Saturday, 20 December 2008

Czech Dinner for the Folks

In my last post I told you that I was planning to cook a typical Czech meal for my family. I did and I am pleased to say it was a great success. At the meal were my parents, my sister Anneliese, my sister Jane (pictured above eating another memorable Czech meal) and her husband and teenage daughters and of course my husband and son. Of those around the table only my parents had been unable to visit our Czech home and taste Czech food. Czech food tends to be much maligned - thought of as rich and stodgy, with lots of dumplings and sauerkraut. And whilst it is true that both dumplings and sauerkraut feature prominently in Czech cuisine, they are infinitely superior to those we get in the UK.

But I digress, back to the famous family meal: the menu consisted of a choice of two soups - wild mushroom and potato, a main course of Czech roasted shoulder of pork with red cabbage and potatoes and finished with a choice of tvaroh or apple strudel. With the exception of one niece who is a fussy eater, my guests ate everything put in front of them and then came back for more.

My mother was particularly taken with the Czech approach to cooking the pork and wanted to know how I had achieved meat which almost melted in the mouth. The answer is that having cut the pork into chunks, rubbed them with crushed garlic and caraway seeds, and placed them in a baking tray with roughly chopped onions, you add water to about an inch depth and cover with foil. You are effectively braising the pork, then you remove the foil cover and roast the meat until the water evaporates leaving a caramelised residue, to which further water is added to create the gravy.

I cannot comment on timings or amounts as the Czech cookery book I used gave neither, something you wouldn't get away with in an English book, you can't imagine Nigella or Delia doing that. But then that is exactly how my mum taught to me to cook and indeed it is how I cook now.

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