Croatian and Dalmatian food

Dalmatia is a land where cultures collided bringing together the traditions of Orient and cuisine of Venetian nobility…each with a distinctive personality and history. Along the Dalmatian Coast the cuisine has a definite Mediterranean flavor with world class olive oils superb wines and seafood. Travel a short distance into the hinterland, and you will find meats and vegetables, and even bread baked under the peka – traditional technique dating back millennia. On the islands, cheeses and lamb grilled on a spit are served in family owned konobas or taverns… We invite you to explore the tastes of Dalmatia…a land of thousands of islands, of history, beauty and mystery. And yes, a land with a rich culinary history which many people have yet to discover.

Croatian standard fare is similar to many other central European or Mediterranean countries (pizza, pasta, meat dishes, fish). All food is safe to eat as restaurants are regularly inspected, and there is no problem with drinking water. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a specialty along the Croatian coastline and the islands. 
Hotel breakfasts generally include coffee, tea, bread, butter, jam, paté, cheese, and ham.  We try to ensure that our hotels provide a substantial breakfast for cycling, and so ask them to include fruit, cereal, milk and maybe yogurt.  If you are on your own and need more sustenance, you can always go to the supermarket to buy yogurt or cheese. 

You can also find good snacks and pastries at Slasticarna, small pastry shops. Look for apple, cheese or cherry strudel, ‘Croatian’ donuts with a bit of marmalade inside, Chocolate donut, or “Pasta”, a cream based pastry.
For quick lunches on the road, you can go to a Pekara (bakery) and try Burek, a savory pastry filled with cheese or meat and often eaten as a “fast food” item. It may also be eaten with yogurt and is made of thin dough layers that are stuffed and then rolled and cut into spirals. Another famous fast food item in Croatia is Cevapcici. Originally from Bosnia, this is a delicious dish of grilled minced meat, found in the countries of the Former Yugoslavia. Cevapcici may be served on a plate or in a flatbread sandwich (then called a lepinja), often with chopped onions, a local type of  sour cream (kajmak), a relish made of bell peppers, eggplant, chili and garlic (ajvar) cottage cheese, and so on.

For sit down meals at dinner or lunch you can go to fancier restaurants or to the local pub/eatery, the “Konoba.”  Konobas generally have traditionally prepared dishes, made with natural home-grown ingredients and served in pleasant local surroundings. Service may be lower quality then in restaurants, but it is an authentic meal.

Below you will find few typical Dalmatian dishes we like to recommend:



“Peka”


Peka is one of the best known traditional Croatian dishes. Though simple at first glance, «Peka» requires a great deal of skill and experience. Peka is a baked dish with meat and vegetables made in a pot or a tray, the pot is put into the embers of a fireplace, in many houses here in Dalmatia, especially on the country side, you have a special place in the barn or at the ground floor of the house for preparing the Peka. Dishes under the lid are some of the top gastronomic offers in the Dalmatian cuisine, food prepared under cripnja (this is Dalmatian term for the special bell shaped lid, which is put over the pot/tray, for cooking the Peka). The food is easy to prepare, only you have to catch the “hand” for the right mix of ingredients … and success is guaranteed! For the food prepared in the embers of a fireplace, we can use all types of meat, octopus, fish, and squid.

Octopus Peka – Octopus under the bell

Ingredients:
* Peka from Octopus1.5-2 kg octopus * 0,8-1 kg potatoes * 4 cloves garlic * 2 dl olive oil
* Salt * Pepper * Sprig fresh rosemary * if desired you can add more vegetables
 * 1 dl white wine

Preparation:
All the ingredients except the wine to put in a flat round tray and put under cripnja (iron bell fireplace), and left an hour under the embers. After an hour of baking, stir the octopus and potatoes and add a deciliter white wine, cover the cripnja again, and let it bake on the embers for another half hour. Additional advice for the preparation of the octopus: If you have a fresh octopus it is best to freeze for a day, because then the octopus will be softer. Enjoy!



Grilled fish



 Try this traditional way to prepare grilled fish. Sometimes the simplest methods of preparation yield excellent results. Most locals on the Adriatic will tell you that one of the best ways to prepare fish is to grill it. Here is a basic method for doing just that. It works on any type of oily fish. The recipe is easily doubled. Baste fish with sprigs of rosemary or thyme, you will love the results!

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds fish fillets cut in pieces * Bay leaves * Salt to taste * 1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice * chopped parsley

Preparation:
Skewer the fish pieces on a skewer, placing a bay leaf between each piece. Salt the fish and grill over the barbecue. Rotate occasionally, basting continually with olive oil and lemon juice until done.
Place on platter; garnish with parsley, and sprinkle with olive oil. Prepare fish on skewers ahead of time. Refrigerate and baste with oil and lemon juice to keep moist until ready to use.



Dalmatian Stewed Beef  – “Pasticada”


Though Dalmatia is best known for its seafood, one cannot omit this dish from a list of traditional Dalmatian specialties. We have included two different versions. Both are tasty and we encourage you to try each of them! This dish is usually served with Potatoes with Swiss chard however; mashed potatoes, fresh pasta or rice would be good as well.

Ingredients: (Serves 8 to 10)

1/2 to 3/4 cup cooking oil
3 1/2 pounds beef round
1/4 pound smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound soup vegetables chopped (carrots, celery, parsley root, parsnips)
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 bay leaf
15 to 20 peppercorns
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup pitted and halved olives
juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp. chopped rosemary

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large deep Dutch oven or a deep stockpot with a lid. Make pockets with a sharp knife all over the beef round and insert the smoked bacon pieces into the pockets. Season with salt and pepper. Then fry the round quickly in oil to brown all sides. Remove and transfer to another dish. Brown the chopped vegetables in the same oil. When the vegetables have become lightly browned, add the rosemary, bay leaf and peppercorns. Stir and then place the meat on top. Cover the dish and stew on medium heat for about 2 1/2 hours, adding water when necessary. When the meat is tender and done, remove it and once again transfer to another dish.
Add the flour to the vegetable mix, stirring thoroughly. Add the wine and stock and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens. When it has thickened to a gravy-like consistency, strain it. If so desired, you may purée the vegetables and add them back to the sauce (add liquid if the sauce becomes too thick). Add the olives to your sauce and season with lemon juice and salt. Slice the meat, arrange on a platter, and either pour the sauce over top or serve separately.
• Use canned beef stock and frozen baby carrots.
• Reduce the oil after you have browned the beef. Use less bacon but do not omit.

“ROZATA” Croatian caramel custard


Rožata is a Croatian custard pudding from the Dalmatian region, similar to flan and crème brûlée. 

Ingredients:
6 eggs
5 tablespoons of sugar
4 dcl of milk
vanilla sugar
grated rind of a lemon
a bit of rum
8 tablespoons of sugar for the mould
Preparation:
In a 1l pot stir 7-8 tablespoons of sugar until it melts on fire, keep stirring until it turns golden brown. Immediately pour the sugar into the mould and spill around it and leave it there until it starts cracking. In another bowl put the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla sugar, a bit of rum an the grated rind of lemon. Mix it all together with a whisk, pour into the mould and begin cooking it on vapor. Cook it for about an hour and a half. Except on a cooking stove you can also prepare rožata covered in your oven until its firm like a pudding. After it cools a bit put it in your fridge.
Decorate as you like; covered with cream and cherries, or sprinkled with some grated chocolate.

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