A. Paprika comes from peppers (capiscums) grown on the Hungarian plains near the towns of Szeged, Kalocsa and Ersekujar. They have to be planted in warm soil so the peppers open.
Q. How are they harvested to get the paprika
A. The pepper plants usually grow to about 24ins high and bear large fleshy yellow or green pods. These turn red when ripe. The fruit is often picked and eaten when yellow or green, however.
The pod of the type of pepper used in the spice production are left to ripen further in the sun - quite often they're hung on the eaves of houses or on verandas. They're much stronger than ordinary peppers - and longer and more pointy.
In 1959, a process was invented where the core and seeds of the pepper are discarded - these are the bits, like chillies, which generate the most heat. Scientists have recently developed a new variety of paprika that is naturally sweet all the way through, which is the sort most widely used in the production of commercially ground paprika. The most delicate of these is labelled kulonleges.
At a paprika factory, they are sorted, washed and roughly cut up before being fast cooked under pressure. Once the pulp has dried, it is milled into powder in huge vats.
Q. How is it usually cooked
A. It is very much the national spice of Hungary, in fact there's an annual paprika festival in Kalocsa to celebrate its pungency. In Hungary, it's used to flavour fish soup, but most commonly goulash, which in Hungarian is known as paprikas (the Hungarian word gulyas refers to a type of soup). Try a beef goulash or chicken or turkey cooked in a paprika sauce - only a little of the spice is needed, as it's quite sweet and very pungent.
Turkey in Paprika
You will need:
1 large onion chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
15 ml flour
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
1/2 pint stock
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
350 g cooked turkey meat, cut into small pieces
150g natural yoghurt
To serve: boiled potatoes or noodles to serve.
Method: fry the onion and pepper in butter and oil until pale gold and soft. Remove from heat and stir in the flour, paprika, tomato pure and sugar. Gradually blend in the stock, seasoning and caraway seeds.
Cook, until sauce boils and thickens. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add turkey to sauce with yoghurt. Heat through for a further five minutes and serve, preferably garnished with parsley.
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by Katharine MacColl