Czech Cooking Made Kosher


Though often heavy on pork, some Czech dishes can be adapted for kosher cooking and make for delicious experiments.

I just came back to Israel at 5 a.m. this morning from a few days vacation in Zlata Praha (“Golden Prague”). The Jewish community of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of Central Europe’s oldest and most well-known Jewish communities — historical evidence reveals that Jews have lived in Prague since 970 C.E.

But the history of Prague’s Jews is a checkered one — as the 78,000 names documented on the wall of the Pinkas synagogue who were killed during World War II demonstrate. The city boasts a six-building Jewish museum in Josefov, the Jewish quarter, and is one of the city’s most visited attractions.

A must-see is the Altneuschul, completed in 1270. It is Europe’s oldest active synagogue and one of Prague’s earliest Gothic buildings. Other than the Jewish aspects, the city is indescribably beautiful and well worth a trip.

Of course, much of Czech cooking is not for the kosher cook. Pork is an integral ingredient, as well as various mixtures of meat and milk which are forbidden to Jews. But many have been and can be adapted for kashrut and are delicious as well as interesting to try, especially the Medovnik cake.

Spaetzle (Czech Noodles)
1 Tbsp. salt
4 cups finely shredded cabbage
4 Tbsps. butter
1 finely sliced large onion 
2 tsps. sugar
1⁄4 tsp. pepper
3 cups cooked broad egg noodles, drained
Mix salt and cabbage together and let stand 30 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Heat the butter in a deep skillet. Add the onions, cabbage, sugar and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until cabbage is browned, about 45 minutes. Add the noodles and toss to blend thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Czech Gulas
Czech goulash differs from Hungarian goulash, of course. It tends to be milder and beefier, with fewer vegetables than its Hungarian counterpart. It’s sometimes made with beer and it’s always served with houskové knedlíky, the ubiquitous Czech bread dump­lings.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 and 1⁄2 lbs. stewing beef, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsps. tomato paste
2 Tbsps. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. ground caraway seed
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried marjoram
3 small red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup of water
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add beef and brown on all sides. If the beef starts to stick, add a little bit of water to prevent it from burning. Reduce heat to medium and stir in onion and garlic, stirring until onion is softened. Stir in all remaining ingredients except red bell peppers and bouillon cube.

Add the bell peppers and stir for a minute. Add 1 cup of water and the beef bouillon, stir and combine well with other ingredients. Add water to cover or more if you like a “soupier” goulash. Lower heat to simmer and cook for at least 45 minutes until meat is tender.

Serves 4.

Medovnik cake
The most popular cake in Prague is well known in countries like Russia, Ukraine and Croatia, but is virtually unknown in North America. We had a parve version at a kosher restaurant, which was absolutely delicious. Here is a dairy version that has got to be even better. Yes, it is a lot of work, but so worth it.
1 cup sugar 
2 eggs, beaten 
1⁄4 cup butter 
2 Tbsps. honey 
2 tsps. baking powder 
3 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
Cream Filling:
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened, condensed milk 
3 eggs, beaten 
2 Tbsps. honey 
1⁄4 cup butter 
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Lightly flour a cookie sheet. Cut 5 sheets of parchment paper into 8-inch circles.

Mix sugar and eggs in a small bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add honey, egg-sugar mixture and baking powder; stir constantly until well-blended and foamy. Remove from heat.

Stir in flour until dough is not sticky (if sticky add additional flour).

Separate dough into five equal pieces and place on the parchment paper circles; covering each with plastic wrap to keep warm.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll one section into an 8-inch round. Place on prepared cookie sheet and bake 3 to 5 minutes or until just barely golden.

Remove from oven and baking sheet; cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining four pieces of dough, reflouring cookie sheet if necessary. 

Prepare Cream Filling: In a large sauce­pan over medium heat, combine condensed milk, eggs, honey and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; boil until it thickens. Remove from heat and cool.

On a large serving dish, alternate 5 layers of cake circles and filling. With the fifth layer, crumble the cake into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the cake. Let the cake sit 6 to 8 hours before serving.

Makes 1 cake.

Glazed Poppy Seed Cake
1 cup butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
4 eggs
1 and 1⁄2 cups sugar
1 can ground poppy seed filling
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 and 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup water
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour a bundt pan; set aside. Separate eggs and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add poppy seed filling and beat until combined. Add in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla and sour cream and beat until just blended.

Add in baking soda and salt. Add flour, a half-cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat egg whites in separate bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Fold beaten egg whites into batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake approximately 1 hour, until cake tests done. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

After cake has cooled, bring 1⁄4 cup water to a boil in small saucepan. Slowly add powdered sugar, whisking well, until mixture reaches a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and immediately drizzle over cake.

Makes 1 large cake.

Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected]



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