Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hungarian Liver Dumplings en Broth

     The flavor and aroma of Hungarian style Liver Dumplings is not what might be imagined.  Liver has the reputation of being strong tasting, but Hungarian Liver Dumplings actually have a delicate light texture and flavor.
     This recipe is very simple to make.  It is important to remember that his recipe is traditionally meant to have a delicate bland flavor.  Sometimes it is tempting to add extra herbs or aromatic vegetables in order to create an exciting flavor.  Not all food is meant to be exciting.  Sometimes a basic approach is best for comfort food.
     Many people look forward to simple comfortable flavors after a long stressful day.  When the taste buds focus on something that is simple and delicate, it seems to help relieve stress.  The psychology of how the sensation of taste can affect moods and perception actually was taught in Le Cordon Bleu classrooms that I attended.  This is an interesting topic to research and a lot can be learned.
     One just might say that today's Hungarian Liver Dumpling recipe is grandmother style cooking and that would be a correct presumption.  This same liver dumpling recipe has been made by many generations in many Eastern European countries.  The recipe is basically the same nearly everywhere in this region.
     The broth for Hungarian Liver Dumplings is simple too.  It is only made with chicken backs, necks and scraps, with no extra seasonings or aromatic vegetables.  A good chicken broth does not need to be enriched with flavor.  Many old world cuisines require a pure rich tasting chicken broth and the reason is not just for flavor.  Rich chicken broth is well known for its medicinal effect and it helps to cure illness, especially when the weather is cold.
     I used to rent a room in an elderly Hungarian lady's house and she always cooked something nice everyday.  Potato Pancakes were always on a plate in the kitchen.  I asked how she got to be such a good cook.  She told me that she had a choice of cooking for the Germans during WWII or be sent to a prison camp.  So, she chose to cook food for the occupying army.
      One of the things that I noticed was that every time she cooked, it was like she was feeding a small army.  There was always a ton of food in the kitchen when she was done.  Oddly enough, all of her neighbors were German and she always gave them the extra food she cooked.  In essence, the Hungarian lady captured the German neighborhood with her good cooking!
     I watched the old Hungarian lady finish making liver dumplings one time, but I missed the first part of the recipe.  The recipe was easy to find, because it is popular in Hungary.  I remember her saying that the liver dumplings were plain and simple and that is how they are supposed to be!  I used the same guidelines when making today's recipe.

     Chicken Broth:
     This recipe yields 1 quart of chicken broth. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 large chicken back section in a pot.
     Add 1 chicken neck.
     Add the meaty bone scraps from 1 chicken.
     Cover the chicken pieces with 2 quarts of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till about 1 quart of broth remains.  (About 2 hours.)
     Step 3:  Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Discard the chicken scrap pieces and bones.
     Use a spoon to skim off the chicken grease that floats to the top as the broth cools.  (The chicken grease can be used to flavor vegetables in other recipes.)
     Set the broth aside or chill the broth for later use.  

     Hungarian Liver Dumplings (Májgombóccal) en Broth: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 4 cups of liver dumplings in broth)   
     Any kind of liver can be used to make the dumplings.  Even a mixture of liver can be used.  For a strong flavor, use pork liver.  For a mild yet rich flavor, use calves liver or chicken livers.  (Calves liver was used to make the dumplings in the photo examples.)
     Májgombóccal are made like spoon dumplings.  The liver dumpling dough should be a fairly loose texture.   
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of whisked egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of softened unsalted butter.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 2:   Add 2 tablespoons of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 4 ounces of very finely minced raw liver.  (Beef, calves, pork or chicken liver can be used.)
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 3:  Slowly add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, while stirring with a fork, till a loose sticky dough forms.  (About 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of flour.)
     *The amount of flour needed depends on how moist the liver is.  The dough should be just thick enough to be gathered with a spoon and slowly poured off.  
     Step 4:  Place 1 quart of chicken broth in a sauce pot.  (The broth should be about 3" deep.  A 2 quart capacity sauce pot is about the right size.)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Step 5:  Place the sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Use a serving spoon to scoop up a dumpling size portion of the liver dough.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons of dough per dumpling is plenty.)
     Place the spoon into the gently boiling chicken broth and turn the spoon, so the liver dumpling dough slides off of the spoon into the hot broth.
     Repeat till all of the liver dumplings are in the broth.
     Step 6:  Gently boil the liver dumplings till they puff up and float.
     Continue to boil the dumplings for a few more minutes, till the dumplings are fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf from the pot.
     This recipe describes 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Use a slotted spoon to place a few of the liver dumplings into a soup bowl.  (About 4 or 5 is plenty.)
     Pour about 1 3/4 cups the hot chicken broth over the liver dumplings.
     Step 2:  Garnish the broth with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of Hungarian Paprika over each liver dumpling.

     This is some nice tasting Hungarian comfort food!


  1. Thank you for posting this, this is exactly how my mother made this soup. Her father was from a part of Slovakia right next to Hungary and her recipes have a Hungarian influence. Her soup was different than the German leberknoedelsuppe and other similar recipes because, like your recipe, the broth and dumplings were mildly flavored (usually made from chicken rather than beef), and irregularly shaped because they were dropped into the soup off of a spoon. I always thought the irregular dumplings were more fun to eat, easy to cut with your soup spoon and a more interesting texture. I have very fond memories of eating this soup growing up and it was not until I was an adult that I realized it was made from liver.

    1. Thank for the really nice comment! I did a bit of research before cooking the recipe example. I guess that the research paid off. I'm glad that you confirmed that this is a traditional Hungarian style soup! It was pretty easy to make too!