Zakuszka is a roasted paprika (pepper) based spread that is extremely popular in Romania but also you can find it in many fridges in Hungary. Next to the roasted paprika as a main ingredient there are onions, carrots and tomato puree, additionally some put beans or aubergine in it as well. It is comparable with the Serbian, Croatian Ajvar. But compared to Ajvar which is mainly eaten next to meat, Zakuszka is only eaten with bread. The word Zakuszka comes from the Slavic language and means “appetizer” or “snack”.
To make Zakuszka you boil all the ingredients for around 4 to 5 hours so people tend to make big amounts and keep them in a preserving jar to have some throughout the year. The below Zakuszka recipe is for a large amount which requires a huge pot to boil it or you do it as in the image above in a bogrács (Cauldron) in which you also make for example Goulash Soup (Gulyás leves) or all kinds of stews.(Pörkölt)
- 3kg Paprika
- 1kg Onions
- 1 kg Carrots
- Tomato puree
- As much Aubergine or Beans as you like
- 1l Oil
- Pepper, Salt and bayleaf
How to prepare Zakuszka:
Basically the recipe is very simple. All you need to do is to mince all ingredients (except the beans if you chose to use them), fry it in oil and boil it for hours. So far in theory. In case you make a large amount there is of course a lot to mince and as the skin of the paprika is neither easy to mince nor easy to cook you need to peel off the skin. Therefore you roast the paprika until nearly black to make it easier to skin them. The same you do with the aubergine in case you use it. Also the onions and the carrots need to be minced.
You start with a lot of oil (in case of large amounts 1l will do it) and fry the onions, later the carrots and than the paprika. After boiling for around 30 minutes you can add the tomato puree and the aubergine or beans to it. Season it with pepper and salt and you have used all ingredients. From now on you need to boil it for around 4 hours and stir it all the time otherwise all your work will burn. Most Hungarians or Romanians say that the Zakuszka is ready when the oil is coming to the top which is hard if you constantly stir but as said after around 4 hours you can try a spoon and see if it is thick and creamy. If so prepare your jars and fill them up. You need to cover the glass with cellophane, than close the lid and keep the bottles in a warm area to not cool down to fast. Perfect is for example to cover them with a blanket. The next day your Zakuszka will be perfect. It is said that the taste is improving after maturing in the preserved jar but it should be eaten within a few days after opening the glass.