Lecho, like manju or eggplant caviar, is cooked by almost everyone in the south of the Odessa region. But lecho recipes are slightly different in each family and this is absolutely normal. Well, there is no stable that is recognized by the whole world. Which borscht is more correct? With beans or pork? Should tomatoes be in borscht or beet kvass? Can't answer. It's the same with lecho.
But I will share some principles that are used in my family, and which I have supplemented a little after getting acquainted with Italian peperonata, Hungarian paprika, Bessarabian sweet spice "chukan piper" (our handmade paprika).
The main ingredients of lecho:
Bake the pepper for 20 minutes at 200C and remove the skin, cut into strips 5 mm wide and 5-7 cm long.
While the pepper is baked, fry the onion in vegetable oil in a cauldron. Cut into julienne, or strips. Fry until golden brown. Add the tomato paste and fry for another minute or two.
Add chopped peppers to the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes and add the tomatoes. Remove the skin from the tomatoes and cut into any shape. It is very convenient to grate them - this way the peel will remain in your hands, and you will get an almost tomato sauce, ready to use.
Now you should reduce the heat to a minimum, cover with a lid or parchment paper. And cook slowly for about half an hour. This is a very important stage. Be careful not to burn. The onion should "dissolve" in the paprika, the water from the tomatoes should evaporate and only the taste should remain. Thick, rich, bright taste.
The next step is to make this very taste maximum.
Add spices, salt, honey and vinegar. This is the final step, and the amount you have to add depends on the taste. So, if peppers, tomatoes and onions turned out to be very sweet, then honeycan be added less, and sometimes without it at all. Vinegar is needed to balance the flavor, just like salt. But sweet paprika, Bessarabian chukan piper, will make lecho as fragrant and "paprika" as possible.
Once you've cooked the lecho, let it steep for about an hour. Do not rush to eat right away, although the incredible aroma will be very difficult to overcome. It is after a while that the taste of lecho will become balanced and homogeneous.
Autumn vegetables for lecho / Photo: Andriy Velychko's Facebook
Andriy Velychko is one of the few chefs in Ukraine who received a culinary education at the Paul Bocuse Institute, the creator of the "new French cuisine".
On his Facebook page, he shares interesting recipes and cooking secrets with subscribers.