Friday, May 20, 2016

Culinary Croatia Calls -- Part II in a Continuing Series

So much I'd love to chat with you about -- especially since we're moving into the last stage of emptying the house, and also since we've actually begun to look for a new home. Life is exciting and hectic and I'm processing a cavalcade of emotions. But time eludes me even as I visualise, constantly, lists scrolling themselves in front of me out of the sky, additional tasks being added, it seems, ad finitum.
Luckily, I have an ace up my blogging sleeve, thanks to the generosity of regular reader and commenter, Dottoressa, who has been introducing us to the cuisine of her country, Croatia. If you missed her first post in this series, you will find it here. Otherwise, please enjoy the second instalment, and I hope you'll let Dottoressa and I know what you think -- especially if you try any of the recipes she's offered here and in the last post or if you've had a chance to try any Croatian food or wine, either in Croatia or exported elsewhere.

(EDITED Saturday to add the final photo, a text conversation noting Croatian wines available in BC)

Part II
Our  Istrian and Dalmatian prsut (prosciutto)-dryed  pork ham-is  well known, slightly different one from the other,  but both are excellent, EU protected meat product of highest quality. I love both of them!
Best Dalmatian prsut is from Drnis (some of my friends who make their own prsut--and I like it very much--will kill me,if you tell them this!). It  is served with cheese (one of the best is Paski cheese from Island Pag ,made from sheep milk) and olives, as an appetiser or a snack.
Along the coast there are many sorts of olive trees and many kinds of virgin olive oil.  You have to taste it when visiting Croatia. If you could find it somewhere in a shop-buy it!  Istrian olive oils are often awarded as one of the best in the world. Olive oil I use  is mada by my friend and her family, she doesn't sell it at all, so it is really a treat. When I buy, it is usually Bracchia, from the island Brac.
You have to try grilled fish, black risotto with cuttlefish or octopus salad, usually served cold. My friend serves  it warm, it is very tasty, too.
Mountain Ucka, near the cradle of our tourism, town Opatija, is famous for marrons, a special sort of chestnuts.
When my son was little,we were staying  in a hotel at the top of Ucka for one summe , with its healing mountain air, driving to the beaches  at the foothill every day.
Istra is one of the best known and developed  gastro region (tourists compare it with Tuscany), with  a lot of best restaurants, wine and olive tours.

Kvarner scampi (or other prawns) with green tagliatelle
4 Persons
500 g of fresh or frozen, prawns without shell (if frozen, let it half defrost)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
2  table spoons of good cognac or brandy
2 cloves of fresh garlic,chopped finely
2 tea spoons of fresh parsley chopped finely
2 table spoons of fine breadcrumbs
200 grams of  tomato canned polpa (peeled and hacked tomatoes)
1 tablespoon of Philadelphia cream cheese (or similar)
3 dcl of milk (10 oz?)
Pinch of salt,pinch of pepper,pinch of sugar

Take a casserole/pot  (better  with   thick or double bottom, but no problem if you don't have any, you only have to be more careful when cooking) and choose medium heat on the cooking stove
Put olive oil in it, warm a little, add garlic and stir one or two times with a wooden spoon , the garlic must not change colour. Add brandy and prawns. Wait till simmers, add tomatoes, pinch of salt , pinch of sugar, milk and cream cheese while stirring. put the heat to minimum (but it has to simmer very slightly all the time, if needed increase a little) Stir from time to time. After aproximately 10 minutes add (slowly with tablespoon in one hand) bread crumbs while stirring  with the other hand and wooden spoon (now  you have to stir and be there for five minutes because it is going to become thicker). Add parsley. It is done.
Taste carefully and add salt or pepper if needed.
Take a big pan and cook 30-40 dag green tagliatelle in a lot of salted water ( al dente )
This dish has to be served hot
Serve tagliatelle as a little nest on a plate and add Prawns (or you can mix it all together and serve together)

One of the best Istrian wines is Malvasia, full white wine, with the hint of accacia flowers and bitter almond taste,with floral and fruity aromas. There are also mighty red wines,like Teran, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a dessert Muscat wine.
Original white wine on Island Krk is Zlahtina.
The production of wine in Croatia started with the Ancient Greeks.  Many traditional  old grape sorts still exist.
Here, in Croatia, you can find a lot of great wines,some highly awarded. When in Croatia, don't hesitate to order a bottle of our wine (or more J!), you can rarely go wrong. Even some house wines are pretty good,but it can be a lottery,too
Dalmatian wines are mostly mighty red Mediterranean wines. Some sorts of our wines are quite unknown outside the country, like the sort of Plavac mali.
Did you know that the well known Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich is actually a Croatian native? He was the one who started to claim that Zinfandel is descedent of Plavac mali. DNA testing has proved that theory. Interesting, isn't it?
My favourite wines are: white- Malvasia,Pinot sivi (Pinot grigio)  from Orahovica (Slavonia) and  Josic  winery (Baranja region). The latter is very hard to find ,except in some restaurants (small production=great quality=problems where to find). Grasevina Perak (Kutjevo county) is value for money.

Red wines- I love all from Masvin winery (my latest discovery!): Shiraz, Merlot  (has won a bronze medal at Decanter competition in London 2013) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is also my favourite from  Baranja county- Cuvee  Josic. 

Again, thanks so much, Dottoressa, for sharing your country's cuisine with us. Readers, I know from previous posts that Dottoressa will respond generously to any comment you care to leave. And let us know if any of you are motivated to serve up one of these dishes in the near future. Meanwhile, Happy Weekend, wherever you are!

And for those of my BC readers interested in tracking down Croatian wines here, I texted my daughter-in-law, who is trained as a sommelier and works as a wine rep for a Wine and Spirits Importer and Distributor.  She's so generous and knowledgeable, and she quickly sent me an answer, as you can see below. Thanks, Joey. I think I'm going to be drinking some fine Croatian wine very soon (as practice for a possible trip to Zagreb in the next year or so, I hope!) 


  1. Sounds so healthy, and so perfect for summers at the sea. I feel as though you mix German, Italian, and Greek, altogether. I so love learning about your homeland.

    1. Thank you,Lisa!
      You are so right-we have influences from all the 3 nations (and some more :-)),you'll see. All of them were here for a couple of years or more,some stay as neighbours (a lot of them come as turists now- luckily!- Tourism is very important in our economy) and are happy to find dishes they like as well at home. Germans- Austrians exactly- influenced Zagreb cuisine a lot!
      Have a nice weekend!

  2. I m going to make that dish as I think that our spot prawns are in season. We can buy them fresh off the boat where I live. I wonder if w can buy Croatian wines here. It seems that your local dishes are very healthy.

    1. Thank you so much Madame!
      Lucky you,having fresh scampi at your door! I hope you'll like it!
      Here is one easy and tasty recipe for you and fresh scampi (without peeling them): It is called Buzara
      Put some olive oil, 3- 4 soup spoons, in a pot. Fry for a moment chopped garlic.just to heat them
      Add fresh scampi-1000 g-,stir,add 200 ml of chopped peeled tomato (fresh or from the can), 2 dcl of white wine,chopped parsley leaves (add water if needed to cover scampi) and cook -it depends how big your scampi are,for "buzara"are better smaller ones- 20 minutes or more.
      Before the end, add 3 spoons of breadcrumbs and a little lemon!
      Bon appetit!
      There are a lot of Croats in Canada and USA,maybe you could find some of our wines
      Yes , our coastal cuisine is very healthy,that's the reason I like it very much!

    2. Sorry,I've forgotten to add 2 chopped onions at the beginning of cooking Buzara. So- garlic and onions together!
      Some make it without onions,but the sauce is much better if you use onions too!

  3. Yes, I would like to try this with our spot prawns, which are in season in the Pacific Northwest. The dish sounds delicious. I didn't know that Croatia had such a varied cuisine and I was totally ignorant of its wine production. I will have to check the wine store!

    1. Thank you for reading,dear Pondside!
      I'm glad you like it.
      Check the answer to Madame above,with a recipe for Buzara-I hope you'll like it ,too- it is more about the delicious sauce with some fine bread,than scampi. I adore Buzara,easy to make!
      You'll see in next parts how actually different our cuisine is in different parts of country(if you don't get bored before :-))
      I may be onesided (although I like to drink and try wines from whole world and love a lot of them),but some of our wines are really good

  4. Third time lucky ...I've just lost my last two comments, each time I pressed the preview button!! Here goes ...
    I really enjoyed your post Dottoressa. Great to hear all about Croatian wines ...and the food, of course! Interesting, the link to the Napa Valley wines. I don't think I've ever tried Croatian wine but I'll certainly look out for it, following your recommendation. Hopefully, I'll get to try it in Croatia one day!!
    Looking forward to trying your recipes. I love the combination of prawns and pasta!
    Take care and enjoy the weekend ...fingers crossed this comment doesn't disappear as well. I'm just going to press publish and hope :)

  5. Third time lucky indeed!
    Thank you Rosie!
    Hope you'll try wines and food in Croatia :-)!
    Have a nice weekend!

  6. Just listening in on the conversation -- so pleased you're all enjoying this post as much as I did. My daughter-in-law, trained as a sommelier, is a sales rep for a company that imports and distributes wine and spirits, so I've asked her what she knows about availability of Croatia wines here in BC and perhaps even more generally in Canada. She's a very busy young mom, though, and I'm not sure when she might be able to get back to me with some information, but if any readers find Croatian wines in their neighbourhood, perhaps report back here.

    1. Oh,really great :-)!
      Thanks to you both!

  7. This post brings back memories of holidays in Istra some years ago. I loved the food - that perfect combination of Yugoslav, Austrian and Italian traditions. In three weeks I did not have a single bad meal. And I loved the wine, too. (Not to mention the beautiful scenery, delightful ancient towns and lovely beaches.) Hope I'll go back there one day.

    1. Thank you very much Eleonore!
      And you are welcome :-)!

  8. This looks good D & not complicated . I like to make my own pasta sauces , so much better than those in a jar . I will try it . Re the breadcrumbs , do you use soft white breadcrumbs or is best to use slightly older bread ?
    Wendy in York

    1. Thank you Wendy!
      Breadcrumbs are best from the older,drier bread!
      We all love it very much and it is so easy-let me know would you like it!

  9. I'll echo Pondside and Madame in saying that Buzara sounds perfect for this time of year here on the west coast, now that spot prawns are in season. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Thank you for reading Lorrie!
    Oh, I love prawns so much,I'm so glad that you'll try it!
    I cut the shell of the prawns with scissors before cooking Buzara - pronounced something like boo-tsar-ah :-) ( my friend's advice- for cutting!),easier to eat after !

  11. I like Coronica Malvasia,elegant classy wine, see what I said above about malvasia
    Plavac mali (Stina)- is really mighty Dalmatian(Mediterranean) wine,strong, with a hint of sweet-sour cherries or red berries. I like red wines to be strong and velvet-y and Stina certainly is one of them!


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.

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