Thursday, June 9, 2016
Culinary Croatia Calls, Part IV
Such a relief! Not only did the move go very smoothly and the cleaning get accomplished on time, not only did we manage to get to the insurance office and the bank and finish a number of administrative tasks in time to catch the ferry to the mainland on Tuesday evening, but we got the good news from the lawyer's office yesterday afternoon that the deal was completed. I must admit that I carried more than a teeny niggle of concern with me the last few weeks, wondering what we'd do if the buyer reneged at the last minute, and it was such a relief to know I could let that go.
Now Pater's headed back to the other side of the country, and I'm meeting him tomorrow in a city somewhere between here and there. Find out the mystery city by staying tuned, right at this channel (or guess, if you'd like!). I have a week to explore that city and make a side trip to another, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Pater will be working during the weekdays, but we'll relax together on the weekend and in the evening, a welcome change of scene from a few months focused so completely on moving.
So once again, Guest Blogger Dottoressa comes to the rescue, regaling you with another post about culinary traditions in her country, Croatia (if you missed her earlier posts, the most recent is here and you can work your way back to the first). I'll be in the background, getting my packing done and then flying across Canada. I'll be doing my best to respond to all the lovely comments you left on the last post or two and following the conversation with Dottoressa in the comments when I get time, and I'll try to post soon to let you know where I am. Meanwhile, you can imagine yourself traveling around Croatia, and perhaps try out a new recipe.
Region of Lika and Gorski Kotar
Due to long winters and short summers,home of unearthly beautiful Plitvice Lakes-google for pictures!-,surrounded by mountains,forests,rivers and pastures, the region of Lika has simple, tasteful, hefty dishes, exquisite cheeses, cornflour polenta, “pole“ ( potato halves baked unpeeled in oven), best sauerkraut, sarma (pickled-cabbage-wrapped meat rolls), trout from clean rivers and lakes, frog legs ( Gorski kotar) and game stew. You have to try strudel and cakes with wild berries, driving from Zagreb to the Adriatic coast.
Lika and Gorski Kotar have excellent rakija or grappa (plum, grape, juniper,berries or honey brandy) and the region has well known beer „Velebit“. (To all of you,dear beer lovers-I am very sorry! I don't drink beer, I don't like beer and I know nothing about beer, except basics! Although, rumor has it, here are very good beers (my friends can confirm it) and there are plenty of varieties. I am more wine (and coffee) person.
500g minced beef
500 g minced pork
100 g chopped pancetta
1 head of sour cabbage-sauerkraut- (or 12-16 equally big leafs)
500 g of sliced sour cabbage
100g non-cooked rice
2 whole eggs
1 onion,fine chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
Black pepper in powder
Sweet red paprika in powder (if you have)
2 soup spoons of flour
Separate sour cabbage leaves gently, rinse in cold water if they are too sour.
Put a little oil in a pan and stew for a a moment garlic and onions. Let it cool. Add to the mixture of minced meat, pancetta, rice, pepper, salt, eggs, nutmeg and paprika. Mix it well with your hands. Leave it for 30 minutes.
Take about 1 soup spoon ball from the meat mixture and lay on the base of the cabbage leaf. Roll the middle gently to the top. Left and right remains tuck in the roll. That is your sarma roll. Repeat till all the meat is used.
Put the little amount of oil at the bottom of a large pot. Lay the half of sliced cabbage,then half of sarma rolls. Repeat with the other halves. Add water to cover everything. You can add thick slices of pancetta, smoked meat,s moked sausages if you wish-sarma will taste better!
After it starts to simmer,cook on the low heat slowly for about 1 ,5 hours. Don't stir,just shake the pot from time to time (while waiting, make the martinis using the same procedure ☺ for the cook- just kidding,but why not?)
Than (sarma is slowly cooking all the time) take another pan,with two soup spoons of oil and two soup spoons of flour, make something like light bechamel base. Add red paprika in powder (pepper), if you have, and a spoon or two of tomato paste. Add cold water while stirring to melt everything without knobs (alternative-mix it with the mixer)
Pour it in the pot with sarma. Cook slowly for another hour.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
It can stay in a fridge for couple of days. Every day gets better. It is a blessing for the cook,isn't it?
You can freeze it, too. It has to simmer for at last 10 minutes after defrosting,before serving.
I forgot to take the photo before the lunch-so,this are leftovers!
„Vegeta“ is the most famous mixed salty spices and dried vegetables mixture,used and produced in Croatia,known and sold all over the world.
I prefer to use fresh ingredients and mix my own version, but it is the only non-oriental mixture I would use ( for example in „japrak“, minced-meat rolls covered with kale leaves,very similar to sarma). Vegetables and meat are still full of flavours ,s o it is better not to change its essence with too many spices. But, if you find Vegeta, buy it and try!
Homemade ajvar is a relish (originally from turkish and then serbian heritage), made of roasted red bell peppers and eggplants and includes a lot of manual labour. It is served as a side dish and may vary from sweet to very hot.
Thank you again, Dottoressa. Once my jaunt back East with Pater is done and we're back here getting settled into Vancouver life, I'll have to look around the city and see where I can buy the pickled cabbage leaves -- I love recipes that get better as leftovers, a boon for the cook, as you say!