion to the pan in which you previously cooked the chicken and cook on the same low-medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Don’t allow them to burn or they’ll taste bitter.
5. Add the liquid and raise the heat to a boil briefly and deglaze the pan, then reduce the heat back down to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce slightly over about 5-7 minutes.
6. Add the paprika and the chopped garlic and mix well to combine.
7. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg and the flour to get a batter. It should be a thick consistency, but slowly slide off the back of a spoon. Something thicker than pancake mixture, but not quite a dough.
8. Using a teaspoon, spoon the mixture into the papricas liquid drop by drop. The liquid shouldn’t be boiling otherwise the dumplings will break apart. Don’t drop them in from any height, just lower the teaspoon to just above the liquid and let them slide in. Allow them to harden for a few minutes and if necessary, move them to one side to clear space for more. Once all the dumpling mixture has been used up, let it simmer for another 3-5 minutes until they have all hardened. The dumplings will absorb some liquid from the papricas so add a little more stock or water if necessary.
10. Taste the liquid for seasoning and replace the chicken pieces on top and allow to simmer gently for a few more minutes to warm up the rested chicken.
11. Serve hot in bowls with a sprinkle of parsley if desired