Monday, November 13, 2006

Of knedliks and kings.

Actually, queens (see below), but then there'd be no obvious connection with walruses...

Firstly, I must apologise to the entire Czech nation. For some reason, probably related to other dumpling-like potato-based products I have consumed in the past in other countries that were formerly located behind Mr.Churchill's famous ferrous window-dressing, I assumed that the noble and glorious knedlik was uniquely of potato origin. But it seems that nary a whiff of Mr. Raleigh's preferred New World tuber has made it into some of the recipes for this Czech culinary delight. And me having lived here for (on-and-off) five months, too. I hang my head in shame. Ignorant foreigner. No knedlik.

So although the knedlik distinctly resembles a squishy boiled spud in certain incarnations (unsliced), it actually resembles bread in others (sliced). It's all down to the recipe, flour, (potato or wheat) cooking and cook's creative muse du jour. Or which packet of ready-made frozen knedlik dough you buy in your local Albert supermarket. (None shall speak of the supermarket chain that ate the world, as a mark of respect for s-i-l's "commute from hell" period after construction above collapsed railway tunnel beneath on the main line via the Chilterns to Londinium.)

Knedlik dough is made from either potato flour, wheat flour or even mooshed-up bread, eggs and milk. Regardless of type, it's squeeshed into balls, boiled and served as an accompaniment to your favorite meat (pref. pig)'n'gravy-based main dish plus sauerkraut and PIVO (beer). Exciting variety can be obtained by stuffing the knedlik with things, mainly of the meat variety, drinking more PIVO, or taking the novelty approach to food service and delivering multiple smallish filled knedliky to the awestruck diner in a small brass cannon mounted on a wooden cheeseboard affair. This somehow seems more amazing if you drink more PIVO.

For the herbivores among us, the lack of acceptable gravy might make the knedlik a little hard to swallow. Inexplicably, despite the hordes of Czechs thundering through the mushroom groves (or fields, or patches, or rings) after the rains, straight-up pig-free mushroom ragout does not feature on many menus. But this is where the glorious and wonderful fruit, or "sweet" knedlik comes into its own. Yeasty or even soft cheese dough, filled with seasonal fruit compote, boiled and smothered in smetana (runnier than sour cream) or icing sugar or both. Mmmmm... My own bizarrely puritanical nutritional tendancies force me to class them as technically a dessert, but more reckless types do eat them as a main course.

One knedlik, two knedlik, three knedlik, four...

Fashunating fact only discovered while idly internetovating for knedlik recipes: the fore-runner of the slurpee (ICEE) was invented by a chap called Omar Knedlik who sold them in his Dairy Queen franchise. Queens, see?


Anonymous said...

I still want knedlik. I want to make them stuffed with itty bits of shredded cooked carrots and then served in a gorgonzola-n-cream sauce. In a small brass cannon mounted on a wooden cheeseboard affair, of course, because that now is a really big part of this particular food fantasy, thanks.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

And PIVO. Don't forget the PIVO. (dark is girly, light is manly)