Cooking with Czech Ingredients

Give your meals a Bohemian twist

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 12.04.2010 12:31 (updated on 12.04.2010)

There’s more to Czech food than dumplings, meat and gravy. Experiment a little with these three fun ingredients:

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Brynza – a soft cheese made from sheep´s milk. You can find it in most Czech supermarkets by the cream cheeses. It’s the Slovak answer to feta and infuses any pasta dish with a Greek note. Try this quick dish for a weeknight dinner:

Spinach and Cheese Pasta

  • 300g fresh Spinach
  • 500g pasta (I like the seafood shaped kind, but any sturdier variety is fine)
  • 200g brynza
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start with a bit of prep:
Stem and wash the spinach, finely chop your onions and garlic, and squeeze the lemon’s juice. Once that´s done, start boiling the water for the pasta. At the same time, you can heat the oil in a frying pan. Once it´s hot add the onions and fry them until they look glassy. Add the spinach and juice from the lemon. Once the spinach has wilted, you want to add the brynza, little by little. Give it a stir every once in a while to incorporate the cheese into the sauce.

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It will need more moisture at this point, and your pasta is probably boiling. There´s nothing better than pasta cooking water to add to sauces. I used a ladle to collect some of it in a cup and just kept adding it to the sauce.

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Add salt and pepper, drain your pasta and voila – you´ve just made Greek style pasta dish using the most Slovak of ingredients.

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Brynza is a great all-rounder. Mix it up with some herbs and spices for a great, savory cheese dip. Add it to lasagna instead of/or with the ricotta if you want to give your lasagna a bit of an edge. You can also use it in place of feta in salad – just crumble brynza over your salad with a spoon. And for really lazy nights, just mixing pasta with brynza can be quite delicious. I´ve also made great spinach and brynza strudels using pre-made phylo dough that´s available at all the bigger supermarkets.

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Dumpling Dough

Enough said. Note we’re using houskový knedlík.

Dumpling Stir Fry

  • Half an onion
  • 1 egg
  • 150g dumpling dough
  • 3-5 slices bacon (anglická slanina will do)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter (depending on how crispy you want this, the crispier, the more fat you will need)
  • Parsley (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Start by finely chopping the onions, slicing your bacon and cubing the dumpling dough. Then melt the butter. First, add onions and bacon and fry for about 3 minutes. Add the dumpling cubes and fry until they are crispy enough. Crack the egg open over the pan and start stirring away, as if you were scrambling eggs. Add parsley if you´re feeling fancy. This serves two as a side or part of a brunch or one person for a big portion.

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Other things you can do with dumpling dough (though admittedly, this is the least versatile of the ingredients)

Beat two to three eggs and coat slices of dumpling in the egg mixture. Fry in a pan with olive oil and serve with a tomato salad. You don´t always have to serve dumplings with traditional Czech meat dishes and gravy. Adding them as a side to any meat and vegetable dinner is a great substitute for potatoes or rice. You can steam slices of dumpling or fry them with butter or oil.

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Tvaroh and Poppyseed

It’s not cream cheese, it’s not sour cream, not yoghurt either. Hard to describe, but tvaroh is a really interesting dairy ingredient. Poppy seeds plays an important role in many Czech cakes and cookies and you can find both items in virtually any grocery store or večerka.

Tvaroh and Poppy Seed Pancakes

  • For the pancakes:
  • 100g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml milk
  • 20g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon soda water (optional)
  • vegetable oil for frying


For the filling:

  • 30g poppy seeds
  • 125g tvaroh
  • 75g mascarpone
  • 20-40g sugar
  • lemon juice and vanilla powder (optional)


Make the filling first:

Beat tvaroh, mascarpone, sugar, poppy seeds, vanilla and lemon until combined.  Refrigerate until you´ve made the pancakes.

For the pancakes:

Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar, salt and soda water. Beat with a hand mixer (if you have one, otherwise you’ll need a bit of muscle power) until the dough looks bubbly.

Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. Once it´s hot, add a ladle of pancake dough and fry till it looks like this:

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Then flip the pancake and fry the other side for a few minutes.

Remove it from the pan, add the filling to the pancake and serve. This recipe makes 2-4 pancakes, depending on thickness.

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Other stuff with tvaroh and poppy seeds:

The filling is great on its own; refrigerate it for a few hours prior to serving and top with chopped chocolate if you like. If you´re a poppy seed fanatic like me, even adding a spoonful to vanilla yoghurt will seem like a good idea to jazz up a snack. Try it, I think it’s great. There even used to be a poppy seed and marzipan yoghurt available on the German market a few years ago.

You can also add poppy seeds to the actual pancake dough (experiment by adding one teaspoon at a time until your dough is spotted with seeds but not overpowered by them) and serve your poppy seed pancakes with lemon or vanilla ice cream.

As far as tvaroh is concerned… where do I start? I love herbed tvaroh with potatoes, and it´s such an easy meal to make. Just add some spices, fresh herbs and a bit of olive oil to tvaroh, and salt and pepper, of course, and boil some potatoes. For a thicker tzatziki, I used tvaroh instead of yoghurt. Chopping up some fruit and nuts and mixing them with tvaroh and honey makes for a healthy and cheap afternoon snack. I also like spreading tvaroh on a slice of dark bread, such as German pumpernickel, and covering it with chopped chives.

But whatever you make, dobrou chut´ and have fun cooking!