Spice up your Czech

Spices - koření

Hello and welcome to the ABC of Czech where this season we look at vocabulary related to Czech cuisine. Today we'll be talking about spices and herbs - an essential part of every national cuisine.

Spices - koření
The Czech word for spices is koření - coming from the word kořen, meaning root. (Unlike the English word which comes from the Latin "species", meaning a type or kind.)

Spices, imported from faraway countries, used to be so rare in the past that they were sometimes used instead of money. Some proverbs in Czech still remind us of their one-time value. For example je toho jako šafránu - it is as rare as saffron. Anything that is precious and scarce can be called vzácné koření - precious spice. And Czechs often say humor je koření života - humour is the spice of life.

Potato soup - bramborová polévka
The most widely used spice is pepper - pepř, the most usual being ground black pepper - mletý černý pepř. Marjoram - majoránka has a special place in Czech cuisine. It is used to flavour all those various pork sausages and soups prepared at pig slaughtering feasts. Marjoram is also the dominant taste of potato soup - bramborová polévka, also known as bramboračka, and mushroom soup - houbová polévka - and of course bramborák, the potato pancake we spoke about in one of our earlier lessons.

Herbs - bylinky
Another type of spice typical for Czech cuisine are caraway seeds - kmín. They are added to dark bread dough and whole loaves are sprinkled with them. A few seeds can be added to the water in which potatoes are boiled. Roast duck and even fish can be sprinkled with them. But if, like me, you don't find the taste of caraway seeds pleasant, your meal will get cold before you pick out all the seeds from your plate.

As far as herbs - bylinky - are concerned, traditional Czech cuisine mostly uses fresh parsley leaves - petržel, chives - pažitka and libeček - garden lovage. They are used to garnish soups or you can sprinkle them over a slice of bread spread with fresh cheese.

That's all we have time for today, till next week - dobrou chuť - bon appetit!