Hungarian Paprika Chicken

This recipe for paprikás csirke is based on one published thirty years ago by Marguerite Patten OBE. Her book was my dad's "kitchen bible" for years. All I have done is to introduce the concept of a roux (and notes on what can go wrong when making it) and to stress the importance of using the correct ingredients. Sorry, but I didn't take any photos when I made this dish and wrote it up.


1 chicken, or pre-cut pieces for 4 people (mixed breast, thigh and leg)
1 large onion
1 lemon
12 peppercorns
bouquet garni
bay leaf
100gm butter
4 tbspns flour
200gm mushrooms (chestnut mushrooms work well)
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
double cream


For this dish it is vital that you start with the correct ingredients. The paprika must be Hungarian, with a bright red colour and sweet taste. Other paprikas tend to be darker and more bitter and will not work well in this dish. For the mushrooms you want to avoid tasteless agaricus buttons and you do not want to use delicately flavoured fungi such as oysters, ones that cannot withstand cooking such as chanterelles or large open mushrooms that will discolour the sauce. Use chestnut mushrooms or similarly robust fungi with flavour.

Start by removing the chicken skin, but do not over-trim. A little fat adds to the flavour and helps the cooking process. Joint the chicken if whole and cut wings and legs into two pieces. Rough chop the onion and place in a large pan with the chicken pieces. Add the lemon juice, the remainder of the lemon roughly chopped, peppercorn, bouquet garni, bay leaf and salt and cover with water. Simmer until the chicken is tender (about 45 mins).

Drain off the liquid and keep to use as chicken stock. Separate and wash the chicken pieces, discarding the onion, lemon, herbs and peppercorns.

Toss the mushrooms in a little butter for a couple of minutes, remove and set aside. As well as improving the taste, this will help ensure that they do not stain the paprika sauce brown.

Now make a roux with the remainder of the butter, the flour and the chicken stock. I will file a separate note on making a roux shortly. As my dad is a coeliac, he cannot use wheatflour for this recipe and uses a mixture of soy, rice and corn flours instead. You cannot follow a traditional roux process with such a mixture for reasons I will explain in my roux article. But you can make a perfectly acceptable sauce.

Towards the end of the roux process, stir in the paprika. It is important that you do not add the paprika at the start as the flavour will be damaged by over-cooking. On the other hand, the paprika must not be added so late that it boils but does not fry at all, as this will not cook it properly.

When the roux is cooked, add in the remainder of the stock slowly to generate the sauce. Add in the chicken pieces and the mushrooms and simmer for at least 5 minutes. Do not allow the sauce to boil at this stage. Near to service, fold in double cream and season to taste. Dressing with fresh coriander leaf adds both colour contrast and flavour, if not authenticity.

Pilaf rice is an excellent accompaniment to this dish, but it can be served with most rice dishes and even with mashed potato (although this will make it very filling).