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Winter Warmer Recipes: Hungarian Lecsó – a healthy vegetable stew

The final days of September are for making the most of the last days of sunshine and for welcoming the fresh vegetable season. In the UK we are lucky enough to have a wide range of vegetables in shops all year round, and now is the perfect time to learn how to utilize them to make the perfect winter warmer. In my family, the ultimate comfort food is Lecsó (pronounced ‘lecho’)- a vegetable based dish which originates from Hungary and resembles a French ratatouille. It’s base ingredients are tomatoes, peppers and onions but the spiciness can vary greatly depending on the type of pepper you use.

We love it because there is no set list of ingredients – you can adjust the recipe for whatever vegetables you have in your fridge or cupboard. Even better, a serving of lecsó easily counts as at least two of your five-a-day and it requires minimum cooking skills. The only skills needed are chopping, stirring and turning on the hob – easy enough for anyone.

Another advantage of Lecsó is that you can prepare a large batch at once and freeze it. Simply put any leftovers into Tupperware or air-tight jars and it will keep in the freezer for months, ready to defrost whenever you want.

The basic recipe is free from grains and animal products, so it’s suitable for most people. Furthermore, you can serve Lecsó with such a wide range of things; it’s so easy to make it your own. The traditional way of serving is with bread and butter, but stirring cooked rice into the stew or spooning over pasta is also delicious.

This recipe will serve one or two people, but you can easily double or triple the ingredients to make more. The preparation and cooking takes about 30 to 40 minutes (unless you’re useless at dicing and slicing, then reserve some extra time for sorting out your wounds).

Start by sautéing one sliced onion (if you want to make your Lecsó a little more meaty, now would be a good time to add some sliced sausage).

Add one or two sliced carrots and some green beans if you wish.

Next add enough water to cover and let it simmer away. After a few minutes add a spoonful of tomato purée and two or three bell peppers (make your meal vibrant by using different coloured ones!).

Let them cook for another couple of minutes and then you can add one diced courgette.

All that’s left is to simmer everything until the vegetables are soft and the smell in the kitchen is irresistible. Before serving, season it with any other spices of your choice.

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