Friday, 3 February 2023

Exploring Croatian Recipes: Twist on the Favourite, Deconstructed Sarma

February 3, 2023 - As the cold weather persists and sour cabbage keeps calling our names, it might be time to rethink the nation's favourite and treat yourself to deconstructed sarma. We know you want to shout blasphemy, but just hear us out. Don't tell us you've never wished you could have it baked.

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Sarma (no English equivalent, I'm afraid) is a traditional winter dish of Croatia and the Balkans.

It's made of minced meat, rolled into sour cabbage leaves, and cooked with more sour cabbage. It's also one of those meals a woman should know how to make to get married (so they say).

Although sarma is considered a national dish in Croatia as well as in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia (even Bulgaria and Romania), its historical roots come from the Ottoman Empire, all the way back in the 16th century. And they stole the idea from the Persians! So, it's little to say that sarma has been around for some time.

The original version was meat-free, made with wine leaves and stuffed with rice, then boiled in hot water, which is the recipe known today as yaprak sarma (yaprak is the Turkish word for leaf). This kind of sarma is still eaten in more Muslim-oriented countries like Turkey and Bosnia. Other countries prefer the meat filling and sour cabbage combination, although in the south of Croatia and Herzegovina, they use leaves of a plant called raštika (wild blitva), and that dish is called Hercegovački japrak. Many nations, twice as many varieties of sarma.

The most common sarma in these areas is the one with cabbage and meat. Each household has its own ''unique'' recipe, and while some use only minced pork meat, others use a pork/beef mixture. Some put more spices in the meat mixture, while others keep it clean with salt, pepper, and paprika. Some make the sauce more flavourful by adding a bit of ajvar to the whole story; others don't. Some roll big sarmas; some make them small. And there's also a dispute over the right amount of ''sourness'' regarding the cabbage. As it usually goes in Croatia, everyone is right and wrong at the same time.

Now, if you're looking to ride an emotional rollercoaster when you say you're now going to deconstruct the almighty sarma (they'll hate you before they love you for it), just get your normal sarma ingredients and a little bit of patience. Let's recap what you'll need to feed a family of 6, twice (the right way).

Ingredients for deconstructed sarma:

- 1 kg of shredded sour cabbage or a cabbage head that you can chop up 

- 1 kg of mixed minced meat

- 2 cups of rice

- 2 medium onions

- 1 tbsp of lard

- salt, pepper, sweet paprika

- sour cream

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Instructions:

1. Boil your sour cabbage in enough water to cover it. Cook for about 30 minutes.

This is to soften it up a little and release any extra sourness (depending on how sour you like it, you might want to leave it on for a bit longer).

2. Chop up and saute the onions in lard, add the meat and spices, cook until 80% done. Drain and save the flavourful liquid.

3. Cook the rice in the meat liquid; add water if needed (about 6 cups of liquid for the 2 cups of rice). Season to taste.

4. Heat the oven to 180 °C.

5. Layer the ingredients in a mirrored fashion: cabbage, rice, meat, rice, cabbage. Finish off with a thin layer of sour cream.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the sour cream starts looking golden.

7. Eat way too much deconstructed sarma.

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

Monday, 23 January 2023

The Future is Here: Insect Flour Approved for Sale in Croatia

January 23, 2023 - Some new, unusual products will start appearing on the shelves of Croatian shops from January 24. The European Food Safety Agency approved it, concluding that the consumption of insect flour is not only 100 percent safe but also healthy.

Can you imagine a grasshopper, a mealworm, or a house beetle on your plate? From next week, in the form of insect flour, you'll be able to find them on the shelves of shops throughout Croatia, writes Dnevnik.

The European Food Safety Agency has approved insects as a food product and included them in the "novel food" category. This approval could pave the way for other insects, such as grasshoppers, ants, crickets, flies, and larvae.

"First, we had to get approval at the level of regulatory status to call it a new food," explained nutritionist Darija Vranešić Bender and pointed out: "They contain a lot of protein, from 55 to 85 percent of protein in 100 grams, which would be significantly more than compared to meat, beef, chicken and so on.''

Aleksander Gavrilović is the owner of the first certified insect factory, and his flour is waiting to be sold. The taste, he says, can vary: "If you feed the animal with chocolate the day before, you will get a chocolate flavour. Give them chocolate, apples, blackberries - you'll get all those flavours. You can use the flour to make anything - pancakes, bread, cakes.''

It is quite powdery under your fingers, it looks similar to cocoa powder, and the smell is pure chocolate, Dnevnik Nova TV reporter Sara Duvnjak described her impressions.

Vranešić believes that no matter how traditional Croatian people are, they are becoming more and more open to new cuisines: "If we look at other civilizations, they have consumed such foods in abundance for quite a long time. We call it entomophagy.

In certain Asian countries, insects are used as a crunchy dessert that, most importantly, does not cause weight gain. The nutritionist explains why: "They are of a relatively favourable fat content, which is approximately 20 to 30 percent, and a lot of that are unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are also beneficial for our health''.

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

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Croatia Will Have Enough Food, Agriculture Minister Says

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said on Wednesday the government would do all that was necessary to contribute to citizens' food security and that Croatia would have enough food, despite disrupted international commodity trends due to the war in Ukraine.

Responding to questions from the press after a cabinet session, she said the government was considering various models to ensure the necessary supplies.

"Croatia will also do everything that is necessary to enable farmers and fishermen to work", she said, adding that today the government adopted decisions to aid farmers and fishermen and to procure HRK 594.6 million worth of strategic commodities.

Asked what those commodities were, she said it was necessary to procure corn, wheat, pork and turkey meat, oil and milk.

Farmers did a good autumn sowing despite the difficulties they ae exposed to, she said, adding that preparations for the spring sowing are going well and that preparations are being made for the autumn sowing. "That's a guarantee that Croatia will have enough food."

However, it is necessary to take this seriously given that Ukraine and Russia export more than 25% of the world's wheat, almost 20% of corn and 50% of sunflower oil, the minister said.

Reporters asked her how much of that Croatia produced, how much it would need, and guarantees that what was produced would not be bought by others.

Vučković said last year's wheat balance was 930,000 tonnes, where more than 500,000 tonnes was exported and 210,000 spent.

"We need 150,000 tonnes until the next sowing, a smaller part is available on the market, but commodity stockpiles are being ensured", she said, adding that trade has been affected by supply disruptions.

Croatia is very active internationally, proposing many measures to the European Commission, she said, confident that some of them will be adopted.

At the closing of today's session, the government adopted a decision to replenish strategic wheat, corn and rye supplies.

For more on Croatia's food security, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Food Expensive Also Due to High Trade Margins

ZAGREB, 28 Jan 2022 - Food prices in Croatia in December 2021 continued their growth that had started in July, and year-on-year they were as much as 8.1% higher, while the inflation rate was 5.5%, the highest since October 2008, when it stood at 5.9%, Večernji List says, noting that food is also expensive due to high trade margins.

At the EU level, the price of food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco was only 3.2% higher in December and inflation was 5%, which some analysts justify with a slower first wave of price growth in Croatia while in the wealthier countries, they say, prices grew at a faster rate initially.

Prices started soaring in Croatia only in the past few months, and for some products, such as cooking oil, they went up by more than 20%, which is now also happening in other EU markets with lower living standards such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, the daily says.

Croatia has never been a cheap country, notably when it comes to food, telecommunications services, various technical goods and the like, and this can also be attributed to high trade margins, says the daily.

Tax expert Vlado Brkanić has calculated that since 2010 four retail chains in Croatia have almost doubled their trade margins. In 2010 most trade margins were around 17% and in 2015 they were above 30%.

Some sector stakeholders say that high trade margins are also due to high logistic costs considering the high seasonality of some Croatian regions during several months of the tourism season. However, Martin Evačić, CEO of the NTL retail chain, who heads the retail sector of the Croatian Employers Association, claims the average trade margin in the EU is above 32% while in Croatia it is below 25%.

As for food prices, Evačić says that they are still not following producer prices that are changing on a daily basis, noting that he expects state assistance in that regard, whether through VAT reduction or abolishment, freezing prices of basic foodstuffs or vouchers, which is what some poorer EU countries are already doing, says the daily.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Štrudlafest 2021: Croatian Strudel Festival Returns

September 2, 2021 - Štrudlafest 2021 lifts the bar of the already known Croatian strudel festival in Jaškovo village near Karlovac. More sport, more workshops, and obviously, more strudel.

With the pandemic dying down just enough for events to be allowed to be held (while still respecting the current epidemiological measures) Štrudlafest in Jaškovo village near Karlovac is back! With the motto: ''It can't get sweeter than this,'' the event spanning September 3-5 is promising a delicious and unique combo of gastronomy, sport, culture, art, and lots of entertainment for all ages.

''Štrudlafest is a true paradise for strudel lovers because apart from the delicious tastes of homemade strudel you can purchase from dozens of stands of hard-working domestic manufacturers - strudel is everywhere around you. You'll have the chance to enjoy a picnic in the shade next to the water source, but also enjoy creative workshops where you can decorate your own strudle plate,'' said the organisation when speaking about this Croatian strudel festival.

Due to the current epidemiological measures in place, many events require prior reservations, but with so many events finally taking place once again, there's no reason to be sad if you miss a few of them.

For instance, there is Art Apetit, a painting workshop, and for those who want to dive deep into the secrets of making the perfect strudel, official ambassadors of this much loved product will be able to consult with you to ensure total satisfaction.

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Marica, a strudle Ambassador © Štrudlafest promo

For the youngest among us, the series of sport, gastronomy, or creative workshop activities will be topped off by a visit from the most famous Croatian fairy tale author, Ivana Brlić Mažuranić.

With a lot of talking done about strudel and sport, the traditional cycling tour ''Štrudla by Bike'' will also take place, and in addition to pedaling your way to the breath-taking scenery of continental Croatia, you can also take a scenic trip along the Dobra river with the first-ever ''Štrudla by Boat''.

The organisers point out that in addition to Jaškovo, strudels can be sampled across Karlovac County with special discounts, and various museums in the region also have special gifts for their visitors to honour this popular treat.

Learn more about Karlovac on our TC page.

For more about food in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

"Proven Quality - Croatia" Label Soon to be Introduced for Local Food Products

ZAGREB, 19 Aug, 2021 - The agriculture ministry strongly supports fruit growers in efforts to cut production costs and standardise their products and thus boost their competitiveness, which is why the ministry will soon kick off a system of awarding the "Proven Quality - Croatia" label, the ministry said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Minister Marija Vučković and other officials held a meeting with fruit growers  to inform them of the national system designed by the ministry for awarding the above-mentioned label to food products that meet certain requirements. The national system of evaluation of the quality of food products intends to improve competitiveness of local agricultural produce and food products and intensify their promotion.

This will be conducive to better recognisability of those products in retail chains, according to the ministry.

The ministry notes that the reforms as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan envisage the establishment of a logistical infrastructure in fruit and vegetable production and the construction of logistics and distribution centres for fruits and vegetables.

The Croatian Fruit Growing Association assesses that in 2021, the production of apples will reach 65,000 tonnes, the ministry said in a press release, among other things.

The apple export has jumped by 71% year-to-date in comparison to the corresponding period of 2020, while import has increased by 3..2%.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Hvar Town Budget Restaurants: Yes, They're Real

August 16, 2021 - Finding himself in a luxury destination with a not so luxurious budget, TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac avoided starvation by locating Hvar Town budget restaurants. Here are his suggestions. 

The words ''cheap price'' are very relative. It's much easier to determine a high price but what qualifies as actually cheap is a much tougher question. In that spirit, Hvar Town, known as one of the more popular and therefore more expensive destinations, lives up to its reputation. Last week, the Croatian media landscape was stunned by the bill issued at one of Hvar's elite clubs. The undoubtebly fun night that featured loads of high-quality beverages such as four 4,800 kuna worth bottles of Don Julio tequila reached the total amount of 99,154 kuna.

A one night spending spree on that level is downright impossible from journalist's income.

So, for the week in Hvar, it was convenient for my paycheck to serve both to feed my stomach after a relaxing day of SCS (swimming, chilling, and sightseeing), and in the meantime, why not inform the public on Hvar Town budget restaurants. Again, ''cheap eats'' may be a hard to define term, but here are some solutions which will nevertheless see you well fed for a little over 200 kuna. Three restaurants after which you don't have to file for bankruptcy, but you'll still have an enjoyable and quite the in-style dining experience. Why only three, you may ask? Well, I can't confirm these are indeed the only three options, but, well, there was sort of a limited budget involved in the research.

1.) Alviž

With a bus not really being the top of the list of options for the high class, it's convenient that one on-budget restaurant is located right at the Hvar Town bus station. From the outside, Alviž looks like some small diner where you might have to bump into other guests crowded into a small place as you munch on wooden tables and chairs. You might feel hesitant to come in, but one look at the menu that promises delicious meals at much more affordable prices makes it worth visiting. Once inside, you realise that the space is actually luxurious as you're taken to the backyard with a real Dalmatian ambiance. Wooden tables underneath brick rooftops and wooden ledges make way for wine, and you are in for a fantastic dining experience. The red and white wine options are fantastically refreshing, but sadly, the beer options are scarce. The food is served quickly and cooked to perfection. You can find a variety of dishes for under 150 kuna, but as the sides are purchased separately and you need to add the drink, you're in for bill of just over 200 kuna usually. Tested and recommended: Fried squid and four types of cheese pizza. Sadly, the fried squid would have gone well the traditional Dalmatian blitva (chard), but one minus to the venue is that you can't order it as a separate side-dish. Still, the squid and fries go together very well.

 

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Fried squid and four types of cheese pizza © Nina Lelas

2.) Villa Dinka

Here's another restaurant with a strong Dalmatian vibe squeezed in between the Amfora and Pharos hotels. This time, there are no wine grapes growing above you, and it looks a bit more formal, but it is nevertheless a cozy place to dine with a stunning view of the Adriatic and the Paklenski islands to trigger your appetite. Again, the sides must be ordered additionally, but along with one drink, the bill doesn't hit higher than a little over 200 kuna. When dining with one more person, meat platas for two are definitely the best bet for meat lovers in Croatia to both get full and to save money. Villa Dinka is no exception to that rule, but they upped their game and topped the usual meat offer of Čevapi, shish kebab and steaks by also adding lamb chops and beefsteak. A delicious upgrade!

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Meat plata from Villa Dinka © Nina Lelas

3.) Đordota Vartal

Not too far from the Franciscan Monastery, Đordota Varta seems to have been crowned as the best on-budget restaurant in all of Hvar Town. The restaurant was completely filled, but people were persistent in waiting in line, hoping to get some food. Once inside, you could see why. Another typical Dalmatian restaurant, with the craftsmanship of Dalmatia being the leading theme as the restaurant is decorated with saws and other tools people on Hvar used in the past. The dishes are accompanied by sides, but you can order more if needed. The tuna steak is absolutely divine, with big portions cooked to perfection, perhaps one of the best-grilled tuna steak's I've had in all of Croatia. For meat lovers, the satisfactorily filled portion of the traditional Dalmatian Pašticada with gnocchi is a must. The beer and wine selection were alright, but not very memorable thanks to the restaurant's short but well-executed cocktail list, with 50-60 kuna per cocktail it obviously isn't the cheaper thrill to get, but these prices are quite standard for coastal Croatia and more accessible than many drinks from other cocktail bars Hvar has to offer. One sip of that delicious pina colada pays up a triple in pleasure.

If you're too hungry to remember to reserve your table and you're also too hungry to wait for the aforementioned goodies, you can also opt for the restaurant's beach terrace. Sadly, over there, you can only order pizza, but the dedication of the staff will nonetheless make sure that pizza, while affordable, is next level compared to your usual experience.

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Delicious Pašticada and tuna steak © Nina Lelas

Learn more about Hvar on our TC page.

For more about traveling Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Cultural Identity of Vukovar: New Book Presented in Vukovar

June 9, 2021 - The fascinating question of the Cultural Identity of Vukovar is researched in a new book edited by Dr. Mateo Žanić and Petar Elez. However, as the editors stressed in the introduction, further research is needed to encompass all social groups in Vukovar and their contribution to the heritage of Vukovar.

After being published back in April this year, the book „Cultural Identity of Vukovar – Contribution to Investigating Heritage and Successors“, was presented this Wednesday in Vukovar. As Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute writes on its website the book was published in cooperation with the Vukovar State Archive, so it was only suitable that the first book presentation was held in Vukovar at the videoconference hall of College Of Applied Sciences „Lavoslav Ružička“ (named after a famous Croatian chemist whose work is awarded a Nobel Prize). In addition, the event marked International Archive Day.

The book was edited by Dr. Mateo Žanić and Petar Elez, and the presentation, alongside editors, saw scientific experts Dr. Dražen Živić, Mirela Hutinec, and Dr. Domagoj Tomas talks about the book.

„Fast events triggered by globalization process and information revolution which paradoxically lead to today's societies being fiercely occupied with the meaning of past, and preserving its valuable traces. In that context, there is a spreading interest for heritage that holds an important component to understand the relationship between the past and present“, says the editorial introduction of the book.

The editors went on to explain how „the city proved to be futile to interpret the meaning of heritage and its contribution to cultural identity,“ and the editors wanted to present various aspects of Vukovar's cultural heritage.

Apart from editors Žanić (who wrote a chapter „Layers of memories and material heritage in modern-day Vukovar) and Elez (author of the chapter „State archive in Vukovar and development of archive service in Vukovar-Srijem County“), the book features eight more authors. Ivan Rogić (Whose Heritage? Who is the successor?), Dražen Živić (on Vukovar's feudalists), Vlasta Novinc („Danube, food, Corso“), Dragana Drašković (on the cultural life of Borovo Selo), and more by Dragan Damjanović, Toni Roca, Ivana Bendra and Ivan Hubalek.

With these broad presentations of culture and heritage in Vukovar, editors hope this book will encourage further research as they are aware this is certainly not the final word on these interesting questions and issues.

„As editors, we are aware that the book does not deal with topics that concern different social groups that left their trace in Vukovar end enrich the history of the city. We hope that future editions that will deal with this topic expand the reach of issues and help us to realize better what do we inherit from the past and why is that important“, concludes the introduction of the book.

So far, the book is available only in Croatian, and research that will, as editors say, deal with other social groups in Vukovar is yet to come. Keeping in mind the terrible aftermaths of the war in Vukovar in the 90s and inter-ethnic tensions, further findings on joint cultural contribution to Vukovar may indeed be the enlightenment needed for peaceful cohabitation and development of Vukovar as a perspective city in Croatia.

Speaking of heritage, learn more about UNESCO recognized heritage in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about science in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Lošinj Gastro Weekend 2021: Local Culinary Spectacle Throughout May

April 28, 2021 - Starting this weekend, the Lošinj Gastro Weekend 2021 prepares a real treat to the visitors of 14 restaurants on the island.

A beautiful island setting of Lošinj, and delicious food next to the Adriatic - all a regular feature of the annual gastro weekend which starts this week and continues until the end of May.

As Losinj Tourist Board website VisitLosinj.hr announces, fourteen restaurants from Osor all the way to Mali Lošinj will each weekend have a special offer based on a specific product.

Starting with this Friday, April 30 to Sunday, May 2, the restaurants will have lamb specialties in which the local meat will be offered to satisfy your taste buds.

The next is asparagus weekend (May 7-9), followed by fish dishes (May 14-16), Medditaranian herbs dishes (May 21-23), and finally the Antic cuisine (May 28-30).
Artatore, Baracuda, Bocca Vera, Bora bar, Borik Mediterranean Bar, Deveron, Diana Steakhouse, Eki, Lanterna Grill Mare, Silvana, Silver Bay Televrin, and Veli žal are the restaurants.
Turizmoteka.hr also covered the story and warned readers to reserve their place in the restaurants to enjoy this lovely culinary spectacle.

„In these moments, the cooperation between every actor in the destination is extremely important to overcome the negative effect of corona crisis as fast as possible. This festival is an ideal opportunity for visitors to meet Lošinj through local specialties. Come and enjoy!“, said Mali Lošinj mayor Ana Kučić, writes Turizmoteka.

"It is our wish to bring our guests almost all gastronomy pleasures the Island of Vitality is known for“, said Dalibor Cvitković, president of Lošinj Tourist Board, referring to the island's nickname.

Learn more about Croatian islands on our TC page.

For more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Touch of Baranja Photo Exhibition in Zagreb Until End of April

April 21, 2021 - A Touch of Baranja showcases 20 photos of the Baranja region to promote this rich natural and cultural site to both domestic and foreign visitors.

If you want to experience a touch of Baranja, but you're stuck in Zagreb, the city's Flower square (Cvjetni trg) offers you a compromise.  

Dodir baRAnJe (A Touch of Baranja), an outdoor photo exhibition that will remain open until the end of April, highlights 20 photos of beautiful Baranja.

''A picture says a thousand words, so this is how we decided to present the beauty of Baranja and motivate Zagreb's citizens and their guests to visit the region located between the Danube and Drava rivers next to the border with Hungary to have a proper break,'' says the website of the Baranja Tourist Board.

The Tourist Board, along with Tourist Boards of Draž and Bilje-Kopački Rit hosted the event.

Nenad Milić, Dubravko Franjin, Romulić&Stojčić Studio, Mario Đurkić, and Zvonimir Janković are the photographers whose work is being featured in the exhibition. Below every photo, there is a QR code that offers an explanation of the photo both in English and Croatian, and in the evening, the photos are illuminated by solar power collected during the day.

As written by the Explore Croatia site, Baranja is special for its display of multiculturalism of the people who live there and who have previously passed through the territory. Tradition and cultural heritage in the area have survived the challenges of time, and nowhere is that more visible than in Baranja's cuisine.

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© Visit Baranja 

''Baranja continues to remain a special destination which will tell the traveller various stories about tradition, family, life secrets, love, death, wines, hot peppers, specific fishing, weddings…“, explains the Explore Croatia site.

Baranja also offers the richness of nature as it is surrounded by rivers and the Kopački Rit swamp and bird reserve that is home to a wide and impressive variety of animals and plants, representing a real treat for the dedicated traveller.

When in Baranja, make sure to try the delicious Fiš Paprikaš, Baranja's own local Kulen recipe, and carp prepared in a delicious way only Baranja knows how to do.

Learn more about Croatia's food on our TC page

For more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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