Helen's Hungarian Heritage Recipes

Helen's Hungarian Heritage Recipes
Chef Ilona Szabo Reveals The Secrets of Hungarian Cooking

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Magyar Csírke / Tyúk Leves - HUNGARIAN CHICKEN or HEN SOUP

Csírke / Tyúk Leves

The queen of soups in any Hungarian gathering is Chicken Soup. The traditional noodle is hand-made Csiga Tészta- Screw Shaped is the noodle of choice.  No wedding would be complete without it. The golden gloss of this soup is the pride of an excellent cook.   

Any season is the time for Chicken/Hen Soup. Aromas that you recognize in later years, that actually tug at your heart. There is no soup as good as the soup mom made. My mom's Hungarian heritage is evident in the method and ingredients of this classic recipe.

1  3-4 lb Stewing Hen
(Mature Chicken)
4 quarts water 
1 tbsp salt
8 peppercorns
3 carrots
3 parsley roots
3 ribs celery w/ leaves,
1 pc kohlrabi (in season)
1 chicken OXO cube
1 onion, unpeeled
1 thread Saffron

Cut up stewing hen and place cleaned pieces into large soup pot with water, salt, and peppercorns. Bring to a slow boil. Skim foam from top with small cup-size sieve as soon as it appears. Continue 2 or 3 more times. Then, slowly simmer chicken soup until meat is fork tender, about 2 hours.  Add cut up vegetables and seasonings. Continue simmering over lower heat until vegetables are tender, about ½ hour.  Remove large pieces of meat and vegetables into serving dish. Strain soup through a fine sieve slowly into soup tureen so that soup stays clear and golden.  Serve meat and vegetables and soup along with Hungarian noodles like fine Laska or Csiga or Kocka. (The photograph by Evangbeline Mackell, Design in Bloom, shows the square noodles or Kocka Tészta)

Just like every other authentic Hungarian soup, chicken soup is a slow cooking soup that takes a bit of time. The secret to making glassy,  glissening and clear soup is to simmer the soup, never boil.   Also, use unpeeled yellow onions as the peel imparts a very desirable golden yellow colour to the soup. The results are beautiful.

Chef’s Hint: Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus and is a bright orange in colour. Saffron is the three stigmas of the saffron crocus. They are delicate and thread- like, each measuring 2.5-4 cm. Its colour is a bright orange-red, and is used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. The redder the saffron, the higher the quality. It is a secret weapon used by skilled chefs – one thread will brighten your hen soup to a glorious gold.

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