středa 23. prosince 2009

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy the holidays everyone! :-)

Chicken and duck liver pâté

A classic appetizer that looks good on the festive table and is also very easy to prepare. It's not something you would eat often, as it's very rich, but Christmas is the time to treat ourselves. Rabbit liver is also very good in pâté. This pâté is very basic and general, you can use only one kind of liver and also other herbs, the recipe is appliable to a wide range of ingredients.

750gr of chicken and duck liver - 50/50
2 small shallots
200gr of butter
120ml of cognac, marc or brandy
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1 cup of whipping cream
Salt, pepper

Carefully wash and clean the liver, cut off any hard parts and cut each liver into about 3-4 pieces. Pour half of the cognac over the liver and let stand for an hour. In a heavy pan melt about 100gr of butter and sauté the shallots that you have cut into thin rings until they become soft. Add the liver along with the thyme leaves and sauté for about 10 minutes on medium flame, stirring occasionally. Pour in the leftover cognac, season with salt and pepper. After about 2 minutes turn off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Pop the whole lot into a food processor, add the cream and blend until completely smooth. Pour the pâté into serving bowls. Melt the leftover butter and pour over the pâté. Decorate with bay leaf, peppercorns or thyme. Let cool in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Serve with bread and cranberry sauce or jam.

čtvrtek 17. prosince 2009

Milléme pâtisserie boulangerie café

About once or twice a month I make my way to Jířího s Poděbrad, for work. When I do, I almost always stop by at Aromi la Bottega, but this time I was going to visit a nearby French style bakery called Milléme. Brewsta, whom I’m a huge fan of, wrote up a review on this place and I wanted to visit it for ages. I was quite busy and so I just grabbed a few things to take home.

The selection wasn't as big as I expected but the stuff looked very good. I was surprised to see macarons!

Tahiti (59kc)
My favourite probably. The cream has a very pronounced and refreshing qumquat flavour. The spongecake is fluffy and very good.

Noisette (69kc)
No pastry here, it's a combination of two very delicate creams, almost like a souffle.

Chocoline (59kc)
Soft layers of sponge cake and a very light chocolate cream. Nice.

Apple tart (40kc)
Crispy, and thin pastry on the bottom and lots of thin apple slices. The apples were soft but not mushy and kept their shape well, which is always good. It had just the right amount of cinammon and was not too sweet.

6 different mini macarons (140kc)
They were alright, not the best I've ever eaten. Some of them may have sat around for too long, but the pink and green ones were delicious. They only offered packages of macarons, not individual ones.

I haven't seen any regular cakes (big ones) on offer, the selection is limited to individual sized desserts, fruit tarts and puff pastries. Milléme also offers French style breads and baguettes, sandwiches, quiches and other savoury stuff for takeaway. The eat in menu offers salads, ommelets and other small dishes. The prices range significantly. A chocolate and nut slice of some kind that costed 59kc stood next to one that looked almost the same but costed 99kc. A medium sized baguette costs 28kc and it looked very appetizing. Breads cost around 50-70kc.
Everything I bought was very good and totally worth the prices, I was even surprised it wasn't more expensive. I would recommend their desserts to anyone. However, I haven't tried anything from the regular menu.

úterý 15. prosince 2009

Salmon with a miso, maple syrup and soy sauce glaze

This recipe emerged by accident when I had a beautiful salmon fillet and did not want to cook like I mostly do, with olive oil and herbs. Initially I wanted to marinate it in miso, soy sauce and honey, but we had no honey inhouse. I grabbed maple syrup instead and the other ingredients were added in the process. The result was delicious and it may well become my new favourite way to cook salmon, although next time I will let it marinate for a few hours longer.

Salmon - 500gr in this case
2 teaspoons of light miso paste
4 teaspoons of lime juice
2 teaspoons of maple syrup - or more if you're into sweet, caramelly tastes
1-2 teaspoons of regular soy sauce - be careful here as the miso is quite salty
sesame and chives for garnish - supposed to serve a mere decorational puspose but proved to fit in very well tastewise
You can always adjust the marinade to you personal liking, by tasting it!

Blend all liquid ingredients and the miso together and pour half of the marinade over the salmon pieces. Leave to stand in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours. Put on the grill function in your oven and heat it up onto 200C. Place the fish onto a baking tray and cook under the grill for 7-12 minutes, depending on how thick the fillets are. Smear the fish generously with the marinade you set aside for 2-3 times.
Serve with rice or any other side.

Mussel night in Vozovna Stromovka

I don't like writing negative stuff and I avoid it at all cost when it's avoidable. This time it’s not and the bad thing is that I actually liked this place before. The place has major organization problems it must adress as soon as possible. There were only 2 waiters, but the place is not that big! There was also a gentleman in a white shirt wandering around and looking very important, something like a manager probably. I’ll come back to him later.

It all started the very moment we came in. I have reserved a table about 3 weeks ago, but they had no note of our reservation. I’ve made the reservation via email and got a confirmation. They looked in the computer and in the diary, our name wasn’t there. They were apologetic and reacted promptly by bringing in a table and 2 chairs from outside. BTW the place was fully booked; if they hadn’t come up with bringing in the table, we would have been turned away. The furniture is hard plastic and it’s obvious that the chairs were ice cold for another 30 minutes, I had to sit on my jacket. The waiter seated us, smiled and walked away not to return for 15 minutes. He hasn’t given us menus, hasn’t taken our orders, nothing. Husband walked to the bar and got us the menus. About 10 minutes after that the smiley and actually quite pleasant waiter came along and took our orders. We ordered 2 different Belgian beers, 2 kinds of mussels, French fries and 3 oysters.

Do you see the menu above? It quoted the prices for 1, 3 and 6 oysters, just as the official menu I was sent did. We’re absolutely not into oysters and just wanted to sample 2 pieces for the sake of it. But our waiter promptly told us that we could only order 3 or 6. He couldn’t answer why they quoted the price for singular oysters. We were “forced” to order 3. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not about money, it’s about the principle.

We waited and waited for our beers. A woman with a teenage boy and a baby that came in after us and who was obviously friends with the “manager” was served food earlier than we were served our drinks!!! We arrived at 7 p.m. and were served our first beers at 7.45 p.m, I’m not joking. Husband wanted to get up and leave, but knowing how much I wanted the mussels he stepped on his pride.

The beer was alright and although pricy (at 49-55kc for ¼ litre) we kinda enjoyed it. I think they only had those 3 Belgian beers on tap this night, I haven’t seen anyone drinking any other kind of beer.

The oysters were served on a spectacular plate with pebbles. As I said, we’re not really into oysters, but I quite liked those. They were meaty and smelled good, I ate the two of them. Husband still hates oyster BTW. The menu said that these were Belon oysters. Belon oysters are a delicacy and expensive, because the French AOC standard says that they should only be harvested in a certain region along the Belon river. Was this the case here? I don’t know, but hey were round like Belon oysters should be, and not oval like the usual oysters.

The mussels, steamed in wine and steamed in Leffe beer.
There was lots of them, probably more than the ½ kg quoted in the menu. So there are plus points for the portion size. They were very fresh, plus points for that too. But, the majority of them was half raw!!! We felt like idiots. I mean, I have eaten mussels for dozens, maybe hundreds of times but I’ve never been to Belgium and so I thought that maybe this is the way they are eaten there. For me, a mussel should be fully open, the majority of those was only half open and their shells were so brittle that it was a real problem opening them up without cutting yourself. They were slimy inside and you could not peel them away from the shell in one piece, they tore apart, revealing their slimy and unattractive guts. I thought that they were tasty, but something was terribly wrong with the texture.
As I looked around, I saw several other people showing each other the opened mussels and shaking their heads while wondering whether this is right. Husband ate about 10 or 12 of them, proclaimed them disgusting and stuck to the fries. I kept eating the mussels, picking out those that were more or less cooked. Yeah, I’m desperate. I still regret not having made a photo of one of the partially raw mussels. What a horrible waste of good quality raw material. It is necessary to mention that the place is obviously owned by the same owner as the Les Moules restaurant. The name means mussels and it’s a fairly upscale Belgian beer restaurant specializing in mussels. Funny, huh?

Oh, the fries were great! Crispy on the outside and soft inside. The mustardy mayo was good too.

There was a number of other very annoying things, like the fact that we weren’t served bowls for empty shells, napkins, bowls of lemon water, we got the first two after we asked but never got the latter. Most other tables had to ask for those things too. The staff constantly forgot to bring us our drinks and had very stupid excuses for it. We weren’t asking for any excuses but the waiter felt that he had to comment on the missing beer with “Oh, I draught it but I forgot for whom it was! Hahaha” WTF? Just say “Sorry, I forgot about your order.”

But, what about the guy in the white shirt? He constantly kept returning to the table with the woman, the teenager and the baby. He asked them if everything was alright for at least 5 times, but totally and absolutely ignored the other 10 tables. He kept walking in and out from somewhere in the back and even though he clearly saw that the waiters had a hard time doing their job, he never helped them.

Now, I know this is all our fault. We should have complained about the service, sent back the food etc etc, but when it comes to it I’m always too shy to do it, as are most people around me. This is utterly and absolutely wrong and it’s about time we start doing something about this attitude of ours. I hereby promise to send back the next overcooked steak or non aldente pasta I get at a restaurant!

At least it wasn’t an expensive dinner. The mussels were 145kc each and if they had been good it would have been a major bargain.
But will I ever return for a thematic dinner at this place? Never!

sobota 12. prosince 2009


It’s cold and ugly outside. Time for a hearty soup.

Shurpa is a general name for soup in the cuisines of Central Asia. In Europe, lamb soups are not very popular, yet in Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan and most importantly Uzbekistan, lamb soups are cooked to perfection.
Shurpa is not really a soup in the European sense, it’s rather a main course, like Vietnamese Pho. Shurpa is a very rich and mildly spicy stock with tender meat and vegetables.


Lamb – 0.7kg, mixed bones and meat
2 tomatoes, cut into big pieces – I know it’s winter! But try to get some good ones
2 onions
2 carrots
2 bell peppers, cut into big pieces

2 chillis
4-5 whole, peeled potatoes – waxy and firm ones
1 whole bulb, unpeeled bulb of garlic – just peel off the most dry, outer layer
fresh basil – about 2-3 stems
black peppercorns
whole cumin seeds – a generous pinch, crush it with your fingers a bit

I am no claiming that this is the ultimate and authentic recipe, it’s not. First of all, the lamb is absolutely different here. Secondly, the vegetables aren’t as ripe and sweet, especially in winter. And finally, experts would say that this dish, just like most other central Asian dishes, should be cooked in a big cauldron called qozon, over open fire. But were not in Samarkand, so we will be cooking it in a cast iron pot, on a stove.
The chillies must be absolutely intact, otherwise you’ll end up with a fiery hot soup. Those who want their soup to be spicier can always scrape out some of the cooked chilli into their bowl!
You might use powdered cumin instead of whole seeds, but seeds are preferable. If you don’t have any cumin cook something else, it’s absolutely and utterly necessary.
Experts on shurpa, plov, manty and other central Asian dishes know which part of the lamb is good for each dish. I will not go into details because I’m not one of those experts. Just take some part that has both, bones and meat and also some fat. You definitely do need bones and please, do not cook your shurpa with expensive stuff like sirloin, chops etc. Take meat from the leg or the shoulder.
Cooking is very simple. Put the meat into a pot and add about 2.5 litres of water, bring to boil and skim the foam that forms. Add the other ingredients, cover and simmer on low heat for about 3 hours. Check the soup occasionally and remove any foam that might form. Season with salt.
Shurpa should actually be served in two bowls, one with the stock and one with the meat and vegetables, I didn’t do that this time. Make sure every bowl contains all ingredients.

It’s a great pity that Central Asian cuisine is not known in Europe. Especially Uzbek cuisine is one of the most complex, unique, and sophisticated cuisines in the world. It’s a cuisine completely dedicated to meat and it makes the best out of it, combining it with spices and vegetables that have been grown in a land where the sun always shines. It takes great pride in perfect ingredients, but uses up every last nasty bit at the same time.

neděle 6. prosince 2009

Mussels steamed in wine

Have I mentioned that I love mussels? :-) Yeah, they're my favourite food. This is another classic recipe and it's extremely simple.


1 kg of mussels - cleaned
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1 stem of celery
1 red chilli
fresh thyme
1/5 litre of good white wine
olive oil

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a big pot or deep pan and heat it, add the chopped shallots, garlic, celery and chilli. Roast for about 3-5 minutes on a medium flame. Throw in the thyme and mussels, pour in the wine, raise the heat to maximum and cover. After 3 minutes or after all of the mussels have opened season with a tiny bit of salt and serve with a crispy baguette. A little chopped parsley garnish on top looks nice.
That's all I need to be happy.

BTW we reserved a table for the mussel night in Vozovna Stromovka this Friday, so more mussels are coming up this week I hope! There is still a possibility that we will have to cancel it though