Recipes • A Chronicle of Our Life
Written by Marie Stejskalová, housekeeper to Leoš Janáček and his family
"Our master insisted on good food. There were no elevenses or snacks, but at midday and in the evening he ate a lot and with gusto. He knew how to praise the cuisine as well as find fault with it."
What did the most frequently performed Czech opera composer like to eat? Find out by delving into the cookbook of Marie Stejskalová, the Janáčeks' housekeeper (in Czech language only).
Marie Stejskalová (1873-1968) was the Janáčeks' housekeeper for over forty years. One of the items preserved in the Leoš Janáček Archive of the Moravian Museum is her book of recipes, mostly for various desserts and sweet dishes. This in itself would not be of such interest had the observant Mářa (as the Janáčeks called her) not interspersed the recipes with notes concerning the life and work of the master, which she called A Chronicle of Our Life. As a result, the cookbook contains unique information about the genesis of some of Janáček's works and brief descriptions of events from the housekeeper's viewpoint, as well as that of Janáček's wife Zdenka, to whom Mářa was a constant source of support. The publication includes numerous editor's notes on the people and situations mentioned as well as illustrations by the artist Vendula Chalánková depicting scenes from the life of the Janáček family as recalled by Mářa.
Marie Stejskalová's recipe book is kept in the Leoš Janáček Archive of the Moravian Museum, which is part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.
Publisher: TIC BRNO and the Moravian Museum.
During the Janáček Brno 2020 festival, it was possible to taste Janáček's favorite desserts in some Brno cafés and confectioneries according to recipes from Mářa's Cookbook.
Janáček's rosehip biscuits
"The master liked the rosehip biscuits best of all. He recommended them to all our guests and copied out the recipe for them himself."
Biscuits from rosehip jam
170g sugar, 70g blanched grated almonds, a little lemon rind and a tablespoon of the jam. Mix it all together, form it into one long, thin piece and then roll it out evenly to roughly the thickness of a finger, beat half an egg white with sugar to make icing and glaze the top nicely with it, then cut small pieces with a knife, immediately lift them with the knife, form them into shapes and place on a baking sheet. Then leave them on a low heat to dry out.
Café Placzek, Minoritská 4
Janáček's crepe cake
"The desserts we made as special treats for the master were quark cakes, quark strudel or crepes cut into strips, sprinkled with walnuts in sugar and then baked in a cake tin. We called this 'walnut cake'."
Make the crepes, fold them over and cut into strips, grease a casserole dish. Put the strips in it, coat them in butter and sprinkle them with grated walnuts mixed with sugar, then repeat with all the strips. Simply grease the top with butter and bake for about half an hour. When they are done, make the topping. Stiffly whipped egg white, one tablespoon of sugar to each egg white and half a tablespoon of jam, put that on the strips and then bake for a short while.
Cukrářství Martinák, Veveří 14
Janáček's butter strudel with quark
"The desserts we made as special treats for the master were quark cakes, quark strudel..."
Butter strudel with quark
On a pastry board prepare the dough: 140g flour, rub in 140g fresh butter, knead together with two egg yolks beaten with about two tablespoons of cold water. Quickly work the dough and put aside in a cool place. Meanwhile, prepare the quark filling as follows: mix ¼ kg of quark with two egg yolks, add three tablespoons of sugar, 50g raisins, 50g shelled and grated almonds and mix together well. Form the dough into two equal parts. Roll them out lengthwise, place one on a baking sheet, spread it with the filling and cover with the other piece of dough, press down the edges after smearing with egg white. Glaze the whole strudel with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle with chopped almonds and sugar and bake until golden brown.
Kavárna FAINE, Janáčkovo nám. 2a
"He took great pride in our doughnuts. If he wanted to push the boat out, he would order us to make doughnuts."
Jewish doughnuts (Vanilla balls)
In a bowl cream 100g fat, 4 egg yolks, lemon rind. Dissolve 30g yeast in ¼ litre of lukewarm milk, 90g blanched sliced almonds, 40g sugar, a pinch of salt and enough flour to make a dough as with ordinary doughnuts. Knead together well and leave to rise. Once they have risen, form them into small pieces (about 15g in weight), leave them to rise again and then fry them. After they have been fried, cover them in vanilla sugar and serve. The individual pieces must weigh 15g, then they turn out nicely.
Cukrárna Mlsná holka, Poštovská 1
Based on the recipe for hazelnut cake.
Whip four egg whites to form stiff peaks, 125g sugar, 125g grated hazelnuts, a little vanilla, mix it all together and divide into two parts. Grease a cake tin, place half the mixture in the tin, get it nice and flat, bake for about ¼ of an hour, immediately turn out onto the worktop, let the tin cool, grease it again, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, add the second half and bake, once it has cooled completely, fill it with buttercream: 60g butter, 50g sifted sugar, a little of it with vanilla, one egg yolk and two tablespoons of good coffee added slowly while stirring continuously until the buttercream is nice and thick. Then spread it over one half and place the other on top.