Thursday, November 20, 2008

Try, Try Again - Hungarian Mushroom Tarhonya Soup for No Croutons Required

Hungarian Mushroom Tarhonya Soup Trio

Last month, almost to the hour, I brewed this soup for No Croutons Required. I loved it: stick-to-your-ribs tiny egg dumplings anchored in a tawny mushroom broth, dense with paprika-flecked sour cream. I was so in love that I didn't quite get it when my camera kept spitting back frame after frame of the most, let me be polite, unbecoming images. No perspective nor manipulation of light or focus would forgive a mound of scrawny stewed vegetables covered in oil-beaded sour cream from looking exactly as it was. I sucked up my disappointment while sucking down another bowl of it, yet it was too good not to share. Someday I would try again.

This time I had better luck, but it was not without an enormous struggle of exacting deconstruction - yes, deconstruction - and design along the way. I still would not call it a photogenic recipe, but at least it is a presentable one now. I can guarantee that you will not have such "good" results. Trust me on this one. But I can guarantee that you will not care. Trust me on this one, too.

Tarhonya (Hungarian Egg Barley Pasta)

Tarhonya, Hungarian egg barley pasta.

Hungarian Mushroom Tarhonya Soup - Adapted from All Recipes


2 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms (any kind, although a woodsy variety like crimini is excellent, even if only using 1/2 the quantity), cleaned and sliced
2 cups vegetable stock, prepared or homemade (I soaked 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups very hot water for 1 hour. After straining, I added 1 large vegetable bouillon cube.)
1 cup milk
Juice of 1 lemon
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cups sour cream (full fat or reduced fat)
Salt (adjust carefully if using bouillon) and Pepper
1 cup tarhonya or other small-shaped egg pasta
1 handful fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped


In a large skillet over low heat, cook onion in melted butter until it is golden and translucent. Add mushrooms, continuing to cook on low heat until mushrooms sweat, shrink and brown (about 10 minutes). As mushrooms cook, boil pasta in a medium saucepan until al dente. Remove from heat, but keep in cooking water until the last minute to prevent it from drying out. Add stock, milk, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper to mushrooms and onions, bringing the soup to barely a simmer. Do not let it boil. (You can use a blender to purée the soup smooth before adding the pasta and parsley.) Drain pasta and add to soup, stirring to heat through. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream until smooth. Adjust once more for salt and pepper. Transfer to a tureen and top with parsley, or ladle into individual bowls, then garnish each bowl with parsley. Serves 4 very generously. Leftover soup will get very thick. Dilute with 1-2 cups of water to restore while reheating. --

Hungarian Mushroom Tarhonya Soup

This post is for Holler of Tinned Tomatoes, hosting November's No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and/or salad event, co-created by Holler and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. This month's theme is Soups and Salads with Pasta.


Been There, Done That ~

Spätzle with Green Beans and Smoked Mushrooms
Kasha Varnishkes
Pasta with Parsley, Olive and Caper Sauce

Other People's Eats ~

Tortellini Blue Cheese Soup

Gyoza and Salad
Rigatoni with Legumes and Vegetables Soup


  1. I think those photos are stunning! Whatever it looks like, the sound of this soup is delicious. Mushrooms, cream, pasta--what could be bad?

  2. The photos are gorgeous and elegant as your usual style, I'm glad you kept trying :) And thank you for your kind words left on my blog =)

  3. Tarhonya! How like tiny cauliflower florets they are...gorgeous golden things.

    Glad you did try again. Sour cream, paprika and 'shooms with a deep porcini undertone. Glorious.

  4. Sounds lovely and I love your odd assortment of bowls and spoons - looks very retro chic!

  5. Greatings from foggy Budapest :)

    I found your blog today by chance, and I was surprised to see a Hungarian recipe here.:)) Tarhonya reminds me of my old shooldays where tarhonya was often served mixed stew-like meat, or sausages... Nice and spicy. :)

    I have to admit though that for me unlike other things home made tarhonya is less desireable than the ones you can get in the shop. That one is completely different in shape and even size, they look like tiny little couscous :) Not sure you can get it in the states though.

    Good luck with any other Hungarian dishes. If you have any questions you can reach me at :)

  6. I am so glad you persevered! What a beautiful soup and it sounds divine. I have a real soft spot for Mushroom recipes.
    Thanks for contributing it to this month's No Croutons Required.
    Good Luck

  7. I think your pictures turned out just gorgeous. As for the recipes, well, of course I must try this. Divine.

  8. I wish I could have a bowl on this cold evening:) looks awesome!

  9. Oh, I don't know - those pictures look pretty damn tasty to me. Tasty enough that I wish I had some bubbling away on my stove right now.

  10. I haven't even heard of egg and barley being mentioned in the same breath! Oh well, one lives and learns - it looks exotic and also like sweet/candied popcorn. Just a bit.

  11. Delicious looking mushroom soup! Love the addition of sour cream. What a coincidence - I posted mushroom soup, too:)

  12. Beautiful soup! It certainly looks appetizing from where I'm sitting.

  13. Sorry it took you two goes, but these photos are amazing! I bet it tasted as good as it looks as well

  14. Thanks, Ricki. Nothing bad, but these shots are much more appealing than the first round.

    Wiffy -- Thank you, dear girl. Determination pays off sometimes.

    Lucy -- Thanks always. Tarhonya are adorable, very eggy-rich in color. I couldn't stop marveling at them.

    Thank you, Johanna. Mix and match tableware is much more interesting than the heavy-duty china and silverware.

    Welcome, Cooking Star! I adore many world cuisines, including those of central Europe. Spicy tarhonya sounds divine and so very comforting. This pasta does, indeed, look like a rather jagged couscous, a little bigger than shot pellets. They are imported from Hungary. I purchased them from a market in a community with a large Hungarian and Polish population. So good of you to visit here. Thank you for your kind words.

    Thanks, Holler. I'm pretty fond of mushrooms, too.

    Thank you, Lisa. Shoot enough photos, and at least one will turn out right. ; }

    Sharmi -- Wish I could share some with you on a cold Illinois night. Thanks!

    Laurie -- Thank you! This soup has that stick-to-the-ribs texture and flavor that can keep you very warm during Alaskan winters.

    Sra -- Me, too. Looks like barley, but is an egg pasta product. Once they are cooked up, they loose their exotic appeal in favor of humble and comfy tiny dumplings.

    Thank you, Farida. I'll go take a look at your mushroom soup.

    Hi, Eating Club V! Thanks!

    Lysy -- No big. I was glad to brew up another cauldron of it. Photo failure is as good an excuse as any. Thanks!

  15. If you really want to experience Tarhonya to its full Hungarian tasty potential, try making it the way the Magyars do, which I liken to a Hungarian version of Rice-a-Roni.
    In a non-stick frying pan, saute the tarhonya in a few Tbsp. of butter, stirring frequently until a good portion of bits are a nice golden to med. brown. Add chicken broth to cover plus a bit more, and season as desired (I like onion powder, fresh or powder garlic, white pepper and, of course, sweet Hungarian paprika). Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook without stirring,for about 10 minutes or until nearly all of broth is absorbed. If using authentic imported tarhonya, bite into the largest piece to check for doneness. It should be firm but without any crunch. If needed, add about a quarter cup of broth and cook some more, and test again. When cooking is complete, turn out into bowl, add salt/pepper as desired. I usually add a Tbsp. of butter for flavor and garnish with paprika.
    This dish can be used as a side dish wherever you would serve pasta or rice,as a base for stews or mixed into vegetables. Ahhh, comfort food to the max.

  16. I really need to figure out how to take good pictures of soup. It must all be in the props. Anyways, loved the soup. Thanks for sharing!

    I wrote about it here: