Svíčková is the queen of Czech cuisine, at least in my heart and mind. It´s one of the trademarks of our culture, so to say. You can find it on the menu of almost any restaurant that serves typical Czech food. Do I need to say that I have many happy memories connected to it? Although normally it is heavy with milk cream, this version tastes almost exactly as the one of my childhood – that´s pure magic!
Credits for the recipe go to Dagmar Lužná – you can find it in her cookbook.
You will need 2 large carrots, 2 large parsley roots, 2 large onions and a smaller piece of celery root, all vegetables should be cut into larger chunks. Spread 3 tbsp of sesame oil on the bottom of a pot, place the veggies inside and cover with water so that they are submerged. Sprinkle with salt, add 2 bay leaves, 3 pieces of allspice, 3 cloves, 3 pieces of juniper and 3 tbsp of ume plum vinegar. Simmer on a low flame until the vegetables are soft. Transfer to a blender and blend everything until smooth. Return to the pot, simmer for a bit longer, add more vinegar if needed, and at the end add some non-dairy cream as desired(I used rice cream).
I served this lovely sauce on top of millet dumplings filled with smoked tofu: First I cooked millet in a 1:2,5 ratio of grain to water, for about half an hour. When the millet cooled down, I added corn flour until I got a stiff dough that didn´t stick to my hands (it´s tricky to get this right!). Meanwhile I sauteed finely chopped onion on oil and then added smoked tofu cut into tiny cubes, which I sauteed for another few minutes, After cooling down I used this tofu mixture to fill the millet dumplings – just chip off a piece of dough, flatten it with your hand into a “cookie shape”, sprinkle a small amount of the mixture on top and wrap, creating a round tightly sealed ball. Cook the dumplings in salted water until they float from the bottom of the pot up to the surface, the exact time depends mostly on how large the dumplings are.
This meal is sure not something you will whip out in 10 minutes, but don ´t let that discourage you, it´s worth it! 😀
what a nice color and creaminess!
with the millet dumplings and some extra dumpling filling
Szeged goulash is a typical Czech meal, although its name is derived from the Hungarian town of Szeged where I suppose they make something similar 😀 Of course the original goulash recipe calls for meat, but here we use tempeh instead, which pairs so beautifully with sauerkraut!!
This is another recipe inspired by Dagmar Lužná and her macro cookbook, but I did make quite some adjustments.
First sautee a large onion cut into thin half moons in about two tablespoons of oil. Add a pinch of salt and a good amount of caraway seeds and sautee until onion is shiny. Then add about 200 g of sauerkraut and an equal amount of finely shredded white cabbage. Sprinkle with paprika powder to your liking, I like quite a lot of it so that the sauce gets slightly red/brown. Cook for about 20 minutes on a low flame under a lid, the cabbage has to get very soft. Add in cubed fried tempeh (I buy ready fried tempeh from the shop, made by our lovely Czech macro company). Season with 2 tbsp of shoyu soy sauce and 2 tbsp of rice vinegar. At the end mix in approximately 2 teaspoons of corn starch (or kuzu) diluted in a bit of cold water, and let boil for a few more minutes, so that the sauce thickens a bit.
I served the goulash with store-bought polenta dumplings brushed with oil and baked in the oven until crispy. But you can easily make your own “dumplings” by pouring hot cooked polenta into a shallow dish and letting it firm up in the fridge, just the shape will be different 😀
It cannot get more Czech than dumplings, really. When I look into Czech macro cookbooks, whether printed or online, there are always several dumpling recipes. And dumplings go in most cases together with sauce, usually a thick creamy one. And sometimes even with some “meat-like” protein 😀 And/or sauerkraut 😀 Well, I had a bit of all of these in this kinda festive meal…
The dumplings were my very first ones so there is room for improvement, most definitely. I struggled a bit… :-p But next time all will be easier and there will probably follow an improved version! But I think they were quite good… I had a cup of leftover rice with sweet rice, which I pureed in a blender with water (just enough to make blending possible) until I got a creamy porridge-like consistency. Then I added a big pinch of salt followed by a couple of spoons of brown rice flour and spelt flour and some fine oat flakes…and kept adding…and adding…until I got a rather tough firm dough which would not anymore stick like crazy to my hands 😀 It took more flour than I thought…I can´t give any exact measurement, sorry, you have to see for yourselves. I formed two big “sausages” of dough and placed them into a pot with boiling water with a pinch of salt. It is important to keep the water at a rolling boil. It takes about 20 minutes for the dumplings to get cooked, depending on size and consistency. Watch that they don´t get stuck to the bottom (I had to lift mine carefully from the bottom with a spoon). They are cooked through once they float on the surface of the water. But check by cutting one of the rolls, the inside should not be too mushy or raw, but should have a spongey texture with some air holes, more like a bread roll. Cut the dumplings into 1 cm thick rounds with a sharp knife (you will need to hold them in place on the cutting board with a fork) or with a thread (traditional Czech method…) or (if you are a better equipped Czech person) with a dumpling cutter 😀
I think that next time I will: not use sweet rice (it gets too sticky in the dough), not blend the grains in the blender (the grains get too liquid and then you need a lot of flour to make a firm dough)… But you learn by experiment.
For the sauce I sauteed small chunks of onion, carrot, parsley root and celery root, on a small amount of water with a pinch of salt, covered by a lid. I blended the veggies into a puree in a blender and returned to the pot. I thickened the sauce with 1 tsp of arrowroot starch dissolved in a tiny amount of cold water (use a whisk to stir it in) and for flavour added 1 tsp of dark miso, 1/2 tsp natural mustard, a pinch of dried thyme and a dash of lemon juice.
As a “meat” I served cubes of smoked tofu “fried” on 1 tbsp of mirin (I don´t use oil at the moment, so mirin does the job quite well :-D). I also made quick sauerkraut by sauteeing shredded white cabbage with a bit of water, 1/2 tbsp of mirin and 1 tbsp of ume plum vinegar, under a lid, for about half an hour.