pátek 31. července 2009

Prague market - Pražská tržnice

Mr. Cuketka posted a picture of things he bought at the Pražská tržnice in Holesovice on his Facebook page. I decided to follow and so here is what I bought today.

Dill, koriander, garlic, baby eggplant, "Canadian" blueberries, Czech blueberries, cucumbers, string beans, beautiful gladioluses.

I try to shop at this market every week, or sometimes even twice a week. There is no other place like this in Prague and I like it a lot! There are some stands with imported fruit and veg but about 60%-70% of the vendors sell local seasonal produce. I will post photos of what I buy every time, I think it will be interesting to see how the variety of fruit and veg changes through the seasons.

čtvrtek 30. července 2009

Gravad lax

I make my own gravad lax at home. The ones that are sold are either full of preservatives or very expensive. Marinated salmon takes 5 miutes to make and can be eaten in 24-48 hours. Why buy those prepackaged ones then??

1 kg of salmon fillet - I proportionally reduce ingredients if there is less salmon
4 tablespoons of sea salt
2.5-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of freshly ground black or white pepper
4 tablespoons of dill

Cut the fillets in portions if needed. Mix salt, sugar, pepper and dill. Coat the fish with this mixture on the side where there is no skin. Put the fish skin down on a plate, cover with alfoil or plastic foil and refrigirate. You should turn the fish around once if the fillet is very thick. After 24-48 (it depends on how well marinated you want the fish to be, I like it slightly "raw") take the fish out of the fridge and cut it into thin slices. Use a very sharp knife!
You can also freeze the marinated salmon and defrost it in the fridge.
This time I served the gravlax as a tartar on a crispy potatoe cake with sour cream.

Tolstolobik - Толстолобик

Tolstolobik (or flat head carp) is a forgotten and neglected fish, which is a big shame in my opinion. This fish has 3 huge priorities -
1. It's cheap
2. It's tasty
3. It has the highest content of Omega-3 fatty acids of all fresh water fish common in Europe.
I sometimes buy it when I see fillets or steaks sold, I don't buy whole fishes because they tend to be very big. Tolstolobik doesn't have this "muddy" flavour and smell that turns many people away from carp but is somewhat dryer, because it contains much less fat. Its meat is delicate and I wouldn't recommend grilling or frying it, it tends to fall apart.
I found this recipe at http://manek.bloguje.cz/, which is a great Czech resource on cooking local and imported fish. Thanx for sharing the recipe Mr. Mánek! I amended the recipe a bit because I used fillets instead of steaks and there was more fish than in the original recipe.

1,2 kg of tolstolobik fillets or steaks
5 tablespoons of parsley
4 tablespoons of mustard - I used Maille dijon mustard (my faourite mustard)
2 cloves of garlic - czech garlic I mean, if you use chinese garlic you will need at least 5 cloves
5 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
some butter - about 100gr cut into very thin slices
salt, pepper

Season the fish with salt and minced garlic and let stand (1-3 hours). Place the parsley and breadcrumbs into a a foodprocessor and mince. Put the parsley/breadcrumbs mixture onto a wide plate and let dry fro a couple of hours as the fish marinates.
Sear the fish on a hot pan with some oil (flesh down a very hot pan and fry until a brown crust forms). Remove from pan and smear a very thin layer of mustard on it. Coat the fish in the parsley breadcrumbs , put into a baking dish, put a little butter over each piece and bake for 25-35 minutes in a preheated oven at 200C. Serve and enjoy!
Of course other fish can be prepared this way too!

sobota 25. července 2009

Spaghetti a vongole

Pasta vongole is a classic Italian dish and is always prepared with long thin pasta like spaghetti, spaghettini or linguini. It's amazingly simple to make and tastes heavenly but only under the condition of having fresh vongole, good pasta and ripe cherry tomatoes, which often poses as a problem in Prague (mostly the vongole). I bought beautiful vongole in the new seafood shop I wrote about in the previous post and some nice cherry tomatoes from a Vietnamese vegetable vendor and now I am ready to cook my favourite pasta.

All clams must be carefully washed and cleaned! You don't want sand between your teeth. BTW these clams were very clean, I only rinsed them under flowing water in a sieve. All clams that are already open before cooking and do not close if you tap them on the table (i.e. don't show any sign of activity) are dead, throw them away without remorse. Those mussels that don't open when cooked are also unedible and might cause severe food poisoning, throw them away too. If you buy clams and plan to cook them later or the next day, refregirate them but do not cover! Remember, the poor things are still alive and need air to breathe. Arrange them in one layer on a plate and put them into the fridge. When you take them out of the fridge many will be open, don't panic, leave them to stand for 2-3 hours and you will see, and most importantly hear, them ressurect. Those that don't close or move are dead so get rid of them. For me, the safest way to determine whether the clams are alive is to put them under flowing water, the alive ones will close immediately. Never freeze mussels or clams!

Ingredients for 2 people:
1 kg vongole clams
10 ripe and tasty cherry tomatoes
pasta, about 200gr in dry state - please use good pasta (I use DeCecco)
1 medium sized clove of garlic - cut into 4-5 pieces (NOT finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of parsley - chopped finely
1/6 red chilli - cut into rings (about 6-8 thin rings)
olive oil

1. Several hours or one day prior to cooking wash the tomatoes and make two cuts on them to form a cross. Pour some boiling water over them and remove skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Put the tomato halves in a bowl and pour olive oil over them (sounds complicated but takes 5 minutes). Leave. See comments below
2. Boil your pasta in salted water until al dente, strain and set aside.
3. Heat up some oil in a big pan and add the chopped garlic and chilli. Fry until fragrant and add the cleaned vongole. Pour in about 1/2 cup of boiling water and let evaporate for about 2 minutes until all clams open up. Add the tomatoes and the parsley let cook for another minute, add some more boiling water if needed. The smaller the clams the less time they need.
4. Add pasta and carefully stir. Stirring mussels may cause them to break and you will end up with hard pieces of shell in you pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.Serve and enjoy

This tomatoe/oil mixture is often used when the cook does not want the sauce to taste overly of tomatoe. In restaurants these tomatoes are made in bulks of several kilograms and used for several days. Marinating the tomatoe halves in oil makes them keep together and as the result the sauce contains pieces of tomatoe instead of mushy tomatoe puree. And please, don't throw away the leftover oil! It's been infused by the tomatoes and is a great salad dressing!
I bought the cherry tomatoes that are sold on the stem, they were round and all the same size. The price was ridiculous - 150kc/kg. I don't know why they're so expensive and who actually buys them for that price, but they are very good, ripe and sweet. You only need 10 of them so it won't ruin your budget, but you do need these very ripe tomatoes.
Sometimes white wine is added to pasta vongole, but IMHO the cooking time is too short for adding wine as it leaves the sauce too sour for my liking and overpowers the delicate vongole flavour. Also butter is often used instead of olive oil, it's tasty too, but more French style.
Cooking clams is not everyone's thing because they are...uhm, alive. Yes, they do move and they do make squeeky and cracking noises. Black mussels are a bit quieter but vongole clams really do show that they want to live. If you think you will not be able to cook something that's moving, don't waste your money and don't buy them. Sorry for the morbid details but that's just how it is...
What a loooong post! :)

New seafood store

A new seafood shop opened up in Žížkov. It's called Pescheria Adriatico and is located in Bořívojova 11. The owner, who is Italian, brings the seafood from Italy. The stuff is fairly fresh, given that you go there when there has been a delivery recently, which is on Firday I believe. The shop is very simple and the variety of seafood is not as wide as at the Seafoodshop or Makro, however the quality/price value makes up for it. There were 2 Italian families doing their shopping when I came in and that's a good sign for me. The fish they sell is NOT scaled or gutted, I guess you could ask the shop assistant to do it for you. But especially the clams and mussels are very clean, even the black mussels.
I don't know why they display ungutted fish, the only thing that comes to my mind is that this is used as evidence of freshness. Ungutted fish goes bad much faster than gutted fish and maybe they do it on purpose so they can say "See, we don't gut our fish, it's so fresh and gets sold so fast that it doesn't have the time to go bad!" But maybe I'm just thinking too much and they are too lazy to gut and scale the fish in advance. :-)
I bought 2 seambreams, 1kg of anchovies and 1 kg of vongole veraci clams. This will make 2 lovely seafood dinners!

The first dinner featured the seabream and the anchovies.

I put some marjoram, thyme, dill and lemon inside the gutted fish, sprinkled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them in the oven under the grill. The fish was beautifully moist and delicious. Nothing beats a simply prepared fresh fish for me.

The anchovies were battered in flour and deep fried. Oh man, did these smell when they were being fried. I had to open all windows to increase air circulation. Anchovies and sardines are the most smelly fishes, but this doesn't make them less tasty.

The dinner involving vongole clams is described here.

pátek 24. července 2009

The horror

I never buy premarinated meat or fish. I simply don't like the taste of the used marinades, they burn on the grill and there are too many chemical additives in them. I also suspect that the producers marinate meat that's beggining to rot and give it a "second life" by drenching it in a spicy and salty marinade.
Now, here is the proof - http://zpravy.idnes.cz/nalozene-maso-muze-znicit-zdravi-odrovnalo-i-ochutnavace-mf-dnes-pht-/domaci.asp?c=A090724_083957_domaci_lpo

Check out the attached detailed results - http://ekonomika.idnes.cz/specialni-priloha.asp?y=test/vysledky-testu-marinova-masa.htm

All I can say is OMG! Some of the samples were infected with salmonella and listeria, several were literally rotten. Horrible.

středa 22. července 2009

Chicken drummets with lemon, honey and rosemary

I try not to cook heavy meals when there's such a heat outside but husband needs his proteins every evening, so my choice is most often chicken or fish. This recipe is dead easy plus you can marinate the chicken overnight and just shove it into the oven one hour prior to dinner.

1 kg of chicken pieces - no breasts please
juice of a very big 1/2 lemon - about 5-6 table spoons
3 teaspoons of honey
1 big stem of rosemary - or 1,5 teaspoons of dried rosemary
dried oregano - optional
2 or more cloves of garlic - cut into pieces
3 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix all marinade ingredients with the chicken, make sure the marinade is evenly distrubuted. You can do it all in the baking dish to avoid washing up. Arrange the chicken in one layer and leave to marinate for a couple of hours at least, but the longer the better. Preheat oven to 200C. Roast chicken for 45 minutes covered with alfoil, uncover and roast for another 15 minutes. My chicken drummets were not too big, but if you have bigger pieces increase cooking time to 1h 15min. You can also bake potatoes along with the chicken in the same dish.
I served the chicken with string beans I bought at the Holesovicka trznice today. I simply sauteed them with a chopped fresh tomato and some chopped dill.

úterý 21. července 2009

Salad with ruccola, red beets, balkan cheese and pinenuts

When it's hot, and it's very hot today, I try to live on salads. This salad is very refreshing and boosting with vitamins. There are 4 flavours and textures in this salad - spicy ruccola, sweet beets, crunchy nuts and salty cheese, combined by a dressing. They work together very well.

Ingredients -
2-3 small young beets - they are in season now
1-2 handfuls of ruccola
1-2 tablespoons crumbled balkan cheese - feta is even better
roasted pinenuts
olive oil
chopped dill or parlsey
balsamic vinegar - optional

Boil or bake the beets. Peel them and cut into slices or whatever pieces you like. Put the ruccola on a flat plate, place the beets over it and sprinkle with the pinenunts and crumbled cheese. Prepare dressing from olive oil, chopped herbs, freshly ground pepper and a little salt, add balsamco if desired. Pour dressing over the salad. Enjoy.

pátek 17. července 2009

Maiale in Latte

The holidays are over and I'm back in the kitchen. We wanted a hearty homestyle meal after all the restaurants and seafood. I decided to try one recipe from one of my Italian cook books. It's called pork in milk (Maiale in latte) and we liked it, even though it's more like a winter meal...

1.5 kg whole piece of pork chops with bones (I couldn't find a whole piece so I used 2 smaller pieces)
1 litre of whole milk
4-6 cloves of garlic (I prefer Czech garlic to Chinese, it's got much more flavour)
1-2 rosemary stems (sage should be added as well, but I didn't have any)
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
some olive oil

Heat up oven to 200C.
Preferably use a cast iron pan or skillet with a lid, or at least a heavy one made of other metal (I hate thin walled cook ware). Heat up some olive oil and sear the meat until it has a brown crust. Remove some of the fat and put the halved garlic cloves and rosemary on the bottom of the pan, put the meat on top.
Pour the milk over meat and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Bring to boil, remove from fire and add lemon juice and zest, stir, cover and put into the heated oven. Bake covered for half an hour, uncover and cook another hour until the liquid reduces to form a sauce. I also added some rosemary infused olive oil, but I don't think it actually made a difference.
Milk and lemon sound weird together because milk products naturally clot when mixed with acid. This sauce is supposed to clot. You can reduce the clotting effect by adding the lemon much later or even just before serving, but the taste will not be the same in my opinion. You might also strain the sauce through a strainer.

I served the meat with pommes fondantes, which are coming up in the next recipe.

čtvrtek 16. července 2009

Barcelona, Figueres etc.

When we were planning our holiday I was very optimistic regarding local trips like Barcelona, Montserrat, other seaside towns etc. Unfortunately it wasn't that easy. We only visited Barcelona, Reus (which was not really interesting because we had no map or guide) and Figueres on our way back. Figueres houses the Salvador Dali museum which is part of the Dali triangle. Everyone who visits the area should take the time and visit this place. It's unbelievable. I'm sure I will try to explore the whole Dali triangle in next few years because I was amazed by this museum.
We also took a one day trip to Barcelona. I have been to Barcelona once before but also for one day and I loved the place. But this time I was a bit confused. It's huge and very crowded. The town centre is enormous, with wide and long boulevards and big squares. One needs at least 3 days to explore this city, there are just too many things to see and visit. I do not recommend one day trips. we felt like we were lost in a huge megapolis and even though we had a guidebook we haven't managed to see even a fraction of what we intended to see.
BUT there are still some pictures of food! :)
Boqueria Market -

The photos didn't turn out too well. What can I say? Boqueria is beautiful, but to me it looked more like a tourist attraction than a real place where the locals shop. They do their shopping in different markets like Mercat san Antoni or Mercat del Ninot or others. I wanted to go there but alas...
Still, Boqueria was an amazing place! Beautiful stalls, incredible variety of all kinds of things, a few fully occupied tapas bars. Everything there is so pretty and perfectly arranged and at least the fruit stalls really do seem a little artificial. I always look out for seafood, here the array was unbeatable and hands down the best I have ever seen in my life.
We sat down to have lunch in a Japanese style noodle restaurant called Udon. It's very popular among travellers and is featured in many tourist guides.

This is the Nabeyaki udon. It was a nice change after all the grilled seafood and fish we had in the previous week. I know that sounds nasty :)))
This is it from our Spain trip :)
Great thanks to my inlaws for inviting and taking us on that beautiful holiday!!!

středa 15. července 2009

More and more goodies

The day when we arrived in Cambrils was the final day of a series of religous holidays dedicated to San Joan (St. John). This holiday is very popular in Catalonia and celebrations last for several days. During these days people party in the streets, fire fireworks, dance and of course eat eat eat. There was a local produce market in the port of Cambrils set up for the holidays and selling traditional foods and crafts.

This couple is baking traditional bread. They made the dough on the spot and baked the loaves in a traditional stone oven. It tasted heavenly.

There was also a stall selling dozens of varieties of pickled vegetables and olives.

Fuet and cured meat.
We bought a loaf of bread, some olives, some of the cured meat shown above, 1 fuet and lots of wine and had a very pleasant late night snack.

Paella is served in all restaurants. It's not possible to order it for one though, only for 2 people or more. I would love to learn how to cook paella, I'm not good at cooking rice though.

Grilled baby squid

Mussels mariniere

Fried small fish. A perfect snack to go along with beer.

We sat down in a bar serving vermouth and were served 2 tapas like this. It's a pitted olive, anchovy fillet and pickled oyster with some hot sauce. It was salty, sourish, hot and briny at the same time. Vermouth is quite popular in Cambrils and many bars serve it in a peculiar way. There are buckets with ice with a bottle of vermouth and water inside and a bottle of hot sauce on the table. You order vermouth and they bring you big glasses with ice, pieces of orange, olives and a small plastic syringe. If I got it right you should mix yourself a drink with the vermouth and water and use the syringe to pour some hot sauce into the glass. Another interesting thing is that it's not charged by glasses. You are charged by the bottle and by the person. That means that if there are two of you you pay 4,5 euros per person as long as the first bottle lasts and no matter if you drink 1 or 5 glasses. In other words for 2 people a bottle of vermouth costs 9 euros, for 3 people 13,5 euros. If you start another bottle it's 4,5 per every person on the table again. I'm not sure if I got it right though :)

Lobster and seafood combo. The photo is blurred because the photographer's hands were shaking with fear. The people by the table were threatening to eat him if he pursues to hold them back in order to take pictures. Yes, it did look that appetizing and it was divine.

Husband posing as the background of this spectacular looking prawn/calamari "spear". Fried baby octopus are served along with it, it's the plate on the right. We love prawns and found this place to serve the best prawns in terms of price/quality because prawns are really quite expensive in Cambrils. This "spear" costs 21 euros and has 10 very big and juicy prawns, 10 big calamari rings and this plate of freshly deep fried baby octopus. We have had prawns in more expensive places but somehow they weren's that good. These ones were perfect.
Grilled baby octopus.

Hake with prawn and wild mushroom sauce. At first this looked ridiculous to me. A cream sauce with mushrooms on fish on the seaside in summer? But the waiter explained to us that wild mushrooms are very popular in Catalonia, even by the seaside. Apparently lots of mushrooms grow in the surrounding mountains. And indeed I have seen porcini mushrooms being sold on a market later as well as canned wild mushrooms in supermarkets. Surprisingly, Catalan cooks add nuts to almost all cream sauces, I'll have to do some research on this. This dish was fabolous. Hake is considered a somewhat low quality fish in Europe, but it's a favourite in Spain and I can see why now. Here in Prague it's sold in the form of frozen fillets that are full of water and taste very dry and fishy. This freshly caught fish was moist and delicate. Another interesting thing is that no sidedishes or garnishes are served with cream sauces. Nothing to mop up the sauce with, except bread.

Cambrils - the seafood paradise

Cambrils is known as the town with the best seafood in all Costa Daurada and maybe even Catalonia. The food there is superb and we have not had a bad meal during our holiday. There are 2 restaurants here that received a Michelin star. We have not visited them though and it was not because they were expensive, they were just slightly more expensive than the rest, but because they were always booked.
Miramar restaurant:
We went there for my mom in law's birthday and it was the place everyone liked the most. Great service, great wine, superb food.

Tuna carpaccio in a cava jelly.

Grilled prawns.

Grilled razor clams and scallops. I have never eaten razor mussels before. They look gross, like big fat white worms but they are really tasty. The essence of the sea. The scallops were incredibly fresh and perfectly grilled.

Vongole clams and scallops.
Pulpo a la Gallega, a famous Spanish dish. Octopus is boiled with spices and then served with olive oil, salt and paprika.

Steamed mussels. Nothing added except lemon and these mussels didn't need any seasoning anyway, they were delicious.

Grilled calamari and cuttlefish. Again, these were grilled to perfect softness without being dry.

Grilled angler with escalivada and a potatoe. Angler is one of the most common fishes in Cabrils, along with seabass, hake, sea bream and sole. Escalivada is a mix of grilled or baked vegetables flavoured with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Here eggplant, pepper and tomatoe were used, but sometimes oinion and garlic are added.

Grilled halibut with the same sidedishes as above.

Grilled seabass.

pondělí 13. července 2009

Moments in Spain...

Back home from Spain!

We are back home form a 2 week holiday in Spain. We are lazy tourists actually and spent the whole holiday in one town called Cambrils, we went on a couple of trips though.
To start off here are some things I brought home. I would have loved to buy more things if only there was some more space in our car, but it was totally cramped.

From left to right -

1. Torres Esmeralda white wine - I liked this wine a lot. It's fairly local, it's light and refreshing. Torres is a big multinational company and I never liked its wines until I tried Esmeralda.

2. Pinord La Nansa sparkling white wine (blue bottle) - also fairly local and very light.

3. 3 kinds of infused olive oils by Borges (Ferran Adria line) - 3 peppers, rosemary, soy sauce and ginger. Those are available in the Czech republic (with the exception of the soy sauce ginger variety) but cost about 3-4 times as much. Borges is a very mainstream olive oil producer but has managed to get Ferran Adria to design a product line for them.

4. Baro de l'Albi olive oil - reccomended by the staff of the De'Gusto gourmet shop in Cambrils. Haven't tried it yet.

5. Mestral olive oil produced by the Cooperativa Cambrils - This oil is apparently unique, it's being made exclusively from arbequina olives. It has been been named the best olive oil of Spain of 2006 and 2008 by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and has collected numerous awards on fairs all over the world.

6. Walmer salsas - Olivada (tapenade), Alli olli (garlic sauce), Salsa Brava (spicy hot sauce used for Patatas Bravas). Bought on a food market in Cambrils on the first day of our stay and not seen anywhere afterwards.

7. Arbequina olives - in brine. Arbequinas are small and look unexciting, but they are a favourite among the locals. In the previous post there is a pic of a pickle stand at the local market with dozens of different olive sizes and flavours. Tourists were buying the big fat spectacular looking ones while the locals stuck to small and humble arbequinas. The best Spanish olive oils are made from arbequina olives.

8. Local honey

9. Tuna fillets in olive (glass jar) - very high quality tuna. Delicious and impossible to buy in Prague, for a fair price at least.

10. 1 pork sausage of some kind - bought in a butcher shop

11. 1 fuet salami - bought in a butcher shop

12. another can of my beloved tuna.