Miklos Sebestyen’s Bean Soup With Smoked Pork Knuckles
Growing up in Hungary, I was surrounded by people (my mum, grandmas, uncles and other distant relatives in the countryside) who cooked great, traditional Hungarian food. When I left the country aged 23 to become an opera singer, I was used to eating well so it was a shock that there was no one there to cook for me… For a student like me in Zurich eating out was unaffordable so it was clear – if I wanted to keep up the standard of food that I was used to I had to learn to do it myself.
By that time, my grandma had already passed away, so I had no chance of learning from her. However, at one family gathering, my uncle surprised us with something very special: he got a box out of the freezer with my grandma’s bean soup in it. It was a pretty surreal experience and years later it is still the inspiration whenever I cook it.
1 smoked pork knuckle (if you can’t get that, use any smoked pork meat)
200g Hungarian paprika sausage (preferably smoked or dried)
500g beans (dry, not canned, black/white/red - whichever sort you prefer)
4-5 parsley roots
1 ¼ root celery
4-5 mid-sized potatoes
Sweet paprika powder
1 bay leaf
First of all, I put the whole knuckle in my 9 litre pressure cooker with enough water in it to cover it properly. Since the smoked meat is salty in itself, I don’t put any salt in it, only the bay leaf. I cook it on low heat with the lid closed for approx. 1,5 hours. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, use any big pot, however the cooking time might increase to 2,5-3 hours.) The cooking water will be the base for the soup, don’t throw it away! If it’s too salty, add some water.
Take the knuckle out of the water, cut the meat off the bones, dice it up and cut away the very fatty parts (unless you like it) and put them aside.
Now cook the beans in the water you used for the meat. When the beans start to get soft (but still al dente) add the vegetables – they will need around 15-20 minutes. (Depending on the sort of beans, cooking time can be very different.) Also add the diced pork meat
Meanwhile, make the dough for the “csipetke” – small round noodles like German spaetzle.
Mix 2 eggs with a pinch of salt and add flour until you get a solid but soft lump of dough of which you can pinch out the small spaetzle.
When the vegetables and the beans are almost ready, add the csipetke and the sliced sausage and cook for around 6-7 minutes.
Finally make a roux with flour and paprika and add it to the soup.
In Hungary, according to taste we serve the soup with white bread, and you can put vinegar or sour cream into the soup.