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!


  1. Hello Dottoressa! We are long-time users of Vegeta, introduced to us many years ago by a Croatian neighbour. Thank you for another lovely foodie post.

    Mater - it's the most wonderful feeling, when the 'i's have been dotted and the 't's crossed. In all our moves we have only had things go wrong once - when we moved to Budapest the buyers' closing date was about 6 weeks afterwards. We were expecting a call from our realtor on the day - unfortunately, he told us that the buyers were having some trouble with the finances (really?!) and so we had to make an emergency call to our insurance agent to make sure the house was still covered for the next week. As you can imagine, the next day or two we were wracked with nerves. We finally got the all-clear call when we were out for dinner with friends - phew!

  2. Thank you Patricia-great to know! It is a small world,no?
    I am so sorry to hear about your problems in Budapest-almost in my neighbourhood! More about Hungary coolinary influences in Croatia later- you'll be the visiting expert to comment this part of series :-)!

  3. Frances,so happy to hear all good news!
    All good that ends well,no?
    Have a nice weekend!

  4. Dottoressa, this looks and sounds delicious! In time, I plan to try all of your recipes. The frittata was delicious although I had to use domestic (but fresh, local) asparagus.

    Mater, it sounds like all is going well...hurrah! Won't it be nice to just lock the door and leave without housesitter worries or a long trip to the airport? A definite mark in the 'pro' column!

    1. Georgia,I'm delighted that you liked it. Thank you for your plan. I have chosen only recipes I really make myself. Domestic asparagus are great (and much bigger!),they only miss the wild bitternes.

  5. Congrats on the deal going through and YUM for the cabbage rolls!

  6. Thank you Lisa! It is excellent for cold winter days! Lika has much more snow than we do

  7. I love cabbage rolls and am intrigued to try them with sour cabbage- just need to find the sour cabbage. I will also look for the Vegeta. A friend of mine just returned from a European vacation and raved about Croatia- I have added it to my bucket list, Dottorressa.

    Frances, so happy that all went well and you are free and clear for your next adventure. I loved the story of your wee hours escapade to protect the valuables. Enjoy your much earned vacation. Jennifer

  8. That's great Jennifer,thank you. So,you have information from the first hand (except me :-)!)
    You have to visit before we get too commercialized!

  9. Enjoy your time away with Pater, Frances and with friends old and new!
    Another interesting post and delicious sounding recipe Dottoressa, always good to hear from you!

  10. Thank you,Rosie :-)!

  11. I'm fascinated by the thought of buying a whole pickled cabbage !
    My favourite lazy pasta sauce is basically some ajvar with lots of basil and good olives added ...

  12. Could you imagine that we even made whole pickled (sour) cabbage by ourselves about 30 years ago? I have forgotten all about it, but in the need.....I could do it again!
    I prefer to buy separate pickled cabbage leaves (less work!),but here it is very hard to find.
    Your lazy pasta sounds delicious to me,SmitoniusAndSonata !

  13. Dottoressa, another interesting insight into your cuisine. I'm beginning to have a thing about pickled veg.
    I wanted to tell you that I thought of you when I was cooking last night. Wondering whether the potatoes were cooked, I found myself thinking 'what I need now is a spiky knife'. And it was just the job...

    1. Ceri,it is hilarious,I'm going to call my spiky knife in english, not in croatian any more,too :-)

  14. Congrats, and yummy cabbage rolls. I adore ajvar...

    1. Thank you Mardel,me too :-)!


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