… in Croatia!
I don’t know about you but to me, one of the great pleasures of traveling is sampling local cuisine. Did I say sampling? It sounds a bit like small portions and that’s definitely not what you might come across in Croatia. Go on a diet before you arrive ‘cause you’re gonna need it.
The hundreds of ancient cook books at Staro Puntijar has been fully utilised by the owners of this restaurant in Zagreb. Here’s a sample (sic!):
Štrukjli soup – a blob of cottage cheese wrapped in a kind of pastry sitting in the middle of a broth.
Pletenica – rich, and meaty braided pork and bacon
“Birling” steak – veal coated in egg and pine with a lemon sauce
Mixed salad – ubiquitous throughout Croatia consisting of several vegetables, some fresh, some pickled and eaten with the main course
Apple dumpling stuffed with a gooey mixture of nuts and cinnamon doused in a red wine sauce.
Samobor is just outside Zagreb and picture-postcard pretty. Here you’ll find:
Kremsnite – a custard cake that sits precariously on a the lightest of light pastry, served warm. (Between you and me, the Zagrebians like to claim it too but they serve it cold – unacceptable by Samobor standards!)
Sparsely inhabited Lika County sports national and nature parks and prides itself on the fact that it has the cleanest river in Croatia called the Gacka, richly inhabited by trout. Pre Krasno Retreat makes sure that we taste it in all its shapes and forms – carpaccio, risotto, plainly grilled with olive oil, the best of them all. Throw in sweated swiss chard and potatoes and you’re in for a treat.
Local, local, local – we’re in Gospič at Zlatna Potkova, a real country restaurant.
Salted potatoes with the skin on, all puffy and fluffy
Sir – fresh, light sour creamy type stuff
Sheep’s milk cheese – delicate and nutty
Barbecued organic lamb and believe me, you can taste the difference
Pita – scrumptuous Cottage cheese filled pastries for afters
We leave the farmland behind and head for the Dalmatian coast.
Burin, little brother of the mighty bura wind that leaves destruction in its wake, lifts your spirits and keeps you cool in this scorching part of the world. Restaurant Burin is a fresh breath of air.
Owner Zvonko has roped in the whole family to run this little joint.
Octopus salad is for some reason or another, not the rubbery offering you so often have to crunch your teeth into, but tender and moist and perfectly delectable.
Kuvač – monkfish starter retains every bit of this tasty fish’s flavour.
Pasticada – slices of meat marinated for 2 days and smothered in a sauce made up of blended vegetables and other yummy things but it’s the homemade pasta that pulls this dish together.
If you possibly have room, the cheesecake melts in your mouth and teeth become redundant.
Bukara Restaurant in Drvenik is the pride and joy of internationally acclaimed chef Niška who takes me into a back garden, makes a hole in the heap of beach pebbles, flings in two octopi, covers them up with same stones, makes a fire on top and leaves it there for 1,5 hours. In the meanwhile, we clean fresh fish together, crank up a cuttle fish stew with bacon, stock and white wine and have a sip of Dalmatian banana rakije, the local hooch. It turns into a celebration of food if ever there was one.
Octopus fresh from the coal-topped hole in the ground
Croatia’s full of it. They have their own ecological version of Fleur du Sel made on the beach at Zivogošće, the methods of cooking are old, tested and tried, the ingredients couldn’t be fresher or more local, and the finished product is kept plain and simple. No butter, no cream, just plenty of delicious, locally-made olive oil – good for the heart and soul.