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Fish and Seafood

Carp with Black Sauce

Serves eight

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As early as the Middle Ages Bohemia was known for its carp breeding. Carp is still a much loved food in the region, especially at Easter and Christmas. For a festive meal it's often served with the famous black sauce, an elaborate composition of many aromatic ingredients. Ginger, cloves, gingerbread and almonds, once expensive items, are just some of the components of this sweet and heavy sauce. Not a dish to be taken lightly, the sauce can be eaten with poached or deep-fried carp. Some cooks prefer to bake the carp in the sauce.

For eight people:

Sauce:

1 finely chopped onion
2 finely chopped carrots
1 finely chopped slice of celery root
1/2 finely chopped parsnip
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
100 g butter
2 tsp sugar
2.5 liters water
1 tsp salt
5 peppercorns
1 slice of fresh ginger (or 1 pinch of ground ginger)
grated peel of 1 untreated lemon
2 cloves
3 bay leaves
200 ml dark beer
200 g prunes
100 g raisins
100 g grated gingerbread
200 ml water
3 tsp plum jam
100 g blanched, roughly chopped almonds
100 g walnuts
250 ml pear syrup (pear juice concentrate) or sugar beet syrup

Carp:

2 carp (1.5-2 kg each), gutted, skinned head and fins removed and cut into four pieces (retaining the cut-off parts)
1 untreated lemon
3 tsp salt
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 carrot
1 small onion
4 liters water

Cook the chopped onion, carrot, celery root, parsnip and garlic in butter over low heat until glassy, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and cook until caramelised. Add water, salt, peppercorns, ginger, lemon peel, cloves, bay leaves and simmer for 2 hours until it is reduced to 1 liter.
Strain through a sieve, pressing the vegetables carefully before discarding. Add the beer, prunes and raisins to the liquid and simmer with pot-lid on for an hour. Heat the grated gingerbread in 200 ml water, stirring constantly. Add the gingerbread, plum jam, almonds, walnuts and pear syrup to the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes to blend the aromas.

For the carp, slice the carrot and onion and add with the fish trimmings, 3 slices of lemon, salt and bay leaf to the water and boil for 20 minutes. Add peppercorns and cook for another 10 minutes. Strain. Bring the fish fumet to a boil again. Sprinkle the pieces of carp with lemon juice and put them in the fumet. Adjust the heat so that the temperature remains just below boiling point. Cook for 10-12 minutes until done. Remove carefully from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon, drain and pour on the black sauce. Serve immediately or allow to reach room temperature.

Useful hints:

- Do not let the sugar burn, or it will leave a bitter taste.
- When gutting the carp, remember to remove the gall bladder under the throat. If the scales are hard to remove, dip the carp for a few seconds in boiling water.
- Never cook any fish in boiling liquid, or the delicate flesh turns dry and crumbles. It should be poached at 80-85° C. The surface of the water should be just moving gently.