Czech, Lifestyle

St Martin’s Day

Hello! Today is St Martin’s Day, which is traditionally celebrated in continental Europe. It is also known as the Feast of Saint Martin. It is celebrated on November 11 every year. This day symbolises  the end of harvest and the beginning of winter, as the first snow often arrives to Europe around this time. When it snows, people say ‘St Martin has arrived on his white horse’. Back home we’ve had snow many times on this day! If there isn’t any snow, we say ‘Martin arrived on a brown horse’ instead.

Meanwhile in the UK, November 11 is best known as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day, the day which honors all veterans and victims of World War I (and other modern-time wars). The symbol of this day is a red poppy, which is being sold from the beginning of the month (if you haven’t had the chance to get one and would like to donate, you can support war veterans here). There were many special services and walks taking place last weekend and today (on local or regional scale) to honor and remember all who have been fighting for our freedom and risked their lives for our better future. Many institutions also hold two minutes of silence at 11am.

Now let’s get back to Saint Martin and the Czech tradition.

How do we celebrate St Martin’s Day in the Czech Republic?

Some Czech towns organise festive carnivals to celebrate this day. St Martin arrives on his horse in a parade of historical characters. People come to watch the act and celebrate enjoying traditional food and drinks.

It is a tradition to have roasted goose or duck fon this day. Restaurants often have a special offer for this occasion, called St Martin’s Menu. The main courses usually contain dishes made of goose (or duck), white and/or red cabbage and dumplings. For starters, you can try ie. goose pate on a baguette or goose bouillon.

November 11 also is the first day when new wines of the season can officially be sold. Therefore, these young wines (white, red and rose) are called St Martins’ Wines (Svatomartinské víno). Shops are allowed to sell them from 11:11am on November 11. This year the date came on a Monday, and so retailers made an exception and started to sell the young wines on Friday November 8 instead.

Me and my mum have made St Martin’s Day our little tradition, and although I am in London now, I proudly continue doing it.

roasted-duck
Roasted duck on red cabbage, with dumplings

This year, I made roast duck on red cabbage with gnocchi (you can use them to save time cooking and preparing potatoes or dumplings). Here is the recipe, which my mum has given to me:

Roasted Duck on Red Cabbage (4 servings)

  • 1 whole duck (or 4 duck legs, skin on)
  • 1 – 1,2 kg red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (whole)
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice (whole)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (whole)
  • salt
  • 5 teaspoons sugar (white or brown)
  • vinegar
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • a jug of water

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C.
  2. Prepare the duck: Cut the duck into 4 quarters (if whole), season the portions of meat from all sides with salt and cumin. Put the duck in a casserolle dish/deep tray and add appx 1cm of boiling water (avoid pouring the water over the duck, just around it). Cover and put in the oven for 1 hour. After one hour, turn over the duck and pour some of the gravy over it, re-cover and bake for another 30 minutes. Then turn it over (into the original position), pour some more gravy over it and bake without a cover for 30 minutes or until the meat is soft and the skins are golden and crispy.
  3. On hob: Melt the butter in a big stock pot. When ready, add the onion and fry it on medium heat until soft and glossy. Add the chopped cabbage and stir properly, so all of the cabbage is greased. Add the apples and stir. Add the seasoning: all spice, black pepper, bay leaves, sugar and vinegar (1-2 tbsp, according to preference). Add 200ml of water and bring to boil. The cabbage will need about 40-60 mins to cook on low/medium heat. Keep an eye on the amount of water in the pot and stir occasionally, otherwise it can burn.
  4. Once the duck is fully cooked and the cabbage is soft, serve with dumplings/gnocchi/boiled potatoes with a little bit of the duck gravy.

Dobrou chuť! Enjoy!

Let me know in the comments or on Instagram, if you also celebrate St Martin’s Day, or what is your favourite autumnal tradition. (And there are sooo many, I am sure you’ll find one quick!)

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