This month I was inspired by another friend’s travels - this time the Honeymoon destination of Croatia! Croatian cuisine is known as the ‘cuisine of regions’ due to the fact that each region has its own set of very distinct culinary traditions. A meal that is commonplace in Istria is unlikely to be found in the more Southern region of Dalmatia and vice versa.
Croatia has a long coastline meaning that seafood is very popular - octopus salad and squid ink risotto are two well known Croatian specialities. In Dalmatia it is said that the fish swims three times - in the sea, then in olive oil and finally in wine. However the friend I am currently staying with is vegetarian and so this impacted on the dish choices this month!
There are plenty of geographical influences of classic cuisines at play as well, most notably Italian, Austrian and Hungarian influences are prevalent throughout Croatian cuisine.
Fuži Pasta & Truffle Cream Sauce
The first dish I attempted is an Istrian classic. The Fuži pasta shape originates in this region and truffles are commonplace here. In fact, at one point the The Guinness Book of World Records named a 1.2 kg whopper found in Istria as the largest in the world (it was later trounced by an Italian discovery weighing almost 2kg).
The iconic pasta shape is made by first rolling out the dough into thin sheets and then cutting the sheets into small squares - roughly 4cm x 4cm. Individually, each pasta square is wrapped around the handle of a wooden spoon and two opposite corners of the square are pressed together to form a tube. In order to get some greenery into this meal, I also made the Croatian side dish - Abšmalcane Mahune, which is basically just green beans, garlic and breadcrumbs.
I gave myself an extra challenge with this dish as my pasta machine did not make the move to Bath with me and is currently in storage. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how the dough turned out and I was able to roll it out thin enough with a good old fashioned rolling pin and a bit of elbow grease! I have never bothered making pasta shapes before - usually opting for something simple like tagliatelle but I actually found the process quite relaxing and would be open to trying some different pasta shapes in the future.
For the sauce, I opted for truffle paste as I am not made of money. This was mixed through with some cream, parmesan and butter and was of course delicious (how could that combination not be?)
Did you like it?
I really enjoyed the pasta shapes with the sauce and was glad to have a bit of crunch from the green beans on the side as well. In the future I would certainly make this dish again but would add mushrooms into the mix as well to give it even more oomph.
Marks out of 10: 9/10
Kroštule are a festive favourite in Croatia and across the South Eastern Europe region. They are mainly enjoyed at Christmas, holidays and weddings. Kroštule are made from a sweet pastry dough which is shaped into a knot, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar; much like a doughnut.
This was a very simple dough to make that required just an hour proving. The knot shape was easy enough to make with a bit of practice; first you had to roll the dough out thinly, then cut the dough into rectangles. Using a knife, a slit is made on the inside of each rectangle and one half of the dough is folded through this hole to create a sort of knot shape.
Did you like it?
I don’t know why I picked two recipes this month that involved me fiddling around and making shapes from dough but I had clearly lost a bit of patience by the time I got onto these. Unlike the pasta sheets, I failed to roll the dough out thin enough and ended up with giant pastry bows. Upon further reading about Kroštule, I realised that they are actually meant to be crispy and a bit crumbly. My Kroštule lacked both of these qualities. However, this didn’t mean that they didn’t taste good - they were almost exactly like doughnuts and doughnuts are delicious so… this was kind of a success?
Marks out of 10: 7/10
Sataraš is a vegetable stew made with primarily peppers, onion, tomatoes and eggs and it is kind of like a mixture between a shakshuka and an omelette. It is unbelievably simple to make and relies upon good fresh produce and a low and slow cook to bring out the flavours of the vegetables, as there are no spices added at all. The eggs are added once the vegetables are softened up and are an optional addition to this dish. Unlike a Shakshuka, the eggs are normally scrambled through the dish. In Croatian culture, allegedly the head of the household will be offered a fried egg on top of their portion and is the only one to be offered this privilege.
As described above - this was super simple to put together. I let the peppers and onions slowly cook down until they were sweet, soft and delicious and then added garlic and just a teeny bit of dried oregano. When the vegetables are cooked to an almost creamy texture, the eggs are added and scrambled through the dish. To finish off, I just sprinkled with a handful of parsley and served with some olive bread for dunking in!
Did you like it?
This is one of those dishes where the end result is much more than the sum of its individual parts. Super simple and quick to pull together - I will definitely be making this again!
Marks out of 10: 8/10
You can view all previous 'Country of the Month' articles HERE.