Have you ever wanted to travel to Croatia? If the answer is no, then by the time you finish reading this blog I can basically guarantee you that you will have changed your answer to yes! Are you ready to learn about the food and wine of the beautiful country along the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia.
1. Black Risotto
I tried this the second time I traveled to Croatia in Dubrovnik and it was so amazing I had to have it twice! This is a very traditional food for the area, because most of Croatia is along the water (thus the nickname “Country of 1,000 Islands”) Known locally as crni rižot, this is made with cuttlefish or squid, olive oil, garlic, red wine and squid ink, which gives an intense seafood flavor and black color. Popular all along Croatia’s coastline, this dish will turn your mouth and teeth black – but it’s worth it. Also means that you should carry around a little travel toothbrush when you’re visiting and eating in Croatia!
Also called “Brudet”, this fisherman’s stew hails from Italy’s Marche region. Traditionally, fishermen cooked it over an open fire using the catch of the day. They would add ample vinegar to the pot to preserve the stew for a couple of days. Like Italians, coastal Croatians use a tomato base in this dish – and it is amazing!
Commonly found on the Adriatic coast, these doughnut-like fried pastries vary from region to region – egg yolks, raisins, grated lemon or orange rinds, and even rakija or rum can go into the mixture. Traditionally served during the holidays, these are popular and highly addictive, so you can usually find them year-round.
This is style of cooking is where they bake meat, seafood, and veggies under a bell-like lid, covered in embers, is to my knowledge, a unique cooking method found in Croatia.
Basically, you can put any kind of meat and veggies in a tray, salt it, add spices, oil, and cover it with a bell-like lid. Placed in a fireplace, the lid is then covered with embers. It cooks for two hours, but after about an hour or so, the lid is lifted, meat is turned, and some other spices are added, like a mix of honey and cognac with Mediterranean herbs.
Peka can be made with any kind of meat (chicken, veal, sausages, etc.), but the one I was able to try was a octopus peka. Octopus really turns tender and succulent, while the potatoes become especially sweet and tasty. The sauce is delicious, and if served with a bread baked also ispod peke (under a bell-like lid), then it’s a festival for taste buds.
This dish usually needs to be ordered in advance in a restaurant. Some restaurants have it on a menu all the time, but peka is the best when made on order.
This is a a very popular winter dish in Croatia. The stuffing is basically the same for both dishes, minced meat and rice with spices, but with sarma, stuffing is wrapped in sauerkraut instead of bell peppers. Another yummy dish for cold winter days.
Alright, if I talk anymore about the food you’ll need a cup to salivate into. Let’s move over to the wines!
This is a very popular white wine that comes from Dalmatia. The white grapes for this wine are grown on the Dalmatian coast and this wine is closely associated with the islands of Hvar and Korčula as top places for making Pošip. This wine has a strong aroma and refreshing notes. Wine goes great in combination with seafood, green salads, and grilled fish. It is strong in aromas and flavors on the nose but it is perfect when chilled to the right temperature on a hot summer day!
Plavac Mali is one of the best red wine types that come from Croatia and is the one I was most privy to drinking on my most recent trip. This grape variety is one of the most planted in Croatia, especially in Dalmatia and in Pelješac. It has a distinct cherry-like flavor with notes of spices and peppers. Plavac wines have high percentages of alcohol and rich tannins. They also age well and are one of the most demanded red wines.
Dingač is a robust red wine coming from Pelješac peninsula. It is produced from the plavac mali grape variety and it has a nice dark red to purple color.
BONUS RECIPE: Black Risotto
Black Risotto Black Risotto (Crni rizot) – Croatian seafood and rice dish very popular along Dalmatian Adriatic coast; it gets its peculiar color from squid ink.
- 1 kg (2 lb) squid or calamari or cuttlefish
- 2-3 large onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine
- 400 g (0.9 lb; about 2 cups) risotto rice (like Arborio)
- 4 g (about 1 tsp) squid ink, or to taste
- 2 cups fish stock or vegetable stock or hot water
- salt, black pepper
- a knob of butter
- Black Risotto cooking directions: Clean the squid or calamari (reserve ink sac). Cut them into strips.
- Saute onion in the oil until translucent. Add the squid or calamari and cook for 15 minutes. Then add garlic, parsley, salt (be mindful about how much salt you use because the stock is salty), wine, pepper, and enough water to cover calamari and cook until squid or calamari are soft (squid will take longer time to cook than calamari).
- Go ahead and add the rice, the ink from the ink sac and continue cooking on low to medium heat. Add hot stock, ladle by ladle, stirring until absorbed. Adjust seasonings.
- Remove Black Risotto from heat when rice is cooked al dente. Stir in a knob of butter. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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If you liked this blog post also check out my other blog post about country’s traditional food and wines.