Sunday, August 7, 2016

Culinary Croatia, Part VI in a Guest Blogger Series

If you've been visiting here for a while, you'll have noticed a faithful commenter, Dottoressa, who has even written a number of guest posts for us featuring the Culinary Culture of her country, Croatia.  Dottoressa is also a keen reader, and she regularly joins in the conversation over at my other blog, Materfamilias Reads.  She reads widely in English, but she also reads in Croatian (and some German), and at one point I asked if she could recommend some of her country's writers who might be translated into English. Dottoressa got back to me later with the name of a play byTena Štivičić, and while I wasn't able to get a copy of that play, my search turned up a short story in an anthology of short stories set in London's west boroughs -- in the Vancouver Public Library's catalogue. Lucky me! I added it to my Hold requests, and within in a week it was waiting for me at the local branch.

The writer is, herself, a Croatian from Zagreb now living in London after studying there at Goldsmiths. and in her short story, she explores the displacement of a similar ex-pat lifestyle on a young woman whose mother is visiting from Croatia. The mother is somewhat intimidated by her daughter's acceptance of the material comforts she enjoys, impressed as well, but also somewhat disapproving of a consumerism that she worries might be achieved at the expense of her daughter's once-strong feminist identity which she sees as compromised. It's a thoughtfully rendered description of the delicate negotiations of any mother visiting an adult daughter's home, and I would imagine anyone who has compounded those negotiations with some cross-cultural and geographic moves might recognise one or two moments here.

What I found delightful in the story, given that Dottoressa had introduced me to the writer and that Dottoressa has been introducing us to her country through its food, is that mother and daughter find their way back to each other by preparing a typical Croatian meal for a dinner party at least partly in add of the daughter's husband's career. A risk to serve this food, but the daughter believes that at their social strata, the twelve dinner guests must surely be bored with the usual offerings and might embrace the novelty of good simple food, not quite peasant food, but certainly not pretentious. How charmed was I to recognise the Sarmaa that mother and daughter prepare as the same recipe Dottoressa offered us not long ago.

If you come across Volume 2: West of the anthology London: 33 boroughs, published by Glasshouse Books, 2010, look for Štivičić's story, "The Truth about the Dishwashers." I know you'd enjoy it, but meanwhile, let me leave the rest of this post for Dottoressa to tell us more about the cuisine of her country. In this part of our continuing series, she turns her attention to her own city, capital of Croatia.

Zagreb is our capital,the biggest town in the country with lots of restaurants and all kinds of food from all our regions and international.  Zagreb cuisine is more bourgeois, inspired partly by Vienna and Budapest, partly from Zagorje and other regions, involving more complicated procedures and ingredients. 

Zagreb-style steak is veal (or turkey) steak, stuffed with ham and cheese, layed consecutively in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and then fried (years ago in lard, now in sunflower oil).This kind of steak is known all around the world under other names. Who was first? We will never  know!

Sweet dishes and cakes are also sophisticated, like „kremsnite“ (cream slices,similar to millefoglie),meringue cream slices, floating island dessert („snenokle“,we have a lot of germanisms,as you can see),“krafne“-a type of donut,baked for Carnival-, all kind of pancakes (thinner and bigger than american ones,rolled and served with jams,chocolate,walnuts or cheese). There are apple or cottage cheese pies-they have crust on both sides and are in the shape of a rectangle, not round. 

                                 Crispy vanilla little tea cakes
(my grandma's recipe,originally maybe from Vienna; we make them for Christmas,or whenever we want)
350 g wheat flour
200 g unsalted butter,room temperatures
80 g sugar
100 g ground walnuts or almonds
1 egg white
For coating: 100 g vanilla flavoured sugar
-oven on 175 grade Celsius
-knead together (with your hands,take off your rings-it's great for your hand skin-you'll see ) wheat, butter, sugar, walnuts and egg white, in a dough. All have to be well mixed together and kneaded in a ball.
-take piece by piece from the ball and make small balls (approx like european walnuts size-it is smaller than pecan)
-roll small ball between your palms and form an „U“(or, more likely, the horseshoe shape) from the „tube“,you have made. The both ends are slightly thinner, but not much
-take a big pan. Spread  a little oil on the bottom  and coat with some flour. Put the little cakes
-bake between 15 and 25 minutes(it depends on the size of your cakes). Be very careful,they tend to be faster and more  brown on the bottom
-take them from the oven, just gently move them a little with spatula
-when they are not too hot and  you can take them with your hand (they are very crispy!), roll gently in vanilla flavoured sugar
I now realize, although they are very,very simple and very,very tasty,y ou'll have to  have experience
So, you can also skip all the ball making and rolling. Simply roll the dough on flour-coated surface, about 5-7 mm thick, and make shapes like stars, halfmoons, circles or whatever shapes you have,bake them and coat with vanilla flavoured sugar, simply as that! I've tried this also, bake time is slightly shorter

There you go, then, with another interesting post about a country I haven't had a chance to visit yet, but hope to before too long. As I've mentioned in recent posts, I'm on a blogging break at the moment,  so I'm not responding to comments but I won't resist reading them. Dottoressa is generally very generous, though, in responding to any questions or comments you might have, and I know she welcomes any feedback to her guest posts.


  1. Those look like simple and tasty little cakes. I'll try them when I have special guests. I looked for Stivicic's work in Richmond Public Library's catalogue but there was nothing, not even the book of short stories. I put in a request to purchase for Richmond but I might try to borrow VPL's copy when I return from my trip. A funny synchronicity! Tena Stivicic is married to Douglas Henshall, the leading actor in the Shetland series. I hope that you are enjoying the break and I always learn something new from Dottoressa.

  2. Thank you,Madame,I could say the same :-)
    Isn't it funny how things are connected in our little world?
    I didn't watch the Shetland series (hope I will) but was sitting in the theatre behind Tena and her husband once and we had the same hairdresser (not the husband :-)) before.
    She is really very smart and natural beauty. Her father was/is great series writer.
    I hope you'll find the book (I had this book but couldn't find it now)
    Your trip sounds fantastic. I hope you'll have great time.
    Can't wait to read all your stories!

  3. Frances,you're real detective:-)!
    So glad you liked it
    Yes,food plays a great role in our life here,it is not meant to be only something to eat,it tells stories,it offers comfort or welcome,love,it makes or breaks family ties and friendships....

  4. I'm not one of baking anymore... but I'm putting these in my "Make These if You Ever Start Baking Again" file. I love the Shetland series too... and Douglas Henshall. Mater's blog ... where everything & everyone intersects:)

  5. Isn't it funny?
    Thanks Susan!
    Well,about baking-I used to bake a lot-and I love my cakes (because I bake almost only what I like)and then I eat....and this is not good any more!

  6. Is this what they call "Vanillekipferl" in Austria? I have never tried to make them myself, but perhaps I should.

  7. Yes,they are indeed :-)! We call them very similar ,the name and the recipe is originally from Austria- I was not sure how to translate the name to english
    They are actually very simple to make and with "Husaren krapferl" are my Christmas favourite cookies. I never fail with this recipe
    Do you live in Austria Eleonore?


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...