Sunday, 20 November 2022

Exploring Croatian Recipes: How Slavonian Can You Go? Pogacice sa Cvarcima

November 20, 2022 - It is getting cold in Croatia, the days are long and dark, and the Slavonian soul is starting to crave the hearty food of its childhood. The recipe we’re bringing today is like a warm hug from your grandmother, with just a little dose of a heart attack. But it’s worth it. Time for pogacice sa cvarcima.

This is one of those recipes that you needed to start preparing last year. It is made with one of the most exceptional ingredients you can find in Slavonia. We have no idea if there is an official name or what it’s called in other parts of Croatia. In eastern Croatia, its name is drožda, which could be compared to caviar or truffles in how precious it is. It is made during the process of making čvarci (Slavonian pork cracklings). To make these little cubes of fun, the fatty bits of pork (just under the skin) are usually fried in a large pot until a lot of the fat separates, and the pieces have turned golden brown. During this process, crumbs will fall to the bottom. Čvarci are then taken out, the lard is strained, and whatever is left (the mentioned crumbs) is your sweet, sweet drožda. Traditionally, this was done to use every single part of the pig when meat was not as affordable. These days, drožda is in most households kept specifically for pogacice sa cvarcima.

Pogacice is a simple sourdough with a healthy dose of the naughty stuff. They remain a very occasional treat, best served with yogurt, kefir, or sour milk. Their appearance at parties and gatherings is always celebrated. You can try and only have one, but we promise you’ll be happy to forget about the calories for a couple more.

Ingredients:

1 kg of flour

2 eggs

2 tbsp of salt

250g of drožda (čvarak lard)

1 cube (20g) of fresh yeast

500 ml of milk

2 tsp of sugar

Preparation:

Start by developing the yeast in warm milk (250 ml), a tablespoon of flour, and two teaspoons of sugar. It is ready once it rises and doubles in volume.

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Add it to all the remaining ingredients and knead a soft dough. Leave that to rise in a warm environment for about 45 minutes. Again, it’s ready once it doubles in volume and becomes soft enough to leave indents which do not bounce back. Knead the dough once again and roll the whole batch out until it’s about one centimetre thick. 

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Before cutting into shapes, with a sharp knife cut parallel lines diagonally on the surface to create a textured top, adding a fun dimension to the pogacice. Use a round mold or a glass (diameter up to 5 cm) to cut them out. Bake at 180 °C / 356 °F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 22 October 2022

Exploring Croatian Recipes: Queen of Autumn, the Apple Pie

October 22, 2022 - In this old new series, we shall endeavour to explore one of the best parts of living in Croatia - the food. We're bringing recipes for everyday and special occasion meals and desserts, which may be traditional or more recent but always delicious. It is only fitting to start with the queen of autumn, the ubiquitous apple pie.

If you don't have your apple tree in Croatia, you will probably know someone who does. The old "eat an apple" when you're craving something sweet is almost like a rule of life, and there's plenty of them to keep your doctor away. Much like zimnica, when the time is right, and the apples are ripe, you know your life will revolve around them for a few days. You'll want to ensure that you have stored the good ones, handed out the ones of acceptable quality, and used whatever was edible from the dodgy batch. Then ignore the good ones until it becomes more urgent to use them up. That's where the Croatian version of apple pie comes in.

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Of course, there is more than one recipe, depending on where you go and how old the grandmother is. But the one most people will know and love is the Lazy Pie (Lijena Pita). It owes its name to the fact that you can prepare it with just a few ingredients, a simple technique, and in a short amount of time - perfect, right?

For the crust, you will need the following:

 400g of flour (all-purpose)

- 180g of sugar (generic white)

- 180g of lard (traditional Slavonian) or butter (unsalted, store-bought, sad)

- 2 eggs

- 1/2 pack (5g) of baking powder

- a dollop (1tbsp) of sour cream (optional, but the old ladies say it makes all the difference)

Filling:

- apples (measured with your heart, 7-10 should be plenty)

- sugar (measured according to how sweet your apples are, 1-2 tbsp per apple)

- cinnamon (optional, definitely measured with your heart)

- ground walnuts (optional, but desirable, a sprinkling of)

Decoration

- icing sugar

How to:

Start by peeling and grating your apples. You will leave them on the side for the juice to drain - for this; you can use a colander, a cheesecloth, or, let's be real, your hands. Drink the juice, and save the apples. 

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Next, you will knead your dough for the crust after combining all the ingredients. If you're using butter, we suggest crumbling it with your hands before adding everything else. No such problems if you're using lard, which is another reason it is superior to other fats. Knead into a homogenous ball and divide into two. Roll one out to fit your baking vessel. For the Croatian version, which is usually baked in a rectangular tray, you do not need to cover the sides, but if you want it to be a round pie, that could also work. Transfering your crust into the baking tray might be slightly clumsy since it tends to be soft, but don't worry if it breaks, just patch it up. No one will know.

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Once your bottom crust is nice and comfortable in the tray, mix your filling of apples with sugar, cinnamon, and a couple of tablespoons of ground walnuts, whose purpose is to soak up any extra juice and prevent sogginess. Spread evenly on the bottom crust and roll out the other bit of dough to form your top crust. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try cutting out shapes or weaving your top crust, but the most common way is just a sheet in which holes would be poked using a fork. This is done to ensure your pie is free to breathe and let out any extra steam that could accumulate in the middle layer. 

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Bake at 180 °C / 356 °F for 30 minutes or until the crust is a fashionable golden brown.

Leave to rest and cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into squares. Best served on a crisp autumn day, with a cup of coffee and three hours of catching up.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

 

Friday, 15 April 2022

Sirnica: A Croatian Easter Delicacy

15 April 2020 - Sirnica or Pinca, is an indispensable part of any Easter table. Here’s a look at this traditional Croatian Easter delicacy and how you can try your hand at making your own!

Just a couple of days ago, I was having coffee with some colleagues and discussing Easter plans. A few were lamenting how far behind they were in their Easter baking, while others were exchanging recipes for all the delicious goodies, they were planning on making in the run up to Easter Sunday.

Since we were speaking of Easter treats, I simply had to ask “but, why is it when I translate Sirnica, Google tells me it’s cheesecake? But there’s no cheese in the recipe?”, “because it looks like cheese! With the shape and color”.

“Right! I think I’m going to try making it this weekend”, I said in full confidence of my amateur baking skills. A collective “noooooooooooooooooo!” ensued. “I don’t make it for Easter. No one does, only old ladies who have the time. Ma dai! So much work, almost 24 hours to finish it, waiting for it to rise and then kneading it, and rising again. No, no, I just buy it instead”.

What is Sirnica you might ask?

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Before you know it, you've consumed the entire Sirnica. Image: Pinterest/Screenshot

Sirnica, as it’s known along the coastal regions of Croatia and Pinca, everywhere else, is a brioche-type sweet bread that graces every Easter holiday table. About a month before Easter, these orangey/yellow boules, topped with pearl or coarse sugar crystals, start lining the shelves of bakeries, cafes, and grocery stores.

At Easter, Sirnica is typically served along with a host of other delicious assorted kolači (sweet pastries). This is often accompanied by rich dishes like cottage cheese, eggs, ham and roasted lamb and fresh Spring vegetables like young onions and radishes, from the first harvests after Winter.

Rumor has it that Sirnica was created during the Venetian times, with some saying it may have even gotten its name from the dough resembling cheese during the mixing and kneading process, but the true origins of the confectionery remain unknown.

Historically, Sirnica would be made on Maundy Thursday, the day before Easter Friday commemorating the Last Supper of Christ. Families would then wrap them in cloth, letting the Sirnica rest before taking a loaf to Sunday Mass for it to be blessed and shared with the family after.

Today, each family has their own recipe, family secrets passed down through the generations. If you’d like to make your own, here’s a recipe you can follow from the book “Sweet Korčula” by Mrs. Franice Tasovac and bring a small part of Croatia's Easter traditions into your own home.

Sretan Uskrs everyone!

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Their signature hue comes from the large quantity of eggs this recipe calls for. Image: Pinterest/Screenshot.

Ingredients - makes 6 Sirnica

6 egg yolks

3 egg whites

250 g white sugar

8 g vanilla sugar

300 ml of milk

120 g of fresh yeast

1½ teaspoon salt

250 g butter

1.2 kg of flour

1 lemon peel

2 orange peels

1 tablespoon rose rakija or brandy

Topping

1 egg white

1 tablespoon rose rakija or brandy

50 g Pearl sugar or white sugar

Preparation

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Crumble the fresh yeast with milk, stir in 200g of flour and allow the mixture to double.
  3. Mix the eggs with both sugars and salt, whisk until the mixture becomes frothy.
  4. Add brandy, lemon zest and orange zest to the egg mixture.
  5. When the dough has doubled, add in the melted butter and egg mixture. Start kneading the dough with your hands, gradually adding the remaining 1kg of flour. Old housewives say that you should be very angry before you start making dough and then vent your anger by kneading the dough with your hands.
  6. Add the flour until you have a plush, brioche-like dough that is not too stiff. You might not use the full 1kg of flour. Cover the bowl with the dough and let it double.
  7. Once doubled, knead the risen dough and divide it into six pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and leave them to rise on a sheet lined with greaseproof paper for one to two hours.
  8. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Before baking, use scissors to cut a cross or a Y-shape into each dough ball and bake for 40 minutes.
  9. Using a fork, mix a little egg white with rakija, and brush the Sirnica towards the end of baking.
  10. Sprinkle with beaten sugar and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to allow the coating to dry.
Monday, 11 February 2019

Traditional Croatian Recipes: Jota

February 10, 2019 — One of coastal Croatia's favorite winter warmers, jota is a traditional stew made with sauerkraut and/or sour turnip, kidney beans, potatoes, pork sausages, and often a variety of smoke-cured pork meat like belly, ribs, shanks, or trotters.

This hearty stew is typically flavored with onion and laurel leaves, though some add even marjoram or thyme, while most of its rich flavor comes from the so-called pešt or zaseka; a mash of bacon fat, garlic, and parsley.

Jota is a staple in Croatia's northwest and an easy beginner friendly one-pot dish which you will have no problem making. Here is the basic recipe:

Ingredients
1 onion, diced
200 g beans*
500 g sauerkraut or sour turnip, finely shredded
200 g dried pork meat or sausages
2-3 potatoes
4-5 laurel leaves
3-4 tbsp pešt/zaseka
3-4 tbsp olive oil or lard
salt and paprika; to taste
1 tsp peppercorns

Directions
1) In a large stockpot or Dutch oven heat oil or lard over medium-high heat until hot. Add chopped onion and sautée for about 5 minutes or until tender, golden-brown.

2) Try your sauerkraut (and/or sour turnip), and if you find it to be too tart, rinse it with water before you add it to the pot.

3) Then, add laurel leaves, sweet paprika, salt, and peppercorns. Add dried pork meat and beans. Cover with water and continue cooking on medium heat, half-covered.

4) After about 45 minutes of cooking, add cubed potatoes and pešt/zaseka. The latter will add not only thickness to your stew but also an incomparable richness of taste.

Lastly, stir well and let everything simmer together for another 30 minutes. Your jota is finished when the potatoes are cooked.

Dobar tek!

*Beans: if you're using dried beans, you will need to start making your jota the day before because they need to be soaked in cold water for at least 12 hours before they can be cooked. Alternatively, you can use canned beans and simply add them halfway through cooking time.

Stay tuned for more recipes by following TCN's gourmet page.

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