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Hungarian Paprika Soup

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3 tablespoons oil
450 g/1 lb onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, diced small
red pepper, deseeded and diced small
1 potato, diced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 heaped tablespoons sweet paprika
1 litre/1 pints water
1 glass red wine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped marjoram
50 g/2 oz pasta bows or shells
A pinch of sugar

To finish:-

1 fresh red or green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon chilli powder
Soured cream (or thick yogurt)


Serves: 4


1. Heat the oil gently in a heavy saucepan and cook the onions until they soften and turn golden - sprinkle with a little salt to draw the water and speed up the process. It's this preliminary light roasting that gives the flavour to all Hungarian soups and stews.

2. Push the onions to one side and add the diced carrot, red pepper and potato. Sprinkle with the caraway seeds and a little more salt. Let the vegetables sizzle for a minute or two, then stir in the paprika - it should just soak up the oil rather than fry. Add the water, wine, tomato puree, bay leaves and marjoram. Stir, bring to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat. Cover loosely and leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes, until the vegetables soften.

3. Add the pasta, bring back to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover and leave to simmer for another 12-15 minutes, until everything is tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

4. To finish, transfer a ladleful of the hot soup to a small bowl and stir in the finely chopped fresh chilli or chilli powder. Hand this chilli mixer separately, along with soured cream, so that each person can control the pepperiness and creaminess of the soup. The colder the day, the more welcome the chilli - an excellent source of sniffle-defying vitamin C in winter.

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