Croatian food is often overshadowed by the likes of Italian, Greek and Turkish food, but from my recent travels to the country I’ve learnt it certainly stands up to the neighbouring competition. Nestled along the Adriatic, it was no surprise we regularly feasted on seafood. Just-caught seafood platters of octopus, mussels, calamari (often stuffed with cheese and ham), grilled fish, scampi and prawns were an unbeatable lunch after a long session at the beach.
The local dish, “buzzara”, consists of either prawns, mussels or scampi cooked in their shells with tomato, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. It’s a popular choice – but only if you’re willing to get messy and peel and peel for what feels like hours. Don’t forget to wear a bib!
Another local dish to Croatia is cevapcici (try saying that after a few rakis!) which are skinless spicy sausages.
With Italy in such close proximity, it’s no wonder there’s a heavy Italian influence in Croatian cuisine. During my time in Croatia, I sampled countless tasty seafood pastas and risottos, but of special mention was the Dalmatian pasta. Such a simple dish which I can’t wait to try out at home. Prosciutto and figs gently sautéed in olive oil, tossed with some al dente spaghetti and scattered with shavings of parmesan and chopped parsley. So simple, but so tasty. The sweet figs were a dream with the salty prosciutto.
Moving away from the grilled seafood and pastas is where I had my most memorable Croatian meal. We’d been sailing around Croatia for a week and our skippers suggested we try a great little restaurant/winery up in the hills of the island Vis, named Roki’s. We were collected from the port by the restaurant owner and embarked on a 20-minute drive along the dramatic coastline and up into the hills. Upon arriving at Roki’s we knew we were in for a treat. There was no ordering necessary at this restaurant – instead the chefs had been preparing what was to be our dinner since early that morning. As we walked through the grounds of Roki’s we passed the outdoor kitchen and spotted what was to be our dinner – huge ceramic pots nestled on burning hot coals.
After selecting some of their homemade wines for the meal, we settled in for a feast under the beautiful trees outside. A giant local fish was so sweet and juicy it had everyone fighting for seconds (the name of the fish was Croatian and escapes me…). The rice, potatoes and carrots accompanying it were drenched in deliciously juices.
The chicken with aubergine and potatoes showcased slow cooking at it’s best. So tender and succulent.
Last up was the huge octopus which barely managed to fit in the pot. Cooked for hours, its tenticles were tender and rich with not an ounce of chewiness. The richness of the juices melted into the rice, carrots and tomatoes making them taste fabulous too. What I love about this cooking was how unfussy and homestyle it was. No fancy ingredients, just slow cooking with top quality ingredients.