Pheasant in wine sauce

In autumn people always used to change their diet: they were eating less fresh fruit and vegetables, replacing them with heavy meals with high nutritive value, thick soups, pickled vegetables and – last but not least – venison. Especially richer bourgeois families used to prepare venison fairly frequently. Famous Czech cookery book by M. D. Rettigová contains a large variety of different recipes to prepare pheasant, partridge, wild duck, grouse, as well as hare or doe. After 1918, French cuisine spread in the newly established independent Czechoslovakia, with traditional cookery book by Rettigová started to be replaced by more up-to date Book of Budget and Recipes (Kniha rozpočtů a kuchařských předpisů) by Marie Janků-Sandtnerová. Published for the first time in 1925, it became so popular to have seen more than 70 editions until now. However, it includes only one pheasant recipe. 
Venison has always played an important role for Czech cuisine – and no wonder, in a country characterized by numerous forests and meadows abounding in game. It is a real shame that we made it disappear from our tables and replaced it with sauces and goulash, taking these for traditional Czech meals, the more despite venison availability all year round, compared to just few months in the past!
In addition to its delicious taste, pheasant meat is also high in nutrients, being very low in fat and rich in antioxidants. Moreover, as pheasants spend most of their lives in forests and fields, their meat can be taken for organic!

Czech dumplings

Dumplings as side dish
One of the most popular side dish in Czech cuisine, dumplings, are also typical for Austrian or Bavarian cuisine, their smaller version, known as gnocchi, is also found in Italian, Hungarian or Slovenian cuisine and Slovakian halušky are their close relative.
In the past, dumplings were not only a side dish, but mainly in poorer areas they were served as main course, giving rise to regional specialties such as potato dumplings varieties known in South Bohemia as drbáky, in the Šumava Mountains (Bohemian Forest) as bosáky, or a sweet version served with poppy seed, prepared in Moravian Wallachia and called šulánky.
Nowadays, dumplings demonstrate unhealthy and rich-in-calories character of Czech cuisine. However, nutritional consultants do not criticize their high level of calories but rather warn against usage of white flour, emphasizing, as for all meals, proper balance of nutrients and reasonable servings. Therefore, if you do not place dumplings all around your plate and do not eat them daily with a large portion of sauce, there is no reason to avoid them.

Easter stuffing (nádivka)

Despite the fact that Easter Monday falls this year on 1 April, we have included traditional Easter stuffing (nádivka) recipe for March. And why? Simply because we cannot wait any longer! Moreover, according to a folk saying, something green should be on the table already on Green Thursday – why not a herb-filled stuffing? 
Generally, Easter is associated with a number of traditional meals: Kaiserschmarn (trhance) on Ugly Wednesday (the food was supposed to look "ugly" and not as planned), something green for Green Thursday (using ingredients such as parsley, spinach and young nettles), on Great Friday, fasting day, people ate fish or thick soups and on White Saturday Easter stuffing (nádivka) and sweet bun (mazanec) were baked. On Easter Sunday, which is the culmination of Easter celebration, there were not only various pastry, buns, judases (jidáše) or meal made of peas, pučálky, but also meat broth and roasted meat, and, last but not least, sweet Easter lamb (beránek) as dessert, replacing a real lamb that was for many families unaffordable. Easter Monday menu consisted mainly of egg dishes, egg symbolizing rebirth. And another Easter stuffing was baked.
There are many regional names as well a large variety of recipes for Easter stuffing, though all of them agree in using spring herbs (fresh nettles, parsley, chives, spinach or glecchoma). Traditionally, the stuffing was made with three types of meat – pork, mutton, rabbit, lamb, goat or veal (meat from veal head gave rise to another name of the meal – little head (hlavička)). Sometimes even offal was added, though there are also meatless recipes, e.g. with mushroom. The most traditional stuffing is the one prepared with smoked meat and fresh herbs, as you can try using our recipe.

Roast feast goose

Probably everyone is familiar with the old Bohemian proverb about St. Martin arriving on white horse; a day when field works finish and wintertime begins. But not so many already know how lively and cheerful that feast used to be and that it gave rise to another saying: “On St. Martin Day smoke is coming out of the chimney”. Yet another saying warns that those who do not taste St. Martin goose that day will starve for the whole next year.
Indeed, St. Martin Day menu was dominated by goose – besides roasted goose there was also kaldoun (special soup with goose giblets) and famous goose liver. Traditionally, roast goose used to be made with caraway and cabbage (a recipe which has remained until present). According to another old Bohemian recipe goose can also be stuffed with apples, as you might see below. 
Besides, St. Martin Day is also winemakers’ feast, marking the end of wine harvest. Moreover, it is the time when young wine has become mature and is ready to be tasted; with first bottle opened traditionally on 11 November at 11 a.m. Winemakers from Bohemia and Moravia have been observing this tradition, making even a new one in joining St. Martin feast with St. Martin wine tasting. After all, this is most convenient, with young wine being a perfect match to roast duck, its higher acidity facilitating digestion.

Mushroom and hulled grain “Kuba”

Christmas, feast of abundance, used to be marked with fasting on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve only meatless dishes or fish were eaten, though the evening menu consisted of nine courses ‑ including apples, dried fruit or nuts in poorer families. While nowadays common fried carp has not been on Christmas tables for a long time, sweet braided bread (vánočka) and mushroom kuba (houbový kuba) have had a long tradition back in the past.
Hulled grain, basic ingredient of kuba, used to be an ordinary part of our ancestors’ diet, nowadays replaced by rice and eaten only at Christmas in this traditional kuba, with many people not eating it at all. It is a pity, as hulled grain is both healthy and delicious and kuba might be prepared also during the year, even with fresh mushrooms. Meatless dish, it can be served also as Christmas Day lunch with no worries of breaking the tradition of fasting and thus not seeing traditional golden pig in the evening.  

Wild boar with rosehip sauce

“Buchteln“, or yeast buns, with plum-jam and quark

February is the peak time of Masopust, Shrovetide or Carnival season featuring pig-slaughters, festivities with mask parades and plates full of donuts and buchteln, traditional Czech yeast buns. This three-week period takes place between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, a day marking the beginning of a 40-day Lent Season before Easter.
The period culminates during the last three days, time of great feasting. People have to enjoy plentiful supply of good food before the upcoming Lent period. The festivity starts on Shrove Sunday with a generous lunch, traditionally including meat dishes, such as jitrnice (liverwurst), sausages and bacon, pastries like fried donuts or “boží milosti” (God’s grace) and, last but not least, plum brandy to make you feel warm. Dancing balls used to be organized on Shrove Monday, followed by mask processions on Tuesday. At midnight the revelry time was over and Lent period began, with meat dishes replaced by lentils, bread, eggs and potatoes.
The tradition of merry mask parades, or Shrovetide processions, has continued in some regions until these days. Since 2010, mask parades held annually in the villages of Hlinecko region became part of UNESCO World Heritage, the aim being to preserve the intangible cultural heritage of local people. In other parts these traditions have nearly disappeared, though during this time most people still enjoy easting traditional jitrnice (liverwurst) and buchteln (yeast buns), considering them integral part of this period of carnival festivities.

Fried carp with potato salad

While mushroom kuba is by many people looked down on, fried carp with potato salad is served as Christmas menu in the majority of Czech families. After all, it has been the most common Christmas tradition, besides Christmas tree decoration – though both of them rather recent, originating from mid-19th century.
Fried carp and potato salad is recommended as fasting meal already in a well-know cookery book Domácí kuchařka by Magdalena Dobromila Rettigová, published for the first time in 1826 (with many later editions, the latest one dating from 2004). However, besides carp and salad, it offers five menus consisting of eight to fourteen courses including crayfish, eel, pike, shell, frog or snails. And what did her potato salad recipe look like? Apart from potatoes, onion, egg, vinegar and oil, used in its modern version as well, it included “various leftovers from any meals”, such as cold roast veal, ham, smoked tongue, poultry, salted herring, anchovy, bean or cauliflower and, last but not least, first-class olive oil. But don’t worry, ingredients for our recipe are not so hard to be found...

Roast beef on chanterelles

Quark dumplings filled with strawberries

Czech cuisine is characteristic of having a number of sweet meals, the Czechs enjoy not only as a dessert, but also as a main course, such as žemlovka (apple bread pie with quark and raisins), pancakes, crepes and, last but not least, traditional fruit-filled dumplings. While foreigners might be surprised being served a sweet dumpling, for most of the Czechs it is the taste of their childhood. Moreover, there is a whole range of different types of dumplings: plums are a perfect match for potato dough, apricots for cream puff dough, blueberries for yeast dough and strawberries... for quark dough!
Strawberry season starts in May and lasts until June. Though strawberries grown in greenhouses can be purchased all year round, their taste and smell is absolutely incomparable to those planted in small gardens and fields. You will enjoy them especially in simple and easy recipes, such as the following one. Remember not to cook your dumplings for too long time to keep the strawberries firm and juicy. 

Beef sirloin with cream sauce (svíčková omáčka)

What do you think of at a notion of a “typical Czech meal”? No matter what exactly, beef sirloin with cream sauce will definitely rank in top 5, which might also be the reason why there have been so passionate debates about the “one and only” real recipe.
The main bone of contention lies in the type of meat to be used – whether it has to be only beef sirloin (called svíčková in Czech), or whether other meat cuts are also possible, as using beef sirloin for long stewing is a bit of waste. This is connected to disputes about the true name of the meal; should it be called simply svíčková omáčka (sauce) svíčková na smetaně (sirloin with cream sauce)? Supporters of the former version think of a vegetable sauce that used to be served to craftsmen by their supervisor’s wife before they went home for winter. And as the dinner was served in the evening and the room was lit by candles (candle meaning svíčka in Czech), the sauce started to be called svíčková. Their opponents refer to famous Czech cookery books by Anuše Kejřová or Marie Janků-Sandtnerová, both of them using uniquely real sirloin meat cut to be roasted with the vegetables.
Yet another heated discussions concern the very preparation – whether the meat should be roasted separately or stewed together with vegetables, whether the sauce should be seasoned with mustard and whether it should be mixed with a blender or pressed through a sieve. In short, as one can see, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. At least there are no arguments as to using bread dumplings as a side dish...

Fruit pie with almond crumble

If a competition was announced what is the most frequently baked dessert in Czech families, the winner would definitely be fruit cake with crumble, especially in the summer! Sometimes in a round-shaped form and called pie, sometimes a cake spread on a baking tray, garnished with plums, blueberries, currant, cherries, apricots, strawberries or raspberries. No matter how it is called and how it looks like, the result is always the best way how to make use of excessive summer fruit harvest.  
Nowadays, restaurants prefer serving various ice-cream sundaes, tiramisu or chocolate cakes to traditional Czech pies – therefore, if you feel like finishing your lunch with this kind of fruity dessert, you will have to look around where it is offered. Or, you might also make it easier thanks to our website and enjoy its taste even without having to wait in front of heated oven.
Almond crumble is a recipe from Krkonoše region (Giant Mountains) and suits best to blueberries, though being as perfect match to plums as is poppy seed. 

Roasted pork knee with dark beer sauce

One of the most famous beer worldwide, Czech beer is protected geographical indication under the EU scheme, indication that can be granted only to beers produced in a brewery located in the Czech Republic and made of strictly defined Czech ingredients, using yeast cells of so-called bottom-fermentation and technologies typical of Czech beer production. After all, it is the bottom-fermentation that is characteristic of Czech beer, making it brighter in colour, fuller in taste and giving it its typical bitter aftertaste.
Beer production is said to have started in Mesopotamia, though beer used to be brewed also in Sumer, Babylonia or ancient Egypt. But beer brewing has had a long tradition also on our territory, dating back to Gallic tribe of the Boii and the Slaves in times of mythological Grandfather Čech. Thanks to the Malt Guilds supervising beer quality as well as controlling who was brewing the beer, Czech beer was of a very good quality already in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it was in the Czech countries, in the town of Brno, that the first Brewery school in Europe was founded, on the initiative of F.O. Poupě, local Czech brewmaster. 
Nevertheless, the vital year for beer, as we know it today, came in 1842. In a newly founded Citizens’ Brewery (Měšťanský pivovar), nowadays called Prazdroj, in Pilsen, a brewmaster Josef Groll managed to produce a really unique beer by means of bottom fermentation. Just half a year later, first Pilsner beer house with this beer was established in Prague. Tradition of this restaurant, called U Pinkasů, has lived until today, as has the tradition of great beer. The only thing that nearly disappeared is the tradition of seasonal hop harvesting...
The origins of roasted pork knee recipe give rise to disputes between the Czech and the Bavarians. “Schweinhaxe”, as the latter call it, is served with dumplings and cabbage or with sauerkraut and potatoes. However, in Bavaria they do not wash it down with the best beer on the world! No matter you make the pork knee at home or order it in a cozy restaurant, beer is the best match to it. 

Wedding pastry

June is the peak wedding season – weddings in May are said to bring bad luck, in July there is risk of thunderstorms and bad weather and in August it might be too hot or too windy. No wonder many couples prefer June connected with fair and stable weather.
Weddings are usually associated with a number of traditions – the most common being wedding pastry preparation. This is most frequently organized by the bride’s mother, often in company with grandmothers and friends. However, the bride herself should not participate in baking, otherwise her marriage will be doomed to hardship and crying babies.
There are several types of wedding pastry – to announce the upcoming wedding, invite to it and those offered as gifts wedding guests take home after the ceremony. Moreover, the pastry includes special “corner” pieces – some say it is because they are baked in the corner of the baking tray, others because of their square shape and different filling in each corner. According to a popular saying, those who eat a corner pastry shall marry within a year. In Moravia, the pastry used to vary significantly in size – from very tiny ones to large pieces that had to be carried by two men. In Doudleby region there were two-tier cakes, in Chodsko region they featured rosemary twig in the middle. 
Filled with at least three types of fillings, the pastry can vary significantly in dough (butter-based, yeast or rolled), they can be filled, with crumble, double filling, etc... It is important to not to spare on ingredients and, above all, really enjoy the baking!

Kyselo - sour and mushroom soup from Krkonoše Region

Fast preparation, hot sour taste and richness in vitamins – those are characteristic features of the queen of soups from Krkonoše region (Giant Mountains). Evidence of its popularity among local people is confirmed by a local saying: “People used to get up with kyselo and go to bed with kyselo”. Basic ingredients are “partridges shot with a hoe”. Don’t worry you do not find them – it is potatoes!

Chodsko-style pastry

Kulajda, dill and mushroom soup with poached eggs from Šumava Region

Czechs are reputed mushroom lovers. In contrast to other countries, they are allowed to take as many mushrooms from the forest as they find. Indeed, mushroom meals have been really traditional in this country, as is forest fruit picking – most of the Czechs remember from their childhood trips to the forest to pick mushrooms as well as raspberries or blueberries. Thanks to this habit Czechs usually have no problems identifying at least the most common species of edible mushrooms, to say nothing about using them in a variety of delicious meals. 
Kulajda, thick soup, is prepared according to various recipes all over the country, from Šumava region (Bohemian Forest) to Krkonoše region (Giant Mountains), central Moravia or the Jeseníky Mountains, where potatoes tend to be cooked separately, with the soup poured over them on the plates. Not only every region, but also every family has its own recipe, some prefer the soup creamy and sweet-tasting, others really acid. Why don’t you also try some recipe? September is an ideal time for it, marking the peak of mushroom season!
This soup tastes great not only in the summer when prepared out of fresh mushrooms, but also in winter times with dried mushrooms.

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