THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Karlovy Vary | Bohemian Organoleptic Rhapsody

Bohemian dishes are defined by an unrequited love for crispy roast meats, delicious vegetables, fat dumplings and melt-in-the-mouth sauces.

Chance by the Czech Club Restaurant in London and you will smell the wild hog roast with creamy and cheesy sauce and dumplings, the beef roast in blended cream and vegetable sauce and dumplings, the goose roast with sauerkraut and dumplings, the pork roast with sauerkraut and dumplings, and not least the duck roast leg with boiled sauerkraut and dumplings.

Cuts of beef, chicken, duck, goose, lamb, salmon, trout, veal and wild hog perfectly roasted served with various salad choices, potato pancakes and potato dumplings, treats to be savoured, butter and cream prominent in the cooking, this is the traditional food of Bohemia.

It is not food nostalgia.

Back in Bohemia a new sensibility toward their traditional dishes had emerged. In 2009 a gastronomic festival was established in Karlovy Vary, the town with the big hotels, to push their traditional food into the 21st century.

Four years later Grandhotel Pupp, Queen Latifah’s getaway in Last Holiday, won the prize. Their chefs took Bohemian cuisine onto another level. They transformed that basic meat-vegetable-dumpling-sauce combination, producing new culinary masterpieces.

One such dish was roast duck breasts, traditionally a simple pan-sealed slow-baked meat served with vegetables, dumplings and sauce.

Pears replaced vegetables, cumin gave an oriental touch, light gnocchi was preferred to heavy dumplings and bacon was added to counter the sweetness with salt. The pear sauce complimented both duck and gnocchi.

Pečená Kachní Prsa (roast duck breasts)

  • 600 g duck breasts, skin scored
  • 600 g potatoes
  • 250 ml chicken / duck stock
  • 2 pears, halved, cored
  • 120 g bacon, cubed small
  • 100 ml double cream / yoghurt
  • 60 ml + 20 ml pear juice
  • 80 g spring onion / shallots
  • 45 g honey
  • 35 g butter
  • 20 ml oil
  • 10 g white wheat flour
  • Cumin seeds, crushed, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch

Marinade duck breasts in honey and four tablespoons of pear juice for 30 minutes, squeeze out liquid and rub with salt, thoroughly seal in hot oil, transfer to oven at 100°C for 90 minutes, 60 minutes if duck skin is thin. Crisp skin under grill, leave to rest for five minutes.

Brush pears, except one half, with honey marinade and bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Cook potatoes whole until tender. Make a creamy mash with butter and cream.

Drain honey from pears.

With 15 minutes to go until duck is done, heat three teaspoons of oil in frying pan. Incorporate two teaspoons of white flour into the oil until browned. Add stock. Season with salt and cumin seeds. Add honey liquid, pear juice and half pear cut into small pieces. Bring to boil, reduce. Strain.

Sauté bacon in butter and oil with chopped spring onions, pour in cream or yoghurt, keep warm on a low heat.

Slice duck breasts. Serve basted with pear sauce alongside mashed potatoes or gnocchi and bacon.

A simpler version is produced when the duck breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper, sealed with olive oil in a frying pan, splashed with a liqueur, then allowed to simmer in chicken or duck stock seasoned with ground cinnamon for 20 minutes. A squeeze of lemon juice is added to the stock after 10 minutes. The breasts are served with ripe pears dressed with a drizzle of the stock.