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The Hungarian Cookbook Paperback – October 14, 1987

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

'The recipes... are almost delectable enough to eat right off the page.... The interested but inexperience cook will find Mrs. Derecskey's attention to clarity helpful. Even a novice can understand how to execute the recipes from her thorough instructions.'- Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Susan Derecskey was born in New York City and educated at Brooklyn College and the University of Strasbourg. She worked in publishing and journalism until she met a transplanted European journalist named Charles Derecskey, by origin a Hungarian from Transylvania, and embarked on the globe-trotting uncertainties of life with a foreign correspondent. Already an accomplished cook in the French mode, she began to cook Hungarian, first as a treat for her husband, then as a parlor trick, finally as an obsession.

When the Derecskeys returned to the United States, Susan already had an extensive collection of notes and recipes she had accumulated and tested wherever they were: the Congo, Paris, Germany andas culmination -- Hungary. Here, in the fine restaurants of Budapest and the more modest establishments and homes of Transylvania, she learned how the classic dishes should be made and developed that instinct for the cuisine that separates the gifted cook from the merely skillful one.

Her husband and two young sons cheered her on through the writing of The Hungarian Cookbook. They still gather every summer in the big kitchen at Ledgewood in the Adirondack Mountains, where many of the recipes in the book were put to the test. This annual ceremony of renewal is bound to feature such enshrined favorites as kohlrabi soup and chicken paprikash and one or more of those fabulous Hungarian desserts.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (October 14, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060914378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060914370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com VINE VOICE on October 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
"The Hungarian Cookbook" by Susan Derecskey is a real cookbook. If I wanted to learn how to cook Hungarian dishes (and I do), I would use this book. Everything about it is practical. This is no coffee table decoration filled with pictures of quaint cafes on the Duna, but something as useful as the Betty Crocker, and Better Homes and Garden cookbooks.

Derecskey starts the reader off with a quick explanation of the techniques and ingredients peculiar to a Hungarian meal. Equipment, she says, like pots and pans, are standard. None of the ingredients are unusual or hard to find. The Hungarians especially love to use bacon, bread crumbs, butter, caraway seeds, cooking fat, onions, sausage, sour cream and tomatoes. You already know about paprika.

There is a short introductory, but helpful chapter on wines, naming and describing ten major Hungarian wine types.

Each chapter presents the expected categories, like fish, poultry and pork. She gives us the Hungarian translation for each food type, and for each recipe as well.

The recipes themselves are nicely described. Since the book is void of pictures of prepared dishes (the only crucial drawback), she relies on a strong prose style. That is often missing from other international cookbooks filled with poetic takes on the romance of the local culture. Never self-indulgent, Derecskey is personal, comfortably providing her preferences for spicing quantity and serving styles.

This isn't a gourmet book. The recipes here produce the foods being made in modern Hungarian homes. The author refers frequently to relatives who gave her insight for some of the more difficult dishes. Clearly written for American tastes and cooking styles, it may disappoint some cooks.
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Format: Paperback
`The Hungarian Cookbook' by Susan Derecskey may be one of the easiest cookbooks I have yet reviewed, as this is quite literally exactly the food I grew up on. My comfort food, as a kid, was goulash, dumplings, Hungarian crepes, strudel, cabbage and noodles, and chocolate walnut cake, each and every one of these dishes made in exactly the same way as described in this book. All of these dishes came to by from my paternal grandmother who emigrated to the United States just before World War I, from a small town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, forty miles east of Vienna, which is now in Hungary. From this background, I can say with certainty that this is an exceptionally good evocation of Hungarian cuisine.

This is also an exceptionally good evocation of a national cuisine in general, even when compared to some of the leading treatments I have seen recently of the cuisines of Turkey, Lebanon, Germany, and Armenia. It is also as good as many treatments of French and Italian regional cuisines, although it may not be quite as good as the best of these, and it is certainly not as good as Paula Wolfert's classic work on Moroccan cuisine. It is also just a bit less than the classics on national cuisines such as Diana Kochilas on Greece or Penelope Casas on Spain. But, it is exactly all you need to recreate the great Hungarian dishes I remember from my childhood.

Aside from finding recipes for my long lost chocolate nut birthday cake, the first thing which impressed me about the book was the care in which the author pointed out that some recipes were simply difficult to get right the first time. This fact is probably obvious for strudel dough, but it is less obvious with recipes for potato dumplings.
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Format: Paperback
I grew up in a household where the cooking was almost exclusively Hungarian, and these recipes match closely to what my mother made. Whenever I have a yen to make something from my childhood, I consult all four of my Hungarian cookbooks, but inevitably, I end up using a recipe from this book. The only "americanization" that I can see is the use of butter or shortening in the place of lard, which is one of the staples of Hungarian cooking.
Although some reviewers have found these recipes to be bland, that has not been the case for me. I should point out, though, that one of the keys to good flavor is to use authentic Hungarian paprika, which is simply not available in most supermarkets -- not even in large urban areas. I'm lucky, I have relatives who send me some, but I can also recommend mail order from Penzeys.com. Paprika also comes in "sweet" or "hot" flavors. I prefer the "sweet" kind, but I have known Hungarians who think that's for wussies, and who prefer the "hot" kind. At any rate, true Hungarian paprika has an overwhelming fragrance, and a little goes a long way; if you put in too much of this stuff, the dish will have a bitter taste to it. (Looking at Mr. Lang's cookbook, a book that I find to be somewhat pretentious, I can see that the quantities of paprika that he recommends are for the bland, American kind of paprika.)
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Format: Paperback
Susan's book is the Hungarian "Joy of Cooking." I've grown up on Hungarian food and cooking is one of my pasttimes. Anytime I need to find some everyday or remote recipe, I know it will be in this book, along with regional variations. This is the only comprehensive Hungarian cookbook that will give me US measurements, the correct recipe, the number of servings the recipe yields, and suggestins for accompanying foods. The only other thing that could be added would be pictures for the people that are not familiar with Hungarian food.
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