King Matthias Renaissance Era Cuisine

The reign of King Matthias (1458–90) was a high point in Hungarian history, for both culture and food. Hungarian cuisine underwent a huge change in the 15th century when King Matthias ascended the throne and married his second wife Beatrice, daughter of King of Naples. Through his Italian wife, Queen Beatrice, King Matthias brought Italian cooking to Hungary. The Hungarian cuisine has been enriched with the sophisticated methods of Italian Renaissance cooking. During this period, cooking was raised to a fine art. As being Italian she cherished the Renaissance culture and also brought chefs from Italy to the court.

Many kinds of fish were served in Matthias’ court. The most popular fish included pike, ling, eel and trout. Meats include beef, sheep, domestic and wild pigs, goats, deer, deer, rabbits, geese, ducks, prisoners and pheasants. Fat peacock meat was very a popular delicacy.

Likewise, the new seasoning flavors, bringing new cooking techniques and ingredients. King Matthias was the one who brought and planted across the country the Burgundy wines … but that is another historical chapter.

Many of Matthias’ reforms, such as the central courts and treasury offices, and also the gastronomy in the era’s new ingredients such as sweet chestnut, garlic, mace, saffron, onion, breadcrumbs, pasta and cheese were introduced, while the use of fruits were also cooked with meat. Just as well used as fruit stuffing in the meat. From this era was inherited  along the way to today’s as part of the Hungarian cuisine.

A peck into King Matthias and Queen Beatrice one of their favorite meals.

The feast of King Matthias was gray beef salami, spicy mangalica sausage, goose crackle, smoked peasant ham, goose liver mousse. Mostly of all the fish meal could not be absent from the table. Sirloin with potato crisps. Homemade plum strudel with brandy prunes ragout. 

One of the feast of King Matthias – Fish Soup 

The fish soup is a hot soup prepared with mixed sweet river fish on a paprika/ onion stew. Nowadays every region in Hungary has its own fish soup recipe.

About 1 kg slices of different sort of whitewater or lake fish … carp, catfish, zander … Salt the fish prior 1 hour before cooking. May cut the harder fish meat pieces smaller, softer pieces can be left bigger.

Ingredients: to 4 persons: 1 tbs oil or lard. 2 onions (palm hand size). 3-4 cloves of garlic, 2 tbs tomato puree, 2 liter water, 2 tbs sweet red paprika powder, 1 hot dry chili pepper, salt to taste. Preparing time from 6 to 12 mins.

Cooking: Chop the onions finely, start sautéing them in oil together with crushed garlic. When soft add half of the paprika to it. Pour in water.Add the fish slices and pieces to it. Bring to a boil. When it is boiling ad the other half of the grounded paprika powder, the tomato puree and chili. Don do stir the soup, only sake it with carefully, so the fish pieces do not break. Salt to taste. Cook it for 2 to 4 minutes until the fish is cooked and the soup gets thicker … the soup is always served with fresh white bread. Best will be to add some chili at the end to have a kick.

The feast of Queen Beatrix – Beef soup with its own meat. Grilled Balaton tooth fillet with jasmine rice. Somló dumplings.

One of the feast of Queen Beatrix – Tooth Fillet

Ingredient:  4-6 tooth fish fillets, about  ½ kg – 1 kg (1 lb), but could be a little over a pound)1 cup milk or buttermilk, Salt, 3/4 cup fine cornmeal (do not use coarsely ground cornmeal), 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. cayenne, 1/4 tsp. celery seed, Oil for frying (use peanut oil if available). Prep time: 15 mins. Cook time: 15 mins. Served to 4 person.

Cooking: Heat oil in pan, heat warming oven. In a heavy frying pan (prefer cast iron), pour enough oil to come 1/2 inch (one-and- a-half height up the sides of the pan. Heat the pan on medium-high. Heat your oven up to 9°C (200°F) and lay a cookie sheet inside. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet. Soak catfish in milk or buttermilk: While the oil is heating, soak the catfish in the milk or buttermilk. Mix together cornmeal, flour, spices for dredging: Mix the cornmeal, flour and spices together. (Or substitute to favorite seasoning instead.) Place in a shallow dish for dredging. Dredge fillets in flour mixture, then fry in hot oil: Let the oil reach 180°C (350°F) — a good test is to flick a little of the dry breading into the oil, and if it sizzles at once, you nailed it. Once the oil is hot, sprinkle the catfish fillets with salt and dredge them into the breading. Shake off the excess and gently lay into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes, depending on how thick the fillet is. Use a metal spatula and gently turn the fish over and cook for another 2-4 minutes. Cast iron heats up and stays hot, so monitor the heat as frying. May need to lower the heat on the burner at some point. Keep cooked fillets warm in oven. Once the fish is ready, move it to the oven while cooking the rest of the catfish. Keeping the fried catfish warm in the oven will help keep it crispy. All done, serve at once with your favorite hot sauce, cole slaw or whatever suits the taste of the individual.

© Aggie Reiter

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