Location: Southern Europe on the Adriatic Sea
Population: 4.2 million
Geography: A mix of mountain, plain, river valley, and seashore
Signature flavours: Seafood, tomato, green peppercorn, pork, orange, fig
Croatia is divided into four regions, and Eric wanted to represent them all in his Croatia assignment. The result was a diverse menu, ranging in flavours from smoky to citrusy, salty to sweet.
He worked primarily from Barbara Unkovic’s The Adriatic Kitchen, along with supplemental information from online sources.
Crni Rizot: From the Dalmatia region, this squid ink risotto includes onion, garlic, tomato, parsley, and whole baby squid, and is served alongside steamed mussels.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Pork, Leek, and Tomato in White Wine Sauce: A smoky stew from the Slavonia region, traditionally spiced with green peppercorn. Eric used a seitan-based imitation bacon in place of pork.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Istarski Srdele: Deep fried breaded sardine with lemon and pepper, from the Istria region.
Prep and cooking time: 10 min
Narancini: Chewy strips of candied orange rind, made in the Dalmatia style, where orange trees abound.
Prep and cooking time: 9.5 hours (approx.)
Paprenjaci: Gingerbread and ground walnut cookies spiced with black pepper, often found in the Zagreb area.
Prep and cooking time: 3 hours (including dough chilling time)
The Shopping List
Eric found most of what he needed at Bulk Barn and our local supermarket, and purchased the seafood and squid ink at Hooked fishmonger. The imitation pork for the stew came from vegan Chinese restaurant King’s Cafe. Eric looked for green peppercorns, but wasn’t able to find any available in Toronto. He substituted white pepper, which he learned was fairly similar.
Pictures of squid ink risotto online show a deep black dish, and Eric found his was a somewhat lighter grey. He tried adding more ink, but worried about making the dish too salty. We concluded that at least some of the pictures had been edited for contrast, because the rizot was absolutely perfect as it was: a tender seafood risotto alongside mussels steamed with a mixture of water and white wine. The ink itself did not have an overpowering flavour, but leant the dish a mild saltiness.
The pork and leek stew was hearty and smoky and tomato-forward. The imitation bacon was (as far as this particular vegetarian was concerned) an excellent alternative to real pork.
During the deep frying process of the Istarski srdele, Eric found his oil had become too hot, and momentarily worried that the sardines would be too well done. As it was, they were just right: crispy, lemony, and very fishy — as sardines tend to be.
Dessert was started the night before, when Eric pre-soaked the orange rinds overnight to soften them. The narancini were the most difficult dish to make, with multiple steps, including the somewhat laborious process of separating the pith (the white flesh inside the orange peel) from the rind proper. He had to say, though, that after tasting them, the narancini were worth every hour they took to make. The strips of candied rind were chewy with a satisfying, sugary crunch and a fantastic zesty citrusy-ness. Eric served them along with light, peppery gingerbread cookies called paprenjaci, which were themselves very good. The cookie recipe was the only one that came entirely from an online source.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.