side dish



Our kids have been counting days till Christmas. In just a few days I will have several pots on the stove, both ovens on the go, sink full of dirty dishes and hopefully a glass of wine somewhere near. Following the Czech tradition I cook my main meal on Christmas Eve. This gives my children a taste of Czech Christmas and I get to do minimum cooking on Christmas Day.

Recently Daily Mail online posted an article on the healthiness of European Christmas dinners. The Czechs are proudly standing at number 2 surpassed only by France ( I think the use of foie gras calls for disqualifications). I do have reservation about the way this survey was conducted, but one thing I know for sure the Czechs do not stuff themselves silly on the day. Growing up our Christmas meal consisted of split pea soup (virtually fat free), breaded fried carp (special white sausages for my fish bone phobic Dad) and potato salad. For dessert we always had stewed apple compote with a few walnuts for a crunch. After dinner the homemade cookies would finally make an appearance (they are usually made a week ahead and nobody is allowed to have a crumb).

One thing that didn’t seem to feature on out table were vegetables (apart from few vegetables in the potato salad). Daily mail mentions sauerkraut but I don’t remember ever eating at Christmas. These days my Christmas fishless/turkeyless dinner has been adapted to feature both Czech and English elements. Split pea soup is a must but so are Brussels sprouts. Every year I try different ways to make Brussels interesting and this year I am going to cook them with walnuts.

The recipe below was a quick test batch that serves 3-4 but if you are feeding a crown do double or triple recipe (no need to triple the coconut oil of course). Serve hot straight from the pan. I can guarantee you will want to make these more than just at Christmas.


Easily doubled or tripled. Coconut oil doesn’t need to be tripled. For an oil free version add the garlic and walnuts to the brussels when they are softened, cook for couple of minutes. You will not get the golden brown colour but it will still taste delicious.

Serves 3-4

2 cups of small Brussels sprouts
2 tsp coconut oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped garlic
handful of walnuts (about 1/2 cup)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Pull of any damaged leaves of the Brussels sprouts and halve them lengthways.
  2. Put the Brussels sprouts into a wok (or a deep frying pan) add enough water to barely cover them and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer till the sprouts are tender, about 8minutes. Most of the water should have evaporated by this time.
  3. Add 2 tsp coconut oil, the garlic and walnuts. The Brussels will start gently frying in the coconut oil. Cook till some of the Brussels turn golden brown.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve.



“If you're lucky enough to be Irish, then you're lucky enough.” Irish saying

Today is St Patrick’s Day so it is very fitting to celebrate the Irish. I have always had a soft spot for everything Irish, the superb literature, uplifting music, the dark rich beer or the sexy accent (I still remember hearing Liam Neeson in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives for the first time). My apologies to Scotland but I also believe that Irish Whiskey is the best in the world. The Czech in me also identifies with the Irish through our common love of the humble potato.

Potatoes have always been closely associated with the Irish diet. Not native to Ireland they became incredibly popular after their introduction in the late 16th century. As a crop they were incredibly successful, not only because they thrived in the Irish soil but were also highly nutritious. The poor Irish labourers especially became dependent on the potato. It is interesting that due to diet high in potatoes the Irish peasants were more healthy than those in England (and Europe) whose staple food was the less nutritious bread.

Unfortunately the Irish were so dependent on potato that the 6 year long potato famine (which started in 1845) caused the deaths of 1 million people, and 20-25% of Irish populations to emigrate.

Today potatoes are vilified, the crazy low carb diets tend to compare potatoes to sugar. In my book sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever, however potato is rich in whole host of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes contain significant amount of vitamins B6, B1, C, Potassium, folate, magnesium and even iron. They are rich in fibre (especially if eaten with the skin), low in fat and calories. It is possible to stay healthy on a diet of potatoes only, but diet of sugar only would surely lead to one’s demise.

Here is my take on Colcannon, the traditional Irish dish. The original is made with spring onions (scallions) and heaps of butter and sometimes milk. I have replaced the spring onions with slowly caramelized regular onion and there is not a smidgen of milk or butter. I admit to loving this dish so much that I often make a whole plate for my lunch and savour every last forkful.


I have added some caraway seeds to this dish, that is the Czech in me you can omit it from the recipe. I just can’t imagine cooking potatoes without it!

Serves 4 as a side dish

5 medium potatoes, unpeeled
150-200g (about half pound) kale, stalks removed, roughly torn
1/2tsp caraway seed (optional)
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
1 very large onion
salt and pepper

  1. First slice the onion as thinly as you can. In a medium frying pan heat the oil and cook the onion till soft and golden brown. This will take about 20min. Stir from time to time to prevent burning.
  2. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into large chunks, place into a large saucepan and pour in enough water to just cover the potatoes. Add the caraway seed if using.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12 minutes.
  4. Next add the kale and cook for further 6 minutes.
  5. Drain the potatoes and kale, mash together with potato masher. You are not looking for a smooth mash, more a crushed potato texture.
  6. Stir the onions through the kale and potato mixture. Season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Enjoy it as a side dish, or like me eat a whole plateful on its own.



Poor brussel sprouts, they have a very bad reputation, nobody seems to like them. They are only put on English tables at Christmas and that is only due to tradition. Everybody seems to blame them for after Christmas dinner flatulence (I guess nothing to do with the thousands of calories eaten in one setting). They are boiled to death, endured and quickly forgotten for another year.

Brussel sprouts do need an image change. I think they are rather pretty, mini little cabbages, green gems you could say. They definitely are nutritional gems. Powerful anticancer food, full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they promote heart health, have anti-inflammatory properties and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. A lot of power in this small vegetable.

No, I am not expecting a major brussel sprout revolution, however they do deserve to be on our plates more often. Please give sprouts a chance.


Slicing the brussel sprouts thinly is a very clever way of preparation. Not only they cook very fast, but they do take on a whole new identity, you may even forget what you are eating. The apple juice counteracts any of the bitterness making this a very fresh and tasty side dish. Allow about 7-10 sprouts per person ( I am talking adults here), after all veg should be half of our plate.


40 brussel sprouts, discard any discoloured outer leaves and the stem, slice thinly
100 ml apple juice (preferably fresh juice, not from concentrate)
2 large apples, cut into matchsticks
handful of walnuts (can be toasted)

  1. In a sauce pan heat the apple juice, add the sliced sprouts, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 5 min. Test if tender enough for your taste.
  2. Add the apple and heat through.
  3. Mix in the walnuts and serve.