středa 30. září 2009

Pumpkin soup

We enjoyed a fairly warm September, but now autumn has finally set in with rain and cooler air. I hope Indian summer will grant us some more warm days though! As autumn progresses I tend to cook more substantial meals full of seasonal produce. Apples, plums, local tomatoes and most importantly pumpkins and squash are all in their best form now. I used to hate pumpkin when I was a kid, but now I love it!

1 kg of pumpkin
1 long stem of green celery
1 small clove of garlic
¼ of a long red chilli, deseeded
100gr bacon - diced
100ml cream
3-5 sage leaves
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, sugar
0.5 l water – chicken or vegetable stock is even better (NOT stock cubes)

In a medium sized pot heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and throw in the bacon. Fry for 1-2 minutes and add the roughly chopped garlic, celery and chilli, sauté on medium flame for 2 minutes. Peel and deseed the pumpkin and chop into medium sized pieces, the size of a matchbox approximately. Throw into the pot along with the whole sage leaves and turn up the heat. Sauté for another 3-5 minutes until the pumpkin starts to caramelize a bit. Pour in the hot water or stock and let boil gently on medium flame for 10-15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Pour the soup into a blender and blend until it’s smooth, a hand blender will do the job just as good. Pour back into the pot and add cream, season with salt and pepper. If the pumpkin is not sweet enough a pinch of sugar will balance out the flavor. Serve!

Those who are on a diet can leave out the bacon and cream, but I would suggest using stock then.

pondělí 28. září 2009

A weekend in Southern Bohemia – Part II

On Saturday we were after a more cultivated experience so we chose to visit Hluboká nad Vltavou. We were surprised to find out that there is a beautiful big lake near Hluboka, as well as a new zoo and a golf course. The lake is suitable for swimming and is lined with camping lots and small cabins.
The town itself looks “new”, I guess the municipality has a considerably high income from all the tourists. This allows them to keep the town center renovated, making it very picturesque. There were hoards of people wandering around and when we reached the main square we understood why. There was an annual wine festival being held this weekend. The main square was lined with small stalls offering wine, food and souvenirs and there were also folk concert on a big stage in the center of the square.
We decided to check out the castle first and have a close look at the stuff offered at the festival later. The castle is beautiful and everyone visiting the area should see it, at least from outside.
We wanted to see the interior of the castle, but because there were so many people around, there was a 3 hour wait for a tour and we didn’t want to wait that long. So, we just wandered around the castle and park for an hour or so.

The gates of the main entrance to the castle are decorated with a metal crow poking out the eyes of a guy that looks suspiciously like a cossack. Typical cossack styling! I mean the moustache and hairstyle.
We saw a wedding photo session taking place inside the castle. See the bride inside the glass winter garden?? The place is perfect for weddings, it's very romantic! But there is an absolute lack of privacy there, tourists are everywhere.
The wine attracted many people. There was a wine tasting inside one of the buildings on the main square but also there were many outside stalls offering wine and most importantly this year's Burčák.
Husband was driving so he didn’t have any but I drank a couple of glasses. We also tried something that I wanted to try for a long time – Kapří hranolky or Carp fries! It’s a dish that was apparently invented in the famous Šupina restaurant in Třebon. It’s basically boneless carp marinated with some spices and deep fried. It is very greasy but surprisingly tasty! I have never tried the original version though. This portion with a slice of bread cost 60 crowns and there is lots of carp for that price., it's very filling.
The same stall also sold different kinds of smoked fish, we bought some too.
There were also different sausages, trdelnik, pancakes, potatoe pancakes and other traditional festival and fair food. We might be returning next year!

A weekend in Southern Bohemia – Part I

I mentioned before that we have a weekend house near Pisek. We missed my mom’s birthday due to our exams and this weekend we wanted to catch up. Mom actually lives in the weekend house now, because she started a big (re)construction project there. She decided to turn the weekend house into a place suitable for year round living and so now she watches over 5 workers everyday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. She hasn’t been to Prague for 2 months now.
On Friday she invited us to the Středověká krčma in Pisek, a place we’ve never been to before. Oh man, what a bizarre place this is :-) It’s something like a medieval tavern with a show. We were greeted by a barman dressed in old, dirty clothes. He said smth like “What the hell do you want here?? You wanna stuff yourselves and have some booze?? Get your asses seated at the table over there!” Uhm, this is the way they talk there and it is supposed be that way. They try to make us feel like they think people felt in the middle ages. To make it short, service is arrogant and talks in a weird way on purpose, it is part of the whole concept. When they take away your plate or glass they yell “Máš dožráno??” or “Máš dochlastáno??” That’s just the way it is there.

There is this hangman hanging from the ceiling, I sat right under him.

There was some sort of clown entertaining us the whole evening, he was even funny sometimes.

Some people dressed as monks began torturing young and pretty “witches” later, the witches even flashed their bare breasts for a couple of minutes!
The climax of the evening was a fire show. I have to say that I was impressed. Not by the show itself (although it wasn’t bad at all), I have seen better and bigger fireshows. Instead I was wondering how they could get the authorities permissions for performing a show like this inside of a building. There really isn’t much space inside and the minute they lit the fire it became very hot! There were all sorts of inflammable things lying around like hay, rugs etc. It was fun to watch though.
Now for the food…it’s alright but nothing spectacular. It’s just this standard fare like you would find in thousands of other restaurants, greasy meat all the way. But on the other hand, what would you serve at a place like this? The portions are enormous and so I would think twice before ordering a starter, maybe only one to share between 3-4 people.
A picture of the koleno above is all I have. It was very dark inside and so the rest of the pictures didn't turn out at all.
We also had some kind of beef tartare on dark bread as a starter, it wasn't bad but desperately needed salt. I had half of a duck with dumplings and cabbage and is was the best dish of the evening, half a duck sounds big but it was quite small, it was rather a duckling and just enough for 1 person. Husband ordered this koleno shown above, it was huge but fairly average. Mom ordered pork ribs with honey, these were ok, but drenched in sauce which made them very difficult to eat.
The prices are high and not only for Pisek. Keeping in mind that every person additionally pays 150 crowns entrance fee, I didn’t expect the food to cost that much. My duck cost 390 kč, the koleno was around the 270 kč mark and the ribs around 220 kč. It’s ok for Prague, but otherwise this is probably one of the most expensive restaurants in Pisek, but you are really paying for the show here.
Did we like it? Yes, it’s a touristy concept, the food is overpriced, bla bla bla…but I thought it was fun! It’s not a place were you would go for a romantic dinner or family celebration and I wouldn’t go back for food, but it serves it’s purpose as a show. And this is how the place should be taken, as a touristy medieval show with average food.

pondělí 21. září 2009

Mussels with wine, cream and chilli

Mussels and clams are one of my all time favourite foods! This recipe is probaly my favourite, I cook it most often. It's a perfect romantic dinner for two or a decent starter for 4-5 people. All you need to go with these mussels is some fresh baguette to mop up the sauce and some white wine to drink along.

1 kg of fresh mussels
1 large clove of garlic
1 shallot
1 chilli
300 ml of decent white wine
200 ml of cream (heavy cream is better, but to reduce fat I use the 12% cream)
some fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of butter + 1 tablespoon of olive oil

I described how to handle mussels and clams here.
Carefully wash and clean the mussels. Throw away any mussels that are already open and don't close when you handle them and also broken ones. In a deep pan or pot heat up the butter and oil, add the finely chopped shallot and garlic and fry for 2 minutes on medium heat, add chilli and thyme. Turn the heat to maximum. Throw in the mussels, close the pot with a lid and shake it. Pour in the wine and let boil for 2-3 minutes without the lid, pour in the cream, add salt to taste and shake well again. Let cook for 2 more minutes. Remove any clams that haven't opened. Serve!
The prawns on the left were simply fried with some garlic infused olive oil.

pondělí 14. září 2009

Terrine de porc et poulet

Terrines are very versatile. There are meat and fish terrines, vegetarian terrines are common too. They can be served warm as a main dish, or cold as an appetizer or simple dinner with a loaf of fresh bread. I often make this terrine when we invite someone over for dinner, but sometimes I cook it just for ourselves.
Terrines are actually the baking dishes in which terrines are cooked. They are mostly rectangular or oval and have a lid. I don't have a proper terrine bowl, so I use a tall rectangular baking dish and alfoil.

250gr of pork mince
250gr of mince from chicken thighs
150gr chicken liver
150gr of good quality bacon in long thin slices (pancetta is even better)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons of finely sliced basil
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of chopped dried cranberries
1-2 tablespoons of cognac - optional
salt, pepper

1.Mix together the mince, basil, olive oil, dried cranberries and cognac (if it's available). Season with salt and pepper and let stand in the fridge for a couple of hours.
2. Sautee the finely diced onion with butter until soft, but not brown. Add to the mince and mix well.
3. Take your baking dish and line it with bacon. You should kind of wrap the bacon around the meat filling when you put it inside the baking dish. It is best to take two pieces of bacon and put one of their ends opposite one another on the bottom of the dish and let the other ends hang from the sides on top of the dish. It should cover the walls of the baking dish completely.
4. Put half of the meat mixture into the baking dish, kinda inside the "bacon basket". Cut the liver into pieces about the size of a cherry. Put on top of the meat and cover with the leftover meat. Devide evenly and cover with the slices of bacon hanging from the sides of the baking dish. Cover with a lid or alfoil, tightly seal.
5. Heat up the oven to 175C and put inside a big baking dish or tray with water. Place the terrine into the water, it should cover at least half of the terrine bowl. Cook for about 1,5 hour.
6. Take the terrine out of the oven and let stand for about 10 minutes. Uncover and remove, or pour out, ecxess fat. Cover again and let the terrine cool down before cutting.

This terrine tastes best with fresh, crusty bread and some vegetables, and maybe also a blob of cranberry jam.

středa 9. září 2009


Oh, does it fell good when you’re done with all your exams in time! Especially when they are the last exams before the final exams after which we will be proud pan and pani Ing. Our last exam took place yesterday and of course we wanted to celebrate a bit. We were so exhausted that travelling somewhere was not in question for us, so we decided to stick to another neighborhood joint of ours – Esse.
Esse is one of these “Potrefena husa” style places, a better beer pub with a modern interior, a large selection of Staropramen brand beers and serving modern style cuisine. We have been there several times and actually liked it. Esse serves a very nice Svíčkova na smetaně, although my judging of Svíčkova may not be very accurate. As a non-Czech I, unfortunately, don’t have a babička to cook it for me, so I don’t really have a meter to judge it. We weren’t after Svíčkova this time though. And here is what we had:

Prawns with olive oil, ginger, garlic, served with toast.
The 4 prawns themselves were large and well cooked (even though they were clearly frozen, they weren't dry) but didn’t deserve to be drenched in bottled, overly sweet chilli sauce. There was some delicious cream cheese on the toast, I couldn’t identify it.
I had the chicken breast with mushroom ragout and potato šišky. The only flaw of this dish was the generous sprinkling of paprika on top the chicken breast. All in all this was one of the best chicken breasts I have recently eaten. It was plump and incredibly juicy. I don‘t think I have to explain how difficult it is to cook a chicken breast properly, without making it dry, which happens in the majority of restaurants. The mushroom sauce, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a ragout, was tasty and there was no flour added to the sauce, which is always nice. I would order this dish any time again.
Husband’s steak with confit shallots and mashed potato. The steak was ordered medium, and it was cooked medium. I am not an expert on steaks, but husband said it was fine. It was served with a sweetish sauce (the confit shallot sauce perhaps?) and over the actual shallots. The shallots were white for some reason, which did not match with the sauce, and did not look too appetizing. The mashed potato was made from real potatoes and was well seasoned.

We had a couple of beers with our food and Richie the dog was offered a big pink bowl of water.
One thing I’d to like mention are the mistakes in the menu. I think that this is already the third menu they have here and it still has these stupid grammatical mistakes like blue chesse, fettucciene and others. Fettuccini is actually written two ways on one single page and both are wrong! I really can’t imagine how this is possible and it makes me think about how seriously the owner takes his business. It makes a very bad impression, which is a shame because the food is not bad at all and the service is good too.

neděle 6. září 2009

Pork chops with orange juice, dijon mustard and honey

We are now in a very busy studying period and so I don’t do any complicated cooking. Just simple stuff. These pork chops take about 5 minutes to marinate and 15 minutes to cook, you can cook a side dish at the same time. This blend of flavors is quite traditional and fairly classic but I have never used it on pork, mostly on chicken. Interestingly, it worked out very well! The meat has a very delicate but zesty flavour and is incredibly tender.
1kg of pork chops
Juice of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of Maille Provencale mustard – optional, I just happened to have it in house
Some rosemary and marjoram – or other herbs
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, pepper

Blend together the juice, honey, mustard and oil, add salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste. Pour over the pork chops and leave in the fridge overnight. Take them out of the fridge 1 hour prior to cooking so that the marinade liquidizes a bit and is not so thick. Heat up a pan with a some oil and cook the chops on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick they are.
I served the chops with some sautéed kale (mangold) and grilled paprika.

sobota 5. září 2009

Fish baked in salt

This is a great way to prepare fish. It's fast, easy, healthy and most of all tasty!

Whole fish that is as fresh as possible - I had 2 seabasses about 400gr each
1kg of fine salt
300gr coarse salt
2 egg whites
lemon and herbs are optional - I used rosemary, estragon and oregano

Mix the salt with the egg whites. Spread half of the salt mixture on a baking tray. Put 1-2 slices of lemon and some herbs inside the fish. Cover with the remaining salt and form something like a sarcophag us for each fish.
Put into preheated oven and bake at 225C for 20-25 minutes. When you take your fish out the oven they will look like this.
Hit the salt layer softly with a hammer or smth else a couple of times until it breaks into several bigger pieces.
Clear off the upper layer of salt and the skin. Carefully remove the flesh and serve with a little bit of olive oil and a salad.

středa 2. září 2009

The curry test

I was revising my pantry yesterday and came across 4 packs of instant curry paste. These aren’t the classic and basic Thai green, red and yellow curries. These are more special – Matsaman, Madras, Panaeng curries and the very special Korean Ottogi curry. Very special because I have never seen it before :)

I do use stuff like this sometimes when we need to eat something fast and I don’t want to indulge in any cooking. All you have to do with these is cut up some meat, roast the paste a bit, add meat and maybe some vegetables, add coconut milk and let simmer for a few minutes. The results vary though, from very acceptable to plain bad. Let’s give these 4 curries a go and find out whether it is possible to cook a palatable or even tasty quick meal from prefabricated stuff like that.
The first contestant is the Panaeng curry with chicken.
It did smell nice while the paste was being roasted. I added some green beans for colour and texture.

But tastewise it was just ok and I won't be buying it again. I had to add some fish sauce and quiet a lot of brown sugar to make it more interesting. It absolutely lacked the depth of flavour a curry should have. It’s described as „Mild“, but is rather medium hot. The coconut milk desintegrates into lots of fat when cooked too long and this is what happened in my case. I overcooked it a bit.
I would not have been happy if I was served this in a restaurant, but if you're come home hungry and exhausted it will do the trick for you. Don't expect any wonders though.