A Recipe for Svíčková, the King of Traditional Czech Cuisine
Svíčková is probably the number one dish people will tell you to try when you ask about traditional Czech food. It’s also emblematic of our cuisine in general: beef, sauce, dumplings – that’s the holy trinity of every hearty Czech meal!
So what exactly is this sacred chow? Svíčková is a traditional Czech dish consisting of beef sirloin in a rich sauce made from cream, root vegetables and spices. It’s accompanied by a typical Czech side dish of bread dumplings.
Where to Get Svíčková While in Prague?
Being one of the most traditional Czech meals, you’re sure to bump into svíčková at any restaurant claiming to serve local fare. Our favorite venues include Restaurace Mincovna or Cafe Slavia. If you’re reading this recipe, you might have previously tried svíčková on our popular Old Town Food Tour, where we often visit these places!
However, the best svíčková will always be the one made at home. That’s why we bring you this recipe and encourage you to try to prepare this delicious dish yourself! It might not be the easiest recipe on Earth but it’s well worth learning and including in your family cookbook.
Here’s What You Will Need:
- 1.5 lbs beef sirloin
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 onions
- ½ medium-sized celery
- 1-2 sprigs of parsley
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 tbsp lard
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2-3 tbsp vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (whole)
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ lemon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt, pepper
- Set the oven to 180 degrees. Cut off all visible membranes and fat from the meat. Tie it with a string into a neat, even roll. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Scrape, peel and clean the parsley, carrot, celery and onion and cut them into little cubes.
- Melt the butter with lard in a saucepan and fry the meat very quickly until golden brown on all sides. Then remove the meat and throw in all the root vegetables (so no onions). Fry until golden, stirring occasionally, then finally add the onion and continue to fry until the onion turns golden. Once all the vegetables are the right color, sprinkle them with sugar and let them caramelize for half a minute. Pour in the vinegar and wait until it boils, stir in the mustard and cover with stock or water. Heat to a boil.
- Put the meat into a roasting pan and pour the vegetables with stock over it. Add black pepper and allspice, cover with foil or a lid and put it in the oven. Bake for 2-2.5 hours until the meat is tender, turning the meat every 30 minutes.
- Remove the meat from the baking dish and let it rest in the cooling oven.
- Remove all spices from the juice and strain the juice to separate the liquid and vegetables.
- Let the butter foam in a saucepan, sprinkle with flour and stir until the foam subsides and a light brown roux is formed. Pour some of the strained juice over it and mix well with a whisk, then add the remaining juice. Boil everything together for 20 minutes, until the roux is perfectly combined with the sauce. Stir occasionally.
- Season the finished sauce with salt, lemon juice, or additional sugar, if needed. At the very end, add the cream and just heat it up, otherwise there is a risk that the cream will curdle.
- Remove the string from the rested meat, cut into slices with a sharp knife and serve immediately.
- Serve the svíčková over freshly made bread dumplings.
For an extremely satisfying experience, add a slice of lemon with a spoonful of whipped cream and cranberry marmalade on top.
And if you’re brave enough, you can even try to prepare your own dumplings:
Houskové knedlíky (Dumplings)
- 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cups stale bread – cut into ⅓-inch cubes
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Combine the flour with salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and place the yeast there, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Pour in ⅓ cup of lukewarm milk and stir using a fork. Let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast dissolves.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining milk with an egg. Add the mixture to the bowl with flour and yeast.
- Knead the dumpling dough until smooth. Use your hands or a kitchen mixer with a proper attachment. Add a bit of flour if the dough is too sticky.
- Only now add the cubed bread and combine.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place until it doubles in size.
- Meantime, prepare a pot with low boiling salted water to boil the dumplings.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and form a cylinder shape out of each piece. One loaf should be about 8-10 inches long and 3 inches thick.
- Boil the dumplings in simmering salted water for 18 minutes, flipping the roll halfway through. Cover the pot with a lid while boiling.
- Take out the cooked dumplings carefully. Prick them immediately a few times with a fork. Pricking the rolls when taken out of the water is necessary, otherwise the steam would remain inside, and the dumplings wouldn’t be as fluffy as they should be.
- Slice the dumplings into ½-inch thick pieces and serve them warm with your delicious svíčková. Enjoy!
If you enjoyed this recipe and would like to get into more cooking, check out how to prepare a delicious guláš, one of the most popular Czech dishes.