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10 Best Cookbooks

Below is my selection of the ten cookbooks that best represent the cooking of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some old, some new – they all have fresh and tasty recipes based on locally/home grown ingredients. For the most part, the style is simple, country cooking that reflects Pauline’s heritage, from countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia and Serbia.  One book below – Food in History – provides a great overview of the origins of many of the ingredients and recipes.

The Cuisine of Hungary, Copyright 1972, by George Lang I discovered this rare, out of print book at my father’s house in his prized cookbook library.  I coveted it so much, as did he, that he scoured the Internet and found me a used copy, which he had shipped to me.Lang provides a culinary history of Hungary, with its Turkish, Slovak, German and French influences.  I found Beethoven’s Roast Ox recipe in here, served up by Golden Bull families like mine back in the 16th and 17thcenturies.The cookbook also includes recipes found in today’s kitchens – rich soups and hearty stews, an abundant use of paprika and many variations of Pauline’s tortas.
Food In History, Copyright 1973, by Reay Tannahill I found this little treasure at the Reston Public Library’s semi-annual book sale. Tannahill takes you back to ancient Roman times, and to the origins of wine and yeast bread. I discovered that tomatoes and peppers were introduced to Hungarians and my Slovak relatives during the Ottoman invasion, and that the earliest “food stamp” program was described in the Old Testament when ears of corn were left in fields for penniless widows to find.
Baba’s Kitchen, Copyright 2005, by Lisa Alzo I bought this book for a couple of reasons. First, it’s written by an American of Slovak heritage, and I admire her deep appreciation for her ancestry, and for her telling of Slovak immigrant stories, especially about women.  Not much was written about them in the past, and it’s almost as if they never existed. Lisa brings them back to life.Secondly, I was interested in seeing how her recipes were like Pauline’s.  In this book she shares her grandmother’s family recipes, both Slovak and Rusyn, and also tells about a few family traditions.
East of Paris, Copyright 2003 by David Bouley Subtitled “The New Cuisined of Austria and the Danube”, Bouley’s cookbook takes the traditional dishes of Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, and modernizes them.  Recipes for dishes Pauline made, with a twist: “Mushroom Ghoulash”, “Duck and Cabbage Sausage”, “Walnut Praline Cake” and “Kaiserschmarrn – Sweet Potato Pancakes with Rum Soaked Raisins”.Bouley grew up with a chef for a father and a baker for a grandfather, deciding by the age of 12 that cooking was to be his career. He strongly believes quality and freshness of the raw ingredients make the difference in cooking, and in his restaurants he would make the cured meats, sausage, cheeses, sour cream and jams.
Sandtnerka, Copyright 1924, by Marie-Janku Sandtnerová This is the cookbook coveted by my grandparents, Pauline and Jerry, and by his mother, Marisa Shuster. After my grandparents fled Yugoslavia in 1938, he wrote back to his mother that he wanted her to send Sandtnerka to him. Marisa tore the house apart, so she wrote, looking for the cookbook. Marisa must have found it, because I found the very same copy in my grandmother’s cookbook collection recently with Marisa’s letter tucked inside.This is the classic cookbook on Czech and Slovak cooking, with 1349 recipes. It’s been published over 60 times, and is still in print today.  With the recent new interest in classic Austro-Hungarian cooking, more and more chefs are returning to this cookbook for authentic recipes.This cookbook is in Czech, and I don’t know how to order it today.  There is little to nothing written about it in English.
The Old World Kitchen, Copyright 1987 by Elisabeth Luard Subtitled “The Rich Traditions of European Peasant Cooking“, this cookbook is over 25 years old, and lacks the photographs I love to drool over in the other cookbooks.  However, it offers a broad array of 300 hundred peasant style recipes from Ireland to Greece, and everything in between. The cookbook includes historical travel notes, which I think make the recipes come alive.One of my favorite recipes in this book is for garlic puree:

  • 10 HEADS of garlic, simmered for 10 minutes
  • 1/2 cup cream added to the drained, crushed garlic
  • Season with salt and pepper

Puree until smooth, and serve on fried eggs, roast pork or spring lamb with a few sprigs of thyme.

Nová Kuchárska Kniha, Copyright 1914, by Terezia Vansova In 1889, Terezia Vansova was the first female Slovak novelist to publish.  She attended school for a time in Vojvodina, and wrote a number of children’s books, including “The Orphan”, translated the Czech writings of Božena Němcová and in 1914 wrote this cookbook, a collection of over 900 Slovak recipes.
The Czechoslovak Cookbook, Copyright 1965 by Joza Brizova This cookbook is a bible of sorts for Czech and Slovak home cooks. Called “Varime Zdrave Chutne a Hospodarne” in Czech, it contains over 500 recipes that have been modernized for American kitchens.It’s a good introduction to Czech and Slovak cooking, with traditional dishes such as Chicken Paprikash, Honey Cake and lots of dumpling recipes.
Helen’s Hungarian Heritage Recipes, Copyright 2006 by  Clara Margaret Czegeny Clara has taken her mother’s treasured recipes and stories, and written them down into a spiral bound, homey cookbook.  Full of information about the ingredients, techniques and tools, this little cookbook will make you feel as though you are sitting at the table with family enjoying one of Helen’s meals.
Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague, Copyright 2001 by Rick Rodgers A sweet collection of confections from three romantic European cities in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of Rodger’s recipes are similar to those I found in Pauline’s cookbook.
16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2010 7:29 pm

    Just wanted to say a big thank you for including me in the Hungarian list of who’s who cookbooks. What a lovely thing to do.

    We have just hit the 5,000 mark – making us a Canadian Best Seller.

    Thank you as I am sure your post has a part in the success.

    Clara & Helen Czegeny
    Helen’s Hungarian Heritage Recipes

    • October 25, 2010 8:04 pm

      You are very welcome! I find I am consulting the cookbook often to clarify Pauline’s recipes and to get new ideas. Thank YOU! And congratulations on becoming a best seller in Canada. That’s wonderful.

  2. Patrick O. permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:43 am

    Thank you for posting this wonderfully informative list of cookbooks. Do you have any insight into cookbooks that would be most informative as to the cuisines of Serbia/ the former Yugoslavia? My girlfriend is Bosnian and although we have done alot of searching we have yet to find a book in English that does justice to this regional cuisine. I would greatly appreciate any tips you might have. Thanks so much!

    • April 21, 2011 9:16 am

      Hi Patrick, I have several Serbian cookbooks, but unfortunately they are all in Serbian. I will look and ask around though, and let you know what I find. I also have one cookbook in Slovak from that region that I was thinking of translating into English.

      Thank you for visiting the blog!


  3. August 21, 2011 9:04 am

    Hi Tanja – I would like to include the list of TEN BEST in a book review that I am planning to post on EZINEARTICLES. It would be exactly how you have posted here, but the audience for ezine is H U G E. I am a regular writer there. Here’s my link.
    Clara M. Czegeny (you have included my cookbook in the top ten).
    I would like to return the favour.

    • August 21, 2011 11:19 am

      Hi Clara, that would be wonderful -thank you so much! I am still using your cookbook often :).


  4. John permalink
    December 4, 2011 6:47 pm

    About Sandtnerka (Copyright 1924, by Marie-Janku Sandtnerová) I have a version of this book in English somewhere. I might be able to find it and write info about its publication data or even lend it for reproduction to whoever is legitimately interested.

    • December 5, 2011 6:09 am

      I would love to see the English copy. I had no idea it was ever in print in English.

    • Susie permalink
      July 17, 2015 1:23 pm

      Where did you get it? I have one in czech…..but only have limited vocab for reading it.

  5. John Smetak permalink
    May 29, 2012 8:03 am

    By any chance, do you have a recipe for Franz Joseph Stroganoff? Any help would be appreciated.

  6. April 13, 2013 7:54 pm

    I am trying to find an antikvariát online that sells the 1924 (or thereabouts) version of Sandtnerka. Do you know which one I could contact? I would be really grateful. Thanks! Wonderful blog!

    • April 13, 2013 10:28 pm

      Hi, Gabriela, No, unfortunately I don’t. The best thing to try would be a used book store in Bratislava; I think I saw one there a year or so ago. Thank you for visiting the blog!


  7. Sandra Bessant permalink
    December 26, 2016 9:53 pm

    My mother, Elizabeth Papp, was born in Pivnice. I remember her cooking and baking recipes from her mother.


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