Czech it out: Bramboraks and plnene ovocne knedliky

Following our Austrian baking adventure, our next stop was to be the Czech Republic. Ash has been to Prague before, but just for the weekend on a stag do, and Miranda hasn’t visited the country at all (though it is on the list!), so our experience with Czech cuisine was pretty limited. And by limited, we mean non-existent. Initial internet searches didn’t prove very helpful in that regard, as we just kept getting the resounding warning that ‘Czech food isn’t diet food’ followed by advice to eat meat and dumplings.

Fortunately, Miranda has a Czech friend who was able to point us in the right direction, and as it turns out, the right direction is the direction of bramboraks (potato pancakes) and plnene ovocne knedliky (stuffed fruit dumplings). He prophesied that once we’d made and eaten these dishes, we’d want to quit our jobs immediately and move to the Czech Republic, which was taking things a little too far, but we certainly did enjoy eating them.

Both recipes come from Czechmate Diary, a helpful website for learning about all things Czech.

Bramboraks (potato pancakes)

Ingredients
3 large potatoes, peeled
1/2 egg (we halved a bigger recipe, so just beat the egg and tipped about half of it in)
5 cloves garlic, grated (yes – that much! This is a very garlicky recipe.)
1/8 cup milk, warmed
3/8 cup plain flour (another annoying quantity, sorry)
1/2 generous tsp dried marjoram
Pinch of salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Method
1. Grate the potatoes and pour the milk over them so they don’t go brown.
2. Add the garlic, egg, marjoram, salt and pepper and mix well. Gradually add the flour.
3. Pour part of the mixture, to your desired thickness and size, onto a hot and well-oiled frying pan. Repeat until the mixture is all gone.
4. Fry each side until golden brown, about 5 minutes each side.
Serves 2

Potato pancake mixture

Cooking potato pancakes

They fused together a bit...

They fused together a bit…

In an effort to stick with the ‘meat and potatoes’ style of meal, we served the pancakes with a pork fillet that we had sprinkled with black pepper and caraway seeds (popular Czech seasonings) and a salad, because it was summer and we were eating outside. Cooked vegetables would also work. It was also accompanied by a pint of Pilsner Urquell, apparently an essential ingredient.

Bramborak dinner

Simple though they are, we really enjoyed these. We were worried about the amount of garlic at first but it was nowhere near as overpowering as we expected. They weren’t quite enough to make us want to emigrate to the Czech Republic, but were good enough for us to want to make them again.

Plnene ovocne knedliky (stuffed fruit dumplings)

Ingredients
8 oz quark (ricotta cheese is fine as a substitute if you can’t get hold of quark)
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
Cut up strawberries (any fruit would work)
Melted butter, icing sugar and/or crème fraiche to serve

Method
1. Mix the quark, eggs and flour together and knead into a dough (we found that we had to make more flour to make it workable, as it was too sticky otherwise).
2. Form the dough into a cylinder and slice it up into slices about 1 inch thick (not knowing the intended size of the cylinder was difficult, but we kept it fairly skinny).
3. Roll out (or tease out, in our case, thanks to the sticky dough) each slice into a circle 1/4 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter (approximately…)
4. Fill with strawberries, seal well and form round dumplings.
5. Boil in water until they float to the surface (about 5-8 minutes).
6. Top with melted butter, icing sugar and/or crème fraiche to serve.
Serves 2 generously

Boiling dumplings

Dumplings with butter, icing sugar and creme fraiche

Inside strawberry dumplings

That part of step 4 that says ‘seal well and form round dumplings’ seems innocuous but is a good bit harder than it sounds! Watching a video on how to do this properly before we started might have been a good move here, as we had lots of little bits of strawberry trying to escape, and the end result was very thick and stodgy on one side and much fruitier on the other. They did taste nice, and Ash sang the praises of the melted butter topping, but I don’t think we’d attempt them again without being shown how to do it properly.

After not having a clue what to cook, we count our Czech experiment as a pretty successful one on the whole. Our next country is Poland and we’ve decided it’s high time we made another cake: the rather intriguingly named ‘mouldy cake’, to be precise. If the pictures in the recipes are anything to go by, this could be the one time we’ll be glad to see ‘mould’ in the house. Stay tuned!

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