Day 86: Merry Christmas n.2- in true British style! 6 days to go!

Kat doodles about life:

Katerina, Katerina! I can hear that judgemental tone in your voice whilst you are shaking your head after I will tell you about my Day 86, with Day 87 closely following with hangover. Oh yes, it was a blast! And how wonderful one. I do not think I had so much fun during Christmas Day like this before. Obviously I have many Christmas experiences behind, both in Czech and in the UK, but this year I will be thinking of it with a smile on my face. To make sure of it, I have informed and banned my friend from playing any Michael McDonald love songs, in case we go to his house for an afterparty as he made me once listen to them for hour and half just after I broke up with my boyfriend. That is what you call friendship and voluntary pain.

So this Christmas Day I was very kindly invited to a private dinner at the Brunel Bar in Clifton by Matt, who is a great chef there and who was in charge of fantastic feast of parma ham and melon as a starter, main course of turkey, beef, celeriac mash, sprouts, roasted potatoes and there was so much more else I do not even remember. Dessert of course fantastic Christmas pudding with Cornish clotted cream and Ice cream. Cheese board followed and I was in food heaven. Not to mention the wine was flowing and we were getting very merry dancing around the empty bar. It did not take long before all eleven of us were getting along and shared the jokes. All the guest were so wonderful and we have talked about all the topics from traveling, Royals,Communism, life, jobs and what is the secret of long-term marriage as five of the guests were in their retirement age.

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I have kindly offered help with setting up the tables and doing the waitressing as it is one of those things that once you worked in catering, your instinct is telling you instantly to pick three plates in one hand and another two in the other, stand up straight and get it to the table intact. I was fairly impressed I could so even wearing my heels and little black dress, which was not exactly ideal for cycling, when getting there. It is the shortest dress I own and good job there were not many cars on the road as I had to rush for 40 minutes with my bottom showing a bit too much to my liking. I had certainly heated discussion with one of my classmates about it in the past, where he thought I was being judgemental when I said it is typical for Saturday night here, but not back home as we simply cover up. And I still stand strongly behind my opinion. And ever since working in the club I can tell lot more.

We have moved on from Brunel to Fringe Bar owned by three wonderful French ladies and the fun continued. By that time I could have probably done with another dinner, even I have completely cleared all plates to Matt’s appreciation, I was so happy and in my usual hugging mood, all my friends were making sure we are having a great laugh. Wine intake has reached the limit, so I texted my ex boyfriend. I know! So wrong! But we have all been there… I wanted to speak to him, to have that cuddle and familiarity, but it was not meant to be. It is just that feeling that you still care about the other person and you miss having them in your life even you both know there is no future together. I do not go out very often and I am not used to drink this much, but hey it happens. Thankfully it was not long before I was taken home by my friends, but that is a story for another post. Back later Kat xx

Day 85: Merry Christmas n.1- in Czech style!!! 7 days to go!

Kat doodles about life:

Merry Christmas to me and everybody else, who officially celebrates today! If everything goes the way it should, as some of the plans have already changed, I should be attending another party tomorrow and I am having another dinner on Thursday, so that is why I am calling today’s post n.1! Mince pies are in the oven, whisky ready for tomorrow, fish is defrosting and potato salad is cooling in the fridge. And since I have promised the recipe, here it is.

Czech traditional potato salad ( for Christmas dinner and other occasions)

Ingredients:

potatoes, 1-2 onions, 3-4 carrots, 1-2 parsnips, 4 eggs, jar of gherkins, tin of garden peas, mayo, tartare sauce, mustard, salt, pepper, for decoration: red pepper, cloves, 2 boiled eggs. curly parsley

Instructions:

Simply said it is a bowl of potatoes and bowl of the other vegetables all together, all cut into small cubes. What you have to do is slowly boil pot of larger potatoes in the skin, then cool them in water, peel and cut into the cube shapes. In another pot boil peeled whole carrots, do the same with  parsnips (or today I used turnips, because parsnips sold out for some reason), and eggs, cool down in water and cut into cubes again. Tip the boiled cubed vegetables into a bowl together with finely chopped onion, peas and gherkins. With gherkins I normally use about two to three large ones, but it all depends on the size of a jar. They give the salad extra edge, so I feel you can never go wrong with too many. Plus I eat few as I cook along, so it is good to be prepared. Make sure you only use the whole ones, not the sliced ones, as the taste is fairly different. With the condiments I use one teaspoons of English mustard, 2 teaspoons of mayo, 2 teaspoons of tartare sauce is just about fine. I hardly eat any of these sauces nowadays, but for the salad it is just about the right amount. When you finish making the salad, see if it needs more pepper, salt, perhaps caraway seeds, we do add them to boiling potatoes too. You may need to add extra few gherkins or boiled eggs depends on the taste to bring it together. What you do is mix it well together and leave it in the fridge over night to get all the flavours mixed together and cool to get that firm crunchy feel. Before serving, taste it again to see if it needs any extra of the used ingredients.

There are different variations of potato salad depending on each family. Some people add an apple, some add “kabanos”, which is a type of sausage, similar type to German Frankfurters sausages you can find in Lidl. I keep mine vegetarian, just to make it simple for everybody. Back home we also use local mustard, not the English one I use here, and Hellman’s tartare sauce, which for some reason you cannot buy in the UK.

When it comes to serving I cut the side of the red pepper (where is the stalk), so I get that circle and put it into the middle of a fancy bowl to present it nicely. I slice the rest into strips to decorate the edges. You can boil two to three eggs, cut them in half and put in between the red peppers along the edge. My mum always used to use cloves to create smiley faces on the eggs, so I do exactly the same. Feel free to use some curly parsley  to finish the salad bowl of.

The traditional Czech Christmas dinner would be pea or fish soup, potato salad and breaded carp (or other fish) or special circled sausage. If you search for “vinna klobasa”, you will know what I mean. Our family always ate lot of fish during the year, so we would eat anything from eels, trouts to pikes on Christmas Day, not just the carp. You salt the fish, dip it in flour, eggs and then breadcrumbs, leave to chill and deep fry.

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After Christmas dinner when you go up to Christmas tree, once the baby Jesus has been round with presents, how exciting, you have sung the Christmas songs and you are just about ready to watch the Christmas fairy tale on tv, you can nibble on little sweet desserts. We call it “cukrovi”. They say if you are a good housewife, there should be about twelve different kinds made. I reckon whoever came up with that, must have been a man, as he had no idea how long these take to make. In practice it means that about a month before Christmas what you do as a child with your mum, auntie and grandma, you bake and decorate all these little sweet cakes and are forced to glue trays and trays of them with jam, cover in chocolate, decorate with nuts or whatever else needs to be done. By the time they are ready for Christmas time, everyone is so sick of them, so when I turn up from the UK for holidays at home, I am happily open to accept them from anyone, who had enough. Twice I was holding afternoon tea with tasting session of mince pies and the British pudding for my friends and it was rather wonderful. My mother was very happy, she no longer had to bake as everyone brought box of cukrovi with them! To see what I mean, just search for “cukrovi” and I am sure there will be plenty of translated recipes. I personally stick to the minces pies and Christmas pudding, my British favourites, if I am staying over here like this year.

After the fairy tale you would go to the church for midnight mass (even you do not really believe, it is a tradition). Everyone pops out for a bit for that little fresh winter walk or any pub, which is open. Since I come from a small town, it is really nice as meet lot of your friends out and about and have that little catch up. We celebrate Christmas Day also by eating lentil soup for lunch, or any non-meaty dish and to make you stay away from any temptations as a child, we say if you do not eat, you will see a gold pig. One year I took it too seriously as a child and around four pm I fainted. That was the end of a golden pig fable for me and mum never allowed me to try again.

On the day you can also melt lead and dip it into the water. Depending on the shape of which comes out, you can predict future. Other old fashioned traditions are cutting apples into half or sending little candles stuck in walnut shells around in your bathroom sink. To keep the fortune at home, you keep few scale of the carp you have purchased from big buckets, which appear on streets just before Christmas, and put them under your dinner plate. After you put it into wallet with your change. It is suppose to bring luck and make the money stay with you or bring them to you.

So here it is, this is how Czechs celebrate Christmas Day on 24th December. Here is a picture of my dinner and hopefully tomorrow I will get to decorate the salad properly in style, when I go and celebrate with my British friends. For now I wish you all the best, everyone have fantastic time and I am back soon. With love Kat xx

P.S. Look what present Baby Jesus brought me! Isn’t it wonderful?! Perhaps Santa will bring a car tomorrow. 😀

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