Novelist and keen traveller, James Michener once said that if we reject the food of the places we travel to, then “we might better stay at home.” Michener was entirely right, trying the local cuisine of new destinations is one of the best ways of experiencing a new culture. There is one place that we could not wait to try the local delicacies and that’s when visiting the beautiful islands of Croatia. Croatia is home to some of the world’s finest seafood dishes, so it is not just the sunshine that we crave from the Mediterranean Coast!
Found on almost every restaurant menu in Croatia, Pršut is a dry-cured ham and the traditional recipe has been passed on from many generations. Pršut is mainly produced in late autumn on the islands of Istria and Dalmatia, where the ham is washed, salted and flattened under rocks. The ham is then hung outside to dry and is softly seasoned by the salt that drifts inland from the sea breeze. The ham is then kept inside to mature until it is ready to be served in the summer months. The smoky taste and mouth-watering texture of the thinly sliced ham is definitely worth the wait.
This rich risotto is made from locally caught seafood and is a favourite amongst Croatians for its unique taste.The risotto rice is died deep black with colour from the ink of the cuttlefish and squid. The dish is a puzzle for the senses! Local restaurants buy most of their produce from the abundant seafood markets. These markets are supplied by local fishermen and so it is always possible to enjoy seafood throughout the year, including octopus, shrimps and clams which are all ingredients of Croatia’s famous black risotto.
Fritule is made in Dubrovnik and Istria. Each village and town claims to have the original and best recipe. Surprisingly the potato doughnuts are not a desert but are usually served at the beginning of a dinner party during the holiday seasons. Some towns choose to serve the bite sized snack with a rich chocolate sauce whilst others opt for dried fruit- either way Fritule is delicious!
When the Transun team were asked what their favourite Croatian dish was, there was a unanimous answer of Burek. The delicious pastry snack is found across the Balkans, usually in bakeries, and is traditionally made with filo pastry with a filling of cheese or meat. It is also possible to get spinach, potato, apple and even empty burkek. They are all simple but Burek is satisfyingly tasty!
A popular method of cooking along the Dalmatian coast is with a Peka, a dome-shaped pot which is set in hot coals to slow cook meat. The Peka is traditionally used to make a simple meal of vegetables and meat, often veal or lamb. The meat is carefully seasoned with olive oil and herbs. Inside a Croatian home, this meal is normally prepared as a feast for the whole family and is cooked within the fireplace. After hours of cooking in the fire, the meat is perfectly tender and is a true delight. Ispod peke is an authentic and probably the signature dish of Croatia.
*Images are credit to Konavoski Dvori Restaurant