The Potato – A Favourite Side-Dish or the Basis of Others

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The Potato – A Favourite Side-Dish or the Basis of Others

From the Americas, the potato arrived in the Czech lands during the 17th century, initially as a botanical curiosity ornamenting the gardens of the nobility. Nonetheless, in the next century the humble tuber managed to assimilate itself with perfection, forming an irreplaceable part of the Czech diet such that now hardly anyone can believe that it hasn’t been grown here “forever”. 

A Different Name for the Potato in Each Region 

For many years, the Czech potato consisted of a variety imported from abroad. By the start of the 19th century, though, the first endemic varieties bred in the Czech lands saw the light of day. At that time, this foodstuff had up to 30 different names in popular use, many of which have persisted in regional dialects to this day: “erteple”, “zemáky”, “grumbíry”, “kobzole” or “kartofle” alongside the standard “brambory”.

Indeed, potatoes have achieved sufficient popularity on the Czech dinner-table that they have gained their own festival: the annual “Potato Fest” in Bystřice pod Hostýnem. Involved in this event, full of special potato dishes, cooking shows, workshops and competitions, are dozens of restaurants from across the Czech Republic, creating special “potato menus” for the celebration. 

Have You Ever Roasted Potatoes in the Fire?

One of the tastiest methods of preparing potatoes is the ancient recipe of placing them, still in their rinds, amid the hot ashes of a dying fire. They are left there until the rinds turn black, giving the roasted insides the right, slightly salty “smoked” taste.
Potatoes can be served simply as the accompaniment to many dishes, yet they can also form the basis for a culinary achievement of their own, with a bit of imagination. In Czech cuisine, one such refinement of the tuber is to mix them, cooked and grated, with flour for potato dumplings, or to grate them raw for fried potato pancakes. Or they can even assume a sweet form as “škubánky” – sweetened dumplings served with poppy-seeds and sugar. 
These and other potato specialities can be found in many restaurants. However, only a few can present potato pancakes, or potato dumplings stuffed with ham, in such a fine form as Hotel V Nebi, a certified “Czech Specials” restaurant in the village of Josefův Důl, in the heart of the Jizera Mountains. 

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