Our grandmothers knew…
…that soup warms you up when you return frozen from skiing or a winter stroll. Seasonal vegetables give you a lot of vitamins and fill you up properly. Traditional Czech soups include, for example, Krkonošské kyselo, a treat made from yeast, mushrooms, onions, eggs and potatoes, which has spread beyond its home region and become part of Czech national cuisine. Thick, winter soups make heavy use of pulses, chiefly peas, lentils and beans. Worth a try are traditional thick potato soup (bramboračka) and cream of pumpkin soup, especially if served in small, hollowed-out loaves.
Black pudding, svíčková and potato pancakes
When you’re looking for the best possible main course, don’t forget that pork feasts, wild game and hearty, old-Czech cuisine with filling dumplings served with diverse sauces are as much a part of the winter as Advent, Christmas and New Year. While wild game dishes, smelling of rosemary, bay leaf, juniper and thyme can be found in most restaurants, pork feast specialties can be found in a gourmet setting mainly in the form of finely prepared dishes, that you won’t see at a typical zabíjačka (feast following a pig-slaughtering). So don’t let yourself be conned and try and find places that’ll serve you ‘normal’ brawn, white pudding, black pudding, sausage meat and blood sausages – it’s really worth it!
The best of Czech
Another Czech national specialty is svíčková na smetaně, a delicious combination of tender beef, creamy sauce and light dumplings. You can also try the dozens of different types of potato pancake. While there are countless recipes for potato pancake, the base is always the same: a mixture of raw potato with a bit of flour, seasoned with marjoram and garlic.
Take your pick from leavened or unleavened fruit dumplings covered with a generous helping of melted butter, sugar- and cinnamon-coated potato pockets and carnival jam doughnuts. Have them as a dessert or main course; it’s up to you.
Something sweet to finish off
The classic Czech winter smells of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and ginger – all these scents can be found in the winter drinks guaranteed to warm you up. The best place to sample grog, griotte, punch and mulled wine are the Christmas markets; sample their unique atmosphere with a glass of something tasty in your hand! Some markets even have competitions for the best mulled wine, with over a hundred entries. And if you’re not into alcohol, take your pick from the excellent, thick hot chocolate or ‘mulled tea’, prepared using a mixture of fruits with the addition of sugar, lemon and spices.
Here’s a tip to finish off: your search for Czech specialties will be made easier by the www.czechspecials.cz website, where, apart from a wide range of typical Bohemian and Moravian dishes, you’ll also find a list of certified restaurants serving Czech national specialties!