Monday, 23 August 2021

Gastronomy Contest for Disabled to Be Held in a Few Croatian Cities

ZAGREB, 23 Aug 2021 - The first national gastronomy contests for disabled people above 17 will be organized in several Croatian cities in September and October, and the competition called "Amor Spoon" is organized by an association of teachers in schools for catering occupations and Conventual Franciscans in the country.

Participants will take part in the contest in seven cities: Sisak on 9 September, Vinkovci on 12 September, Novi Marof on 16 September, Pula on 19 September, Šibenik on 23 September, Split on 26 September, and in Zagreb from 1 to 3 October.

They can choose one of a few events in which they can compete: cooking, food serving, and preparing cocktails and drinks.

The most successful participants will be offered to attend free-of-charge workshops within the CookLook project of inclusivity and trips to Rome.

The contest has been so far supported by many associations, NGOs, and centers for rehabilitation said the association of teachers in schools for catering occupations (UNUO) on Monday.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Chef Vjeko Bašić Masterclass: Seasonal Ingredients featuring Wild Leeks and Culinary Tourism in Croatia

JUNE 19, 2021 - Vice-president of JRE Croatia and restaurateur Vjeko Bašić held a masterclass in Split, using wild leeks which grow abundantly in his hometown, Murter Island, to promote the diverse flora of Croatia and its importance in the country's gastronomic industry.

JRE Croatia is a part of the Jeunes Restaurateurs which is an international association of young outstanding restaurateurs and chefs across 15 countries all over the world.  JRE chefs share remarkable culinary talent, a strong passion for gastronomy and sustainability, and the commitment to keep the authenticity of their own local produce, dishes, and tradition alive. The sophisticated and relaxing ambience of JRE restaurants and the delectable selection of gourmet food and top local and international wines never fail to provide their guests a memorable dining experience!

To promote the culture and diverse flora of Croatia, Chef Vjeko Bašić together with JRE Croatia conducted a masterclass in Split, Croatia featuring seasonal, rare, and native plants in Croatia. The masterclass was done in a fully-equipped and high-technology kitchen of Miele Experience Centar Split, with the intent to highlight "paski/pilci" or young garlic sprouts that grow abundantly and is used mainly in the islands of Pag and Kvarner. However, since Chef Vjeko Bašić hails from island Murter, he opted for an ingredient much closer to home - wild leeks. His class was attended by 4 outstanding young culinary students from Aspira and one intern journalist from Total Croatia News.

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Masterclass in Miele Experience Centar Split by Chef Vjeko Bašić | Photo credit: JRE Croatia

Chef Vjeko Bašić is the owner of Konoba Boba, a fish restaurant located on the beautiful Murter Island in the Dalmatian region of Croatia. Konoba Boba is one of the 12 members and 4 honorary members of Croatian restaurateurs who have received membership in JRE Croatia. The name of the restaurant, Boba, is a family nickname that gives homage to the family's rich stories and origin. The restaurant is deeply connected to the island and therefore, highlights the usage of fresh local produce from the sea and the land of Murter itself. To respect the natural rhythm of nature and its suppliers, Konoba Boba uses seasonal ingredients and creatively incorporates locally and freshly harvested produce from their region into their menu.

The chef chose to prepare wild leek risotto for the masterclass. "On my island, my father used to pick and cook wild leeks that grow outside our house.", he fondly recalled his childhood in Murter. Prior to the class, Vjeko prepared chicken stock made with chicken, celery, leeks, onions, and carrots to be used for this special risotto. "For a good risotto, you need to have a good onion and olive oil.", he emphasized. He made a unique pesto sauce for the risotto using "paski" (young garlic sprouts), pine nuts, and olive oil and he also offered his own pickled paski for the participants to taste.

According to Vjeko, paski, wild leeks and wild asparagus grow in the same season which is from spring to early summer. It can also be prepared in a similar style as wild asparagus salad which is to blanch the vegetables, mix with some salt, pepper, and boiled eggs and add a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In cooking wild leeks and paski, only the upper part is used and the lower part is discarded for its hard texture.

As Chef Vjeko prepares his dish, Irina of JRE Croatia, offered the participants two refined selections of wine - Pošip and Plavac Mali - both from Rizman winery. "A good wine is an important part of the food experience.", Irina says as she pours each of the participants a glass of aperitif.

  

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Photo credit: JRE Croatia

Rizman Winery, owned by the Stimač family, is situated in the youngest wine-growing area in Croatia which is called Komarna, in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. The vineyards are located on a hilly area 250 meters above sea level and are close to the proximity of the sea and the famous valley of the Neretva river which provides good microclimatic conditions for wine cultivation. The wine-growing area features different soil compositions mostly of limestone and a tiny amount of organic matter, with 30% slope inclination and 2,600 hours of sunlight per year. Over 90% of vines in Rizman Winery belong to the indigenous varieties of Plavac Mali and Pošip and the rare grape variety of Tribidrag. The winery is a long-standing family tradition and the name Rizman is given to honour its founder - the grandfather and great grandfather of the Stimač family.

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A culinary student of Aspira College savour the crisp and sweet aroma of RIzman's Pošip served in a special Malvasia Istriana Glass | Photo credit: JRE Croatia

The drinks were served in Malvasia Istriana glasses which were created by Riedel, a major manufacturer of wine accessories, dedicated specifically for Croatia's Malvasia Istriana (malvazia istarska). Malvasia is a type of wine grape with many varieties which includes Malvasia Istriana. It was a project initiated by Winemakers and Winegrowers of Istria - Vinistra Association to promote Istrian wineries and Croatian wine to the world. Nowadays, Malvasia Istriana glasses are called Superleggero Loire, because apart from pairing perfectly with Istrian Malvasia, it also pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc. 

Chiavalon JRE olive oil was also used in the risotto. "Olive oil is very important to Mediterranean gastronomy", said Irina. Because of its importance, JRE wanted to have good olive oil to use in their restaurants so they partnered with Chiavalon to produce a perfectly balanced olive oil for culinary use because a strong olive oil can overpower a dish and a neutral-tasting olive oil will not give authentic Meditteranean touch to the dish. Therefore, after harvest every year, JRE Croatia and its restaurateurs get together to conduct a blind taste-test sampling to choose the oil to be used by JRE. It is a Chiavalon and JRE co-branded product of olive oil which is only found in JRE restaurants. Irina shared a tip to everyone: "For olive oil lovers, Rizman olive oil is also of top quality." 

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 Chiavalon JRE olive oil | Photo credit: JRE Croatia

As always, every chef has a different method of cooking to bring out the best from their ingredients. "So when I cook risotto, I saute the onion in a pan, toast the rice in another skillet, and then I mix the onion with the rice after that", says Vjeko. "Why do you that?", asked one of the participants. "Because if I put the rice in the same skillet, the onion will burn.", the chef answered and then humourously added,  "But you need to use a lot of pans - and now is the worst time because I don't have a sous chef with me." In this dish, carnaroli rice was used because it is ideal for risotto. He also added the pesto sauce he made from paski or young garlic sprouts in the dish. "It is also important at the end risotto to add a bit of fat - it can be butter or it can be olive oil. This time, I combined both butter and olive oil", he noted. To add acidity to the risotto, Chef Vjeko prefers to use a little bit of vinegar than the usual lemon.  

After the risotto was ready, Chef Vjeko plated it beautifully and topped it off with crispy pancetta, some ricotta cheese, and homemade pickled paski. The crunchiness of the wild leek and the pancetta added a beautiful texture to the dish and the light tangy flavour from the pickled paski gave the dish a perfect balance of acidity.

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Chef Vjeko's wild leek risotto | Photo credit: JRE Croatia

Hardships in gastronomic tourism in Croatia

As the participants enjoy the food, they shared about the current problems people in gastronomy face especially those living in the Dalmatian region. "There is a big problem in Croatia with the supply chain. There are small producers with good products but due to various economic problems, have difficulty supplying sufficiently, regularly, and efficiently because they can only sell as much as they can produce. This makes the life of the chefs, restaurateurs, and people in this industry difficult in Croatia," according to Irina. Apart from the problem in the availability and regularity of supply of good quality ingredients, there is also a problem with manpower in this industry. "Although Croatia has excellent chefs and cooks, we are still new in the gastronomic scene and culinary schooling system compared to other European countries who have been a long-time destination for gourmands over the years. Because of this, JRE Croatia sincerely puts all their hopes to the young chefs of this country to help this industry succeed," she added. The seasonal character of gastronomy in the Dalmatian region and the geographical location of Croatia is also one of the reasons why the prices of food are slightly higher than others. Since Dalmatia is harder to reach especially its islands, to get a regular supply of ingredients itself is costly. "This is the aim of JRE - to have our professional chefs and restaurateurs conduct events such as this to get publicity and make the consumers understand why chefs cannot prepare risotto in 5 minutes, and why the prices of the dishes are the way they are. They have to know how hard and costly it is to get a quality and regular supply of ingredients in Croatia", Irina said. 

One of the participants said that there is one restaurant in Zagreb that serves different menus every day using ingredients that are currently available. Chef Vjeko retorted, "You can do that in Zagreb because they have a full busy season throughout the year so the supplies are always coming unlike in Dalmatia, where the season lasts for only 3 to 4 months." He then added, "You will see that when you start working in restaurants here, you, too, will experience the difficulty in getting food supply which usually starts to happen from the end of May onwards". They also agreed that climate change greatly affects the production time, amount, and quality of produce. "In JRE, we also embrace sustainability. It requires knowledge to understand and respect nature and to know that we cannot have everything at great amounts whenever we wish. It is important to appreciate what we have when we have it", Irina voiced out.

The Island of Murter, Konoba Boba, and Chef Vjeko Bašić

Also called the gate to the Kornati, Murter is an island national park and one of the pearls of the Adriatic Sea. It is a popular destination for people who love sailing and explore remote islands. Paklenica National Park is also nearby where one can enjoy sightseeing, hiking, and walking. Konoba Boba makes use of the richness of the Adriatic sea and serves an interesting selection of fresh seafood including roe, sea urchins, oysters, mortar, and salicornia. While maintaining their culture, Konoba Boba never fails to innovate and continuously elevates their dishes with new exciting elements! In addition to that, the restaurant offers 50 cozy interior dining seats and another 80 outdoor ones with a garden view filled with aromas of Mediterranean plants and trees including marjoram, basil, rosemary, immortelle, mint, fig, lemon, mulberry, olive and etc. which they incorporate in their dishes as well. Konoba Boba also has a wide array of wine selection carefully handpicked by the restaurant's sommelier, Mateo Juričev Talijaš

Apart from the restaurant Vjeko is successfully running, he also has been pursuing his passion for olive oil production. "We have our olive garden with 2,000-year-old olive trees. In autumn and wintertime, we take care of the trees, harvest the olive, and produce our olive oil. This year, our olive oil received a silver medal and our family was very happy about it.", he proudly said to the participants. In his spare time, he also loves to fish. "When I was a kid, I used to fish a lot with my father. But now that I started this business, I do not have much time for it. I would love to do it once more once I decide to retire from this industry.", he added. 

According to his wife, Chef Vjeko, who also serves as the Vice-President of JRE Croatia, is living his dream. With an award from the Gault&Millau Croatia 2018 Chef of the Year, a successful business on an island he deeply cherishes, and endless support from his loving families, peers, and community - we can all agree that he truly is living the dream.

For more information on Jeunes Restaurateurs' affiliated restaurants and hotels, CLICK HERE. 

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page. 

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 19 February 2021

People also ask Google: What is Croatia Famous For?

February 19, 2021 – What is Croatia Famous For?

People outside of the country really want to know more about Croatia. They search for answers online.

Here, we'll try to answer the popular search terms “What is Croatia famous for?” and “What is Croatia known for?”

Most of the people looking for answers to these questions have never been to Croatia. They may have been prompted to ask because they're planning to visit Croatia, they want to come to Croatia, or because they heard about Croatia on the news or from a friend.

What Croatia is known for depends on your perspective. People who live in the country sometimes have a very different view of what Croatia is famous for than the rest of the world. And, after visiting Croatia, people very often leave with a very different opinion of what Croatia is known for than before they came. That's because Croatia is a wonderful country, full of surprises and secrets to discover. And, it's because internet searches don't reveal everything. Luckily, you have Total Croatia News to do that for you.

What is Croatia known for?

1) Holidays


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Croatia is best known globally as a tourist destination. Catching sight of pictures of the country online is enough to make almost anyone want to come. If you've heard about it from a friend, seen the country used in a TV show like Game of Thrones or Succession, or watched a travel show, your mind will be made up. Following such prompts, it's common for Croatia to move to first place on your bucket list. If it's not already, it should be, There are lots of reasons why Croatia is best known for holidays (vacations).

a) Islands


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What is Croatia famous for? Islands © Mljet National Park

Within Croatia's tourist offer, its most famous aspect is its islands. Croatia has over a thousand islands - 1246 when you include islets. 48 Croatian islands are inhabited year-round, but many more come to life over the warmer months. Sailing in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the islands, and if you're looking for a place for sailing in the Mediterranean, Croatia is the best choice because of its wealth of islands. These days, existing images of Croatia's islands have been joined by a lot more aerial photography and, when people see these, they instantly fall in love.

b) Beaches


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What is Croatia famous for? Its holidays are famous for their beaches © Szabolcs Emich

Croatia has 5835 kilometres of coastline on the Adriatic Sea - 1,777.3 kilometres of coast on the mainland, and a further 4,058 kilometres of coast around its islands and islets. The Croatian coast is the most indented of the entire Mediterranean. This repeated advance and retreat into the Adriatic forms a landscape littered with exciting, spectacular peninsulas, quiet, hidden bays, and some of the best beaches in the world. There are so many beaches in Croatia, you can find a spot to suit everyone. On the island of Pag and in the Zadar region, you'll find beaches full of young people where the party never stops. Elsewhere, romantic and elegant seafood restaurants hug the shoreline. Beach bars can range from ultra-luxurious to basic and cheap. The beaches themselves can be popular and full of people, facilities, excitement and water sports, or they can be remote, idyllic, and near-deserted, accessible only by boat. Sand, pebble, and stone all line the perfectly crystal-clear seas which are the common feature shared by all.

c) Dubrovnik


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What is Croatia famous for? Dubrovnik © Ivan Ivanković

As a backdrop to Game Of Thrones and movies from franchises like Star Wars and James Bond, Dubrovnik is known all over the world. Everybody wants to see it in person, and that's why it's an essential stop-off for so many huge cruise ships in warmer months. But, Dubrovnik's fame did not begin with the invention of film and television. The city was an autonomous city-state for long periods of time in history, and Dubrovnik was known all over Europe – the famous walls which surround the city of Dubrovnik are a testament to a desire to maintain its independent standing for centuries while living in the shadow of expanding, ambitious empires.

d) Heritage


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What is Croatia famous for? Heritage. Pula amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world

The walled city of Dubrovnik is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Croatia's rich architectural and ancient heritage. Diocletian's Palace in Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still the living, breathing centre of life in the city (that people still live within it and it is not preserved in aspic is one of its most charming features and no small reason for its excellent preservation).

Having existed on the line of European defence against the Ottoman empire, Croatia also has many incredible fortresses and castles. The fortresses of Sibenik are well worth seeing if you're visiting Sibenik-Knin County and its excellent coast. A small number of Croatia's best castles exist on the coast, Rijeka's Trsat and Nova Kraljevica Castle is nearby Bakar being two of them. Most of Croatia's best and prettiest castles are actually located in its continental regions which, compared to the coast, remain largely undiscovered by most international tourists.

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Many spectacular castles in the country's continental regions are, for these parts, what is Croatia famous for

Pula amphitheatre (sometimes referred to as Pula Arena) is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. A spectacular sight year-round, like Diocletian's Palace, it remains a living part of the city's life, famously hosting an international film festival, concerts by orchestras, opera stars, and famous rock and pop musicians. Over recent years, it has also played a part in the city's music festivals.

e) Music Festivals


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What is Croatia famous for? Music festivals © Khris Cowley

There is a very good reason why the city of Pula leapt massively up the list of most-researched online Croatian destinations over the last decade. It played host to two of the country's most famous international music festivals. Though the music at some of these can be quite niche, the global attention they have brought to the country is simply massive. Clever modern branding and marketing by the experienced international operators who host their festivals in Croatia mean that millions of young people all over the world have seen videos, photos and reviews of Croatia music festivals, each of them set within a spectacular backdrop of seaside Croatia.

f) Plitvice Lakes and natural heritage


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What is Croatia Famous For? Plitvice Lakes, national parks and natural heritage

Known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes and gushing waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes is the oldest, biggest and most famous National Park in Croatia. Everybody wants to see it. And many do. But that's not the be-all and end-all of Croatia's stunning natural beauty. Within the country's diverse topography, you'll find 7 further National Parks and 12 Nature Parks which can be mountain terrain, an archipelago of islands, or vibrant wetlands.

2) Football


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What is Croatia famous for? Football. Seen here, Luka Modric at the 2018 World Cup © Светлана Бекетова

The glittering international careers of Croatian footballers Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić, and others have in recent years advertised Croatia as a factory of top-flight footballing talent. They helped put Croatia football on the map with fans of European football. Football fans in Croatia have a very different perception of just how famous Croatian football is to everyone else in the world. If you talk to a Croatian fan about football, it's almost guaranteed that they will remind you of a time (perhaps before either of you were born) when their local or national team beat your local or national team in football. 99% of people will have no idea what they are talking about. The past occasions which prompt this parochial pride pale into insignificance against the Croatian National Football Team's achievement in reaching the World Cup Final of 2018. This monumental occasion brought the eyes of the world on Croatia, extending way beyond the vision of regular football fans. Subsequently, the internet exploded with people asking “Where is Croatia?”

Sports in general are what is Croatia known for

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Croatians are enthusiastic about sports and engage in a wide number of them. The difference in perception between how Croats view the fame this gets them and the reality within the rest of the world is simply huge. Rowing, basketball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, tennis, handball, boxing, waterpolo, ice hockey, skiing and volleyball are just some of the sports in which Croatia has enthusiastically supported individuals and local and national teams. Some of these are regarded as minority sports even in other countries that also pursue them. Croatians don't understand this part. If you say to a Croatian “What is handball? I never heard of that,” they will look at you like you are crazy or of below-average intelligence.

3) Zagreb


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What is Croatia famous for? Its capital city Zagreb is becoming increasingly better known

Over relatively recent years, the Croatian capital has skyrocketed in terms of fame and visitor numbers. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world now come to visit Zagreb each year. Its massive new success can be partly attributed to the rising popularity of international tourism in some areas of Asia (and Zagreb being used as a setting for some television programmes made in some Asian countries) and the massive success of Zagreb's Advent which, after consecutively attaining the title of Best European Christmas Market three times in a row, has become famous throughout the continent and further still. Zagreb's fame is not however restricted to tourism. Zagreb is known for its incredible Austro-Hungarian architecture, its Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the buildings there, an array of museums and city centre parks and as home to world-famous education and scientific institutions, like to Ruder Boskovic Institute and the Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb.

4) Olive oil


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What is Croatia famous for? Olive oil

Croatian olive oil is the best in the world. Don't just take out word for it! Even the experts say so. In 2020, leading guide Flos Olei voted Istria in northwest Croatia as the world's best olive oil growing region for a sixth consecutive year. Olive oil production is an ancient endeavour in Croatia, and over hundreds of years, the trees have matured, and the growers learned everything there is to know. Olive oil is made throughout a much wider area of Croatia than just Istria, and local differences in climate, variety, and soil all impact the flavour of the oils produced. Croatian has no less than five different olive oils protected at a European level under the designation of their place of origin. These and many other Croatian olive oils are distinct and are among the best you're ever likely to try.

5) There was a war here


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What is Croatia famous for? A relatively recent war left its mark on the country © Modzzak

Under rights granted to the republics of the former Yugoslavia and with a strong mandate from the Croatian people, gained across two national referendums, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country, with each republic containing a mixture of different ethnicities and indeed many families which themselves were the product of mixed ethnicities. Ethnic tensions and the rise of strong nationalist political voices in each of the former republics and within certain regions of these countries lead to a situation where war became inevitable. The worst of the fighting was suffered within Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and the part of southern Serbia which is now Kosovo. The Croatian War of Independence (known locally as the Homeland War) lasted from 1991 – 1995. The Yugoslav wars of which it was a major part is regarded as the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II. In many cases, this war pitted neighbouring houses or neighbouring villages against each other and sometimes members of the same family could be found on opposing sides. The war left huge damage on the country and its infrastructure, some of which is still visible. Worse still, it had a much greater physical and psychological impact on the population. Some people in Croatia today would rather not talk about the war and would prefer to instead talk about the country's present and future. For other people in Croatia, the war remains something of an obsession. If you are curious about the Croatian War of Independence, it is not advisable to bring it up in conversation when you visit the country unless you know the person you are speaking with extremely well. It is a sensitive subject for many and can unnecessarily provoke strong emotions and painful memories. There are many resources online where you can instead read all about the war, there are good documentary series about it on Youtube and there are several museums in Croatia where you can go and learn more, in Vukovar, Karlovac and in Zagreb.

6) Wine


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What is Croatia famous for? Its wine is some of the best you'll ever try © Plenković

Croatia is not really that famous for wine. Well, not as famous as it should be because Croatia makes some of the greatest wine on the planet. Croatian wine is only really famous to those who have tried it after visiting – you'll never forget it! A growing cabal of Croatian wine enthusiasts are trying their best internationally to spread the word about Croatian wine. However, there isn't really that much space in Croatia to make all the wine it needs to supply its homegrown demands and a greatly increased export market. Therefore, export prices of Croatian wine are quite high and even when it does reach foreign shores, these prices ensure its appreciation only by a select few. There's a popular saying locally that goes something like this “We have enough for ourselves and our guests”. Nevertheless, Croatian wine is frequently awarded at the most prestigious international competitions and expos. White wine, red wine, sparkling wine, cuvee (mixed) and rose wine are all made here and Croatia truly excels at making each. You can find different kinds of grape grown and wine produced in the different regions of Croatia. The best way to learn about Croatian wine is to ask someone who really knows about wine or simply come to Croatia to try it. Or, perhaps better still, don't do that and then there will be more for those of us who live here. Cheers!

7) Croatian produce


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Drniš prsut
is protected at a European level, one of 32 products currently protected in this way and therefore what is Croatia famous for © Tourist Board of Drniš

To date, 32 agricultural and food products from Croatia have attained protection at a European level. These range from different prosciuttos, olive oils and Dalmatian bacon, to pastries and pastas, honey, cheese, turkeys, lamb, cabbages, mandarins, salt, sausages, potatoes and something called Meso 'z tiblice (which took a friend from the region where it's made three days to fully research so he could explain it to me at the levels necessary to write an informed article about it – so, you can research that one online). While some prosciutto, bacon, sausages, olive oil and wine do make it out of Croatia, much of these are snaffled up by a discerning few of those-in-the-know. The rest, you will only really be able to try if you visit. And, there are many other items of Croatian produce which are known which you can also try while here

Truffles


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What is Croatia known for? Truffles © Donatella Paukovic

By weight, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, truffles are a famous part of the cuisine within some regions of Croatia. They feature heavily in the menu of Istria, which is well known as a region in which both white and black truffles are found and then added to food, oils or other products. Truth be told, this isn't a black and white issue - there are a great number of different types of truffle and they can be found over many different regions in Croatia, including around Zagreb and in Zagreb County. But, you'll need to see a man about a dog if you want to find them yourself.

Vegeta


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What is Croatia known for? Vegeta

Having celebrated its 60th birthday in 2019, the cooking condiment Vegeta is exported and known in many other countries, particularly Croatia's close neighbours. It is popularly put into soups and stews to give them more flavour. Among its ingredients are small pieces of dehydrated vegetables like carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, plus spices, salt and herbs like parsley.

Chocolate


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What is Croatia known for? Chocolate is a big export© Alexander Stein

Though making chocolate is only around a century old in Croatia, Croatian chocolate has grown to become one of its leading manufactured food exports. Some of the most popular bars may be a little heavy on sugar and low on cocoa for more discerning tastes. But, lots of others really like it.

Beer


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What is Croatia famous for? Its beer is becoming more famous internationally © The Garden Brewery

The exploding growth of the Croatian craft ale scene over the last 10 years is something that is likely to have passed you by, unless you're a regular visitor to the country, a beer buff or both. Most of the producers are quite small and production not great enough to make a big splash on international markets. However, even within a craft-flooded current market, Croatian beer is becoming more widely known – in one poll, the Zagreb-based Garden Brewery was in 2020 voted Europe's Best Brewery for the second consecutive year

8) Innovation


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What is Croatia famous for? Pioneers, inventors and innovation. Nikola Tesla was born here

From the parachute, fingerprinting, the retractable pen and the tungsten filament electric light-bulb to the torpedo, modern seismology, the World Health Oganisation and the cravat (a necktie, and the precursor to the tie worn by many today), Croatia has gifted many innovations to the world. The list of pioneers - scientists, artists, researchers and inventors - who were born here throughout history is long. And, although innovation is not currently regarded as experiencing a golden period in Croatia, there are still some Croatian innovators whose impact is felt globally, such as electric hypercar maker Mate Rimac.

9) Being poor


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What is Croatia famous for? Being poor. Yikes!

The minimum wage in Croatia is among the lowest in Europe. Croatian language media is constantly filled with stories about corruption. There is a huge state apparatus in which key (if not most) positions are regarded to be politically or personally-motivated appointments. This leads to a lack of opportunity for Croatia's highly educated young people. Many emigrate for better pay and better opportunities. This leads to a brain drain and affects the country's demographics considerably (if it usually the best educated, the ablest and the youngest Croatian adults who emigrate). Many of those who stay are influenced by the stories of widespread corruption and lack of opportunity and are therefore lethargic in their work, leading to a lack of productivity. A considerable part of the Croatian economy is based on tourism which remains largely seasonal.

10) People want to live in Croatia


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What is Croatia famous for? People want to come and live here. No, really.

Yes, despite many younger Croatians leaving or dreaming of leaving and despite the low wages, many people who are not from Croatia dream about living here. Of course, it's an all too familiar scenario that you go on holiday somewhere and while sitting at a seafood restaurant in sight of a glorious sunset, having had a few too many glasses of the local wine, you fall in love with Miguel or however the waiter is called who served it and Miguel's homeland. But, with Croatia, this is actually no passing fancy, no idle holiday dream. People do decide to move here. And not just for the sunset and Miguel (nobody in Croatia is called Miguel - Ed).

Croatia may be known for being poor, but it also has one of the best lifestyles in Europe. That it's cafe terraces are usually full to capacity tells you something about the work to living ratio. Croatians are not just spectators of sport, many enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This informs everything from their pastimes to their diet. There are great facilities for exercise and sport, wonderful nature close by whichever part of the country you're in. You can escape into somewhere wonderful and unknown at a moment's notice. The country is well connected internally by brilliant roads and motorways, reliable intercity buses and an international train network. The tourism industry ensures that multiple airports across Croatia can connect you to almost anywhere you want to go, and major international airports in Belgrade and Budapest, just a couple of hours away, fly to some extremely exotic locations. There are a wealth of fascinating neighbour countries on your doorstep to explore on a day trip or weekend and superfast broadband is being rolled out over the entire country. This is perhaps one of the reasons Croatia has been heralded as one of the world's best options for Digital Nomads. In a few years, when we ask what is Croatia famous far, they could be one of the answers.

What is Croatia famous for, but only after you've visited

Some things you experience when you visit Croatia come as a complete surprise. Most would simply never be aware of them until they visit. They are usually top of the list of things you want to do when you come back to Croatia.

Gastronomy


fritaja_sparoge_1-maja-danica-pecanic_1600x900ntbbbbb.jpgGastronomy is only one of the things what is Croatia known for only after you've visited © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Despite a few famous TV chefs having visited and filmed in Croatia over the years, Croatian gastronomy remains largely unknown to almost everyone who's never been to Croatia. That's a shame because you can find some fine food here. Croatia has increased its Michelin-starred and Michelin-recommended restaurants tenfold over recent years. But, perhaps the bigger story is the traditional cuisine which varies greatly within the countries different regions. From the gut-busting barbecue grills and the classic Mediterranean fare of Dalmatia to the pasta, asparagus and truffles of Istria to the sausages and paprika-rich stews of Slavonia and the best smoked and preserved meats of the region, there's an untold amount of secret Croatian gastronomy to discover.

Coffee


restaurant-3815076_1280.jpgWhat is Croatia known for? Well, to locals, it's famous for coffee - not just a drink, it's a ritual

Croatians are passionate about coffee and about going for coffee. It's a beloved ritual here. Going for coffee in Croatia is often about much more than having coffee. It's an integral part of socialising, catching up and sometimes being seen. It doesn't always involve coffee either. Sometimes, you'll be invited for coffee, only to end up ordering beer. It's not about the coffee. Although, the standard of coffee in Croatia, and the places where you drink it, is usually really good.

The misapprehension: What is Croatia known for (if you are a Croatian living in Croatia)

Handball, music

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Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Products of Slavonian and Baranja Gastronomic Offer Available Online

December 22, 2020 – Thanks to the internet platforms Eko tržnica and Eceker, domestic products from the rich domestic Slavonian and Baranja gastronomic offer can be ordered to your doorstep even during the coronavirus epidemic.

As Lokalni.hr reports, even during the coronavirus pandemic, products from the rich domestic Slavonian and Baranja gastronomic offer can be ordered online to your doorstep. This is possible thanks to the two internet platforms – Eko tržnica and Eceker, both of which deliver in the area of Osijek-Baranja County and the City of Zagreb. Eko tržnica is a successful project that has been implemented at the Osijek market since 2013, and in the last few years in an online edition. Their phylosophy is that food production must not pollute nature but must return us to nature.

On Eko tržnica and Eceker websites, family farms with ecological certification for food production offer their products. Customers in Croatia are increasingly aware and are looking for products of guaranteed origin, and the goal of the Solidarity Ecological Group, which coordinates buying and selling, is an ethical business, aiming to leave profits in the hands of producers and offer customers products at producer prices.

"By buying local agricultural products, especially at a time when their sales are difficult due to epidemiological measures, we help our family farms, and we provide ourselves and our families with home-grown fruits and vegetables from Slavonian and Baranja fields," said Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anušić.

Local food producers have also united through the Eceker platform, where they offer traditional products from Slavonia and Baranja. As in the case of the Eko tržnica, this is a project supported by the Osijek-Baranja County, and both platforms are open for cooperation with local producers in order to further enrich the offer to end customers. Customers can see and order domestic products on the website, and delivery is on the doorstep.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Croatia Ranks 4th in Undiscovered Gastronomic Destinations in World

November 17, 2020 – Croatia receives another gastro recognition as the gastro portal Chef's Pencil has declared it as one of the best undiscovered gastronomic destinations in the world.

As Večernji list reports, it is a competition named "The Most Underrated Foodie Destination in the World" conducted among 250 renowned chefs and culinary experts, who singled out under-exposed gastro destinations that can stand alongside popular gastro destinations such as France and Italy.

They selected the top 10 countries that can boast of their gastronomic offer and wealth but are not widely-known as gastro destinations. Croatia took a high fourth place on this list, behind the Philippines, Vietnam, and Mexico. It is followed by Thailand, Peru, Australia, Jamaica, Portugal, and Norway.

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Screenshot Chef's Pencil

"Croatia has become a really popular place to holiday over the last few years. And who can blame all those holidaymakers for reaching for pristine Adriatic waters, spectacular beaches, sublime Mediterranean climate, atmospheric Roman ruins, incredible national parks, and soaring mountains… Have I mentioned the food yet? And maybe that’s why it’s an underrated foodie destination – the country has so much going for it, the food has to fight for attention," they say from Chef's Pencil about the Croatian cuisine, noting that it's hard to pinpoint it as it varies from region to region.

"Dalmatian food is typically Mediterranean with lots of fish, veggies, and olive oil. Istrian cuisine is similar although they have their own special approach to beans and pasta here. In Zagreb there’s more of a European vibe with meat and a special attachment to cabbage, while in Slavonia its pork and more pork and lots of paprika," they explain, naming some of the best Croatian food such as sheep's cheese, cured ham, black risotto, octopus salad, brudet, sarma, and more.

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Octopus salad / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Although Croatia is already recognized for its gastronomic excellence, offering unforgettable gastronomic experiences for all food lovers, chefs, and experts who participated in the survey believed that our country deserves additional international recognition.

"Recognitions like this give us an additional incentive to continue the development of our gastronomic scene and to continue to promote ourselves as an attractive and quality gastronomic destination, which we really are," said Croatia National Tourist Board director Kristjan Staničić.

Recall, in 2020, the Croatian National Tourist Board presented Croatian gastronomy on this renowned portal, as well as Croatian chefs and regional gastronomic specialties.

Kvarner was presented by the youngest Croatian chef with a MICHELIN star, Deni Srdoč, who shared with readers a recipe for a lamb dish "Heritage lamb". Marko Gajski, the chef of LD Terrace in Korčula, who was also awarded a MICHELIN star this year, presented the Dalmatian region through his original recipe for Komiža bread, while chef Bruno Vokal from Noel, Zagreb's first MICHELIN star restaurant, shared his original recipe for "Deconstructed štruklji". Marina Gaši, chef and owner of the family restaurant Marina in Novigrad, presented the flavors of Istria via sardine tartare. The story of Croatian gastronomy was concluded by Tomica Đukić, chef of the Osijek Hotel and official chef of the Croatian national football team, who presented the rich flavors of Slavonia with a flavored fillet of a black Slavonian pig with pumpkin and beetroot.

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Rich gastronomic offer from Slavonia / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Monday, 5 October 2020

36 Incredible Photos: Best Edible Croatia Mushrooms

June 4, 2021 – It's mushroom hunting season in Croatia! Here are 36 stunning images of the best Croatia mushrooms, which you can pick - then eat - after being guided by one of the country's many experts or associations

Autumn in Croatia means it's time to head to the forests. At this time of year, the free food the land gives up is aplenty and foraging is a popular pastime in Croatia with a tasty treat at the end. The best Croatia mushrooms should only be sourced in the wild alongside an experienced guide – many of the Croatia mushrooms below have lookalikes which are poisonous. Luckily, there are expert guides and associations all over the country who will help you find the best Croatia mushrooms. Here are some of the finest edible examples you should hope to come across on any trip

Morchella_esculenta_2.jpg© CC BY-SA 3.0

Morels (Smrčci)

Unmistakable thanks to the honeycomb texture of their caps, these mysterious mushrooms grow across much of the forested world but vary in form within their distinct regions. They have a weird symbiotic or endophytic relationship with trees that nobody exactly understands. Nor the fact that in some areas, this bond is with deciduous trees, in others it is with conifers. They are not autumn mushrooms but spring Croatia mushrooms and they like to live around fir, pine, poplar, elm, oak, chestnut, olive and ash trees.

sulphur-ovinus-3663099_1920.jpg© Ulrike Leone

Chicken Of The Woods (Žuti kruh)

With a name in Croatian meaning yellow bread, there can be no mistaking that this is an edible mushroom. These can grow to be pretty big - the largest recorded was found in the UK and weighed 45 kilograms. Some deer are known to eat this fungus and it is a delicacy in select German kitchens, the taste compared to chicken or lobster.

Steinpilz_2006_08_3.jpeg© Grizurgbg

Porcini (Vrganji)

Porcini mushrooms are highly prized by cooks. They have a brown or red-brown cap and a cream-coloured stem (stipe). They like to grow in forests and can be preserved for year-round use by drying them. This intensifies their flavour. You can find these Croatia mushrooms within every region, in particular in the whole continental section stretching from the Dinaric alps, through Karlovac and Zagreb counties, Zagorje and up to the Slovenian border and Medimurje. They also grow in Istria and Dalmatia, even on some of the islands.

1620px-Calocybe_gambosa_080420wa.jpg© Strobilomyces

St. George's (Đurđevača)

Annually appearing in fields, grass verges and along roadsides in early spring - around the time of St George's Day – this mushroom is considered a delicacy across much of Europe, in particular Romania and Italy. It has been documented as being the most expensive and highly regarded mushroom in Umbria and Marches in central Italy during the 16th century. In the field, it smells a little like cucumber.

1664px-Fichten-Reizker_Lactarius_deterrimus.jpg© H. Krisp

Saffron Milk Cap / Pine mushroom (Rujnica)

The rujnica mushroom has orange cap that becomes sticky in the rain or morning dew and it stains a deep green colour when handled. It lives in coniferous forests. This Croatia mushroom is here named after the month of September and there's a village which shares its name in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The village lies right next to the border with Croatia, west of Cazin. A fresco in the Roman town of Herculaneum in modern-day Campania, Italy depicts this mushroom. It is one of the earliest pieces of art in the world to illustrate a fungus.

Polyporus_squamosus_Molter.jpeg© Dan Molter

Dryad's Saddle / Pheasant's Back

The two most popular names for this fungus in English come respectively from Greek mythology and its distinct, animal-like markings. It can grow up to 50 centimetres across and is an important part of the forest eco-system as it breaks down decomposing trees. It can also attack living ones. It's only edible when young.

Hedgehog_fungi2.jpg© D J Kelly

Sweet Tooth / Hedgehog mushroom (Prosenjak)

This yellow to light orange to brown mushroom often grows in an irregular shape. It is best eaten when young as older specimens can develop too much of a bitter taste, although the needles it grows, by which the mushroom is most easily identified, only appear as it matures. Again, it's best picked with a guide. It can grow as big as 20 centimetres in diameter and likes to live on the ground or in leaf litter within both coniferous and deciduous forests.

Lepista_nuda.jpg© Archenzo

Wood Blewit (Modrikača)

This most distinct-looking fungus can be found in coniferous forests, but these Croatia mushrooms seem to much prefer deciduous woodlands here. It's possible to see them in all but the coldest months, but they are most common in autumn. Wood Blewits have a sharp, distinct scent and range from lilac to purple-pink in colour, growing darker, towards brown, as they age. They need to be cooked to be consumed as this greatly reduces (although does not completely remove) the risk, albeit rare, of an allergic reaction.

Handkea_utriformis_G25.jpeg© Jerzy Opioła

Mosaic Puffball

These puffballs are only edible when young. At this time they typically measure 6 to 12 centimetres across and are always white in colour. When mature, they turn brown and can reach 25 centimetres in breadth and have a height of 20 centimetres. Their upper skin eventually disintegrates over time allowing its spores to be released. This process is often hastened by rain or by being trodden on by cattle. The taste is said not to be spectacular, but the fungus does contain a natural antibiotic.

Seta_de_cardo_Pleurotus_eryngii_2012-10-03_DD_01.jpeg© Diego Delso

King Trumpet / French Horn / King Oyster

This distinct mushroom is the largest species in the oyster mushroom genus and is highly prized in the Asian kitchen. It is widely cultivated in Asia as a result. Cooks there love it because, although it has little taste when eaten raw, upon cooking it develops umami flavours popular in Asian cuisine.

False_Morel.jpeg© Jason Hollinger

Brain mushroom / Turban fungus / Elephant Ears (Hrčci)

English names for this fungus in are pretty self-explanatory. Here, these Croatia mushrooms are known as hamsters. Although a delicacy in Scandinavia (in particular Finland), Eastern Europe (in particular Bulgaria, but Poland too), some parts of North America and around the Pyrenees, their sale is actually prohibited in Spain and some other countries. That's because this mushroom can kill you if you don't prepare it properly. Symptoms of hrčci poisoning involve vomiting and diarrhoea several hours after eating, followed by dizziness, lethargy and headache. Severe cases may lead to delirium, coma and death after five to seven days as the mushroom's active agent turns into monomethylhydrazine (MMH) in the body, this toxin then damaging the liver, central nervous system and kidneys. To eat it safely, you must first dry the mushroom completely, then hard boil it, then rinse it, then hard boil it again. In Finland, they are used to make omelettes, soups or in pies. There is some evidence that this mushroom may be carcinogenic. I'll give this one a miss.

0_Helvella_crispa_-_Havr_1.jpeg© Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

White Saddle / Elfin Saddle (Jesenski hrčak)

The 'autumn hamster' is easily identified by its irregularly shaped whitish cap, fluted stem, and fuzzy underneath. It grows in grassy areas as well as in humid hardwoods, such as beech, (not so well in resinous trees), along the side of pathways, in hedges and on the sloping edges of meadows. These Croatia mushrooms contain the same active agent as the other 'hamsters' and are poisonous in their raw state and also possibly carcinogenic. Striking in appearance due to the irregularly shaped lobes on the cap, this one is perhaps best to spot, but to leave where it is.

3426px-Meripilus_giganteus_Karst_1882.jpeg© Michael Gäbler

Giant Polypore

This monster fungus can grow to 70 to 150 centimetres in diameter and 10 to 50 centimetres in height. It isn't very kind to the trees it feeds off and isn't very tasty, even when picked you. But, it's worth looking out for because it is quite spectacular in size and in its colourings. This fungus was once thought to be inedible. It is now under investigation for use in medicine, as a methanol extract from the fungus has proven to be toxic to some cancer cells.

Coprin_noir_d'encre_41.jpg© Jean-Louis Lascoux

Common Ink Cap (Jajasta gnojištarka)

Edible, but poisonous when consumed with alcohol, it is advised you drink nothing alcoholic either 20 hours before or after eating these mushrooms. When combined with alcohol, resulting symptoms include facial reddening, nausea, vomiting, malaise, agitation, palpitations and tingling in the limbs, but if a lot of alcohol is consumed this could even lead to heart attack. So powerful is the active agent in the mushroom that it is used to treat alcoholism. One old English name for the mushroom is Tippler's Bane (today, the word bane is used to mean a cause of great distress or annoyance, but previously it was used to describe a poison that causes death). The black liquid that this mushroom releases after being picked was once used as ink.

Agaricus_campestris.jpg© CC BY-SA 3.0

Field mushroom (Rudnjača)

These wild Croatia mushrooms are the ones closest to the cultivated white button mushrooms you buy in the supermarket. Only these are bigger. Their caps can be 5 to 10 centimetres wide. These mushrooms used to be more common in the days before cars, when every vehicle was horse-drawn. They like to live in pastures, especially those in which horses are present. In Scotland, these mushrooms used to be placed on the skin after a scald or burn. Research into the medicinal properties of mushrooms continues in many areas, including in the use of dressings for similar injuries such as ulcers and bedsores.

fungus-1194380_1920.jpg© Barbroforsberg

Chanterelles (Lisičarke)

Usually orange or yellow in colour, the chanterelles that grow in Croatia and other Mediterranean areas can be nearer to white. They are meaty, funnel-shaped and full of flavour. Chanterelles are known in English-speaking nations by their French name as they were popularised by the growing interest in French cuisine during the 18th century. These mushrooms in Croatia can be found in every region.

Russula_virescens3.jpg© Paffka

Green-cracking Russula / Quilted Green Russula / Green Brittlegill (Golubača)

These Croatia mushrooms are here known as Pigeon mushrooms. Their caps can be as wide as 15 centimetres and are highly distinctive - pale green with darker green patches that look not unlike mould (the Croatian words for mushroom and mould are very similar). They taste better than they look - mild, nutty, fruity, even sweet.

mushrooms-4565407_1920.jpeg© Jerzy Górecki

Parasol (Sunčanica)

Another mysterious mushroom, this one can be found living a solitary existence, or in the famous circles of folklore tales sometimes referred to as 'fairy rings'. Only the cap of this mushroom is edible, the stem is too fibrous. In European cooking, it's common to see the caps stuffed and then baked or coated in egg and breadcrumbs before frying. They grow in deciduous forests, on forest edges and in meadows. This Croatia mushroom is here known as little sunflowers, perhaps because they can be as tall as 30 centimetres.

Macrolepiota_rhacodes_JPG3.jpeg© voir ci-dessous

Shaggy Parasol (Kuštrava Sunčanica)

Much smaller than its sun-loving cousin above, this little mushroom better prefers the shade. Although edible, the mushroom contains toxins which can cause upset stomachs or allergic reaction. There's another mushroom sometimes called False Parasol which looks almost exactly like this but is poisonous. Also know charmingly as the Vomiter, it is the mushroom responsible for most poisonings each year in North America.

Amanita_rubescens_100_7069.jpeg© EmillimeS

Blusher (Biserka)

These Croatia mushrooms are known as Guinea Fowl. They have a reddish-brown and look very similar to several species of poisonous mushroom. Their flesh alters in colour, turning pink when cut or bruised, hence its name in English. The mushrooms contain a toxin that is removed by cooking – you can't eat them raw. It's best to wash the cap before cooking or remove the top layer altogether, as this contains most of the toxin. It's difficult to find good specimens for use in the kitchen as this mushroom is regularly attacked by insects.

Oyster Mushrooms

There are many types of oyster mushroom. Several edible varieties grow in Croatia.

Oyster_mushoom_fells.jpg© Aaron Sherman

The Tree mushroom is particularly familiar as it is widely cultivated. In the wild, its cap is laterally attached to the tree without having a stem.

2011-06-30_Pleurotus_cornucopiae_5_70824_cropped.jpg© Mushroom Observer

The Branched Oyster mushroom always has a stem. The mushroom can grow to 15 centimetres, has a pale yellow, brown or grey surface and off-white gills. It can have a mild smell quite close to aniseed.

Pleurotus_pulmonarius_LC0228.jpeg© Jörg Hempel

Sometimes known as the Indian Oyster, Italian Oyster, Phoenix mushroom or the Lung Oyster, pleurotus pulmonarius is one of the most cultivated mushrooms in the world and is famed for its medicinal value. It is almost identical to the mushroom most commonly associated with the name Oyster mushroom (pleurotus ostreatus), which likes to grow on dying or dead trees (it is never the cause of their death).

Pleurotus_ostreatus_JPG7.jpegPleurotus ostreatus the mushroom most commly referred to as Oyster mushroom © voir ci-dessous

If you have any vegetarian friends, maybe best not to tell them that all oyster mushrooms are in fact carnivorous – their mycelia eat bacteria and tiny worms called nematodes

Agaricus_augustus_2011_G1.jpeg© George Chernilevsky

The Prince mushroom (Vilovnjača)

The Prince mushroom seems to like people. It is not only found in deciduous and coniferous woods but also in gardens and by the roadside. It sometimes springs up in earth overturned by human hand. While its scent is strong and nutty, reminiscent of aniseed or almonds, it has a very mild taste when eaten.

Charcoal_Burner_-_Russula_cyanoxantha_45202732211.jpeg© Björn S

Charcoal Burner (Ljubičasto zelena krasnica)

These Croatia mushrooms seem to be better appreciated in some regions than others. They were designated 'Mushroom of the Year' in 1997 by the German Association of Mycology. They seem similarly respected in Croatia, where their title – Purple Green Beauty – is far more complimentary than its common name in English.

2008-08-Agaricus-Stuttgartx7.jpgThe changing form of the Horse mushroom as it ages is brilliantly depicted in this image by © Salix

Horse Mushroom

A close cousin of the Field mushroom, this large white fungus is frequently found near stables, in meadows, near spruce trees and around stinging nettles – it shares their love of nutrient-rich soil.

Amanita_vaginata_6820.jpeg© Mushroom Observer

Grisette (Preslica)

These are reasonably rare Croatia mushrooms and are more commonly enjoyed in the diets of cows than in humans. That might be because of, or in spite of, their reputed intoxicating effects. They have greyish or brownish caps.

Lactarius_piperatus_98569.jpeg© Mushroom Observer

Blancaccio (Paprena Mliječnica)

These creamy-white mushrooms complain by bleeding an off white, peppery-tasting milk when cut, explaining the name of these Croatia mushrooms - the peppery milkcap. They are best used as a seasoning, rather than eaten whole, after having been dried.

Aleuria_aurantia_Orange_Peel_Fungus.jpeg© The High Fin Sperm Whale

Orange Peel Fungus (Narančastocrvena zdjeličarka)

Edible but unremarkable in flavour, this fungus is best left in situ. Do look out for it though - it really does look like dried orange peel!

Craterellus_cornucopioides_JPG1.jpeg© Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Horn of Plenty (Mrka Trubača)

Not so much black food exists in our diets, proof that you eat as much with your eyes as with your mouth. Whoever named this mushroom didn't help it much – it is known in Croatian, French and Italian as 'trumpet of the dead'. Croatians make a delicious black risotto using squid ink, so they really should get past the appearance and eat more of this Croatia mushroom. These mushrooms, which are also part of the oyster mushroom family, grow in abundance across Slavonia.

TricholomaSejunctum.jpeg© Archenzo

Yello Knight / Man On Horseback (Zelenka)

This mushroom has been traditionally eaten across many of the world's continents and remains popular in some parts of Asia, particularly in China. It was reputedly a popular favourite among medieval knights, who reserved the finest-tasting mushrooms for themselves and it grows well in France. In recent times, it has been associated in Europe with poisonings, however, it is under research for its medicinal properties. Extreme caution should be observed if you are attempting to pick this for consumption. Our expert Croatian guide said it should not be picked at all.

Black_White_Truffle.jpg© Mortazavifar

Truffles (Tartufi): the most expensive Croatia mushrooms

Are truffles mushrooms? Well, kinda, yes, even though they do grow below ground. It would be foolish not to include them in any list of fungi-for-food as they are so highly prized. Istrian cuisine is famous for its inclusion of truffles and both the more-common black and rarer and stronger-in-flavour white truffles grow there. However, truffles can be found in much more of Croatia than the region in which they are most famous. You'll need a guide with a specially trained dog to find them. They grow near oak, hazelnut, cherry and other deciduous trees.

Bovista_nigrescens_BS17.jpegThis fantastic picture by © Jerzy Opioła perfectly illustrates the three life stages of the Brown Puffball. They can only be eaten in their earliest stage of development when they are completely white

Brown Puffball

Like the Mosaic Puffball, this one is also edible only when young and white in colur., although this one is considerably smaller, measuring just 3 to 6 centimetres across. Although it likes to live in grassland, especially that used as pasture for animals, it can grow in altitudes of up to 2,500 metres.

Fistulina_hepatica_fistuline_hpatique_2.jpeg© Kean10

Beefsteak Fungus (Vukovo meso)

Sometimes called the Tongue mushroom and is elsewhere awarded a name related to liver, this mushroom has previously been used as a meat substitute in places like France. It is only edible when pink and young. The mushroom requires a sustained cooking time. It likes to grow on oak and chestnut trees and issues a blood-coloured liquid when cut.

Oronges.jpeg© Yaqui

Caesar's mushroom (Blagva)

Enjoyed in the diet since at least Roman times, blagva only grow in North Africa, southern Europe and in Mexico. So popular were they with the Romans that they can nowadays actually be found along the side of some old Roman roads which stretch further north into Europe. These classic-looking mushrooms have a distinctive orange cap and a yellow stem. In Italy, they are named after eggs because they look like them when first starting to grow. Although native Croatia mushrooms, these are super rare. At this time of year, you can sometimes see them on the open-air market tables in Bjelovar-Bilogora county and Sisak-Moslavina county. Whether or not that is completely legal given their current-day scarcity is best answered by another.

Total Croatia News would like to reiterate that hunting for wild edible mushrooms in Croatia should only ever be undertaken alongside an acknowledged guide or association

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the Croatian language common names used for these fungi may be of more frequent use in Bosnia or typical to other regional dialects rather than standard Croatian. If you know better Croatian names for some of these mushrooms, please do let us know and we'll be very happy to amend the article.

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Thursday, 1 October 2020

19 Incredible Dishes: The Best Vegetarian Food In Croatia

October 1, 2020 - Happy International Vegetarian Day! To celebrate, we bring you a list of 19 meat-free snacks and meals that make up the best vegetarian food in Croatia


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Starting a feature of the best vegetarian food in Croatia with a picture that has what looks suspiciously like meat in it comes at the top of a long list of dumb moves made by this writer - vegetarians, please forgive me. It was an impossible picture to find and this Youtube screenshot of a non-vegetarian option was the only one available on open license

Krpice sa zeljem

A lowly peasant dish made from cabbage and pasta, krpice sa zeljem neither sounds too appetising on paper nor looks inviting in its rather bland appearance. But, when you've no money left and need to fill your stomach, this is a great option. It's seasoned simply with salt, pepper and oil. Although most Croatians wouldn't do it, it's nice with butter or a butter and oil mix instead. Always use white pepper, not black, to accompany the salt in this. Some people make it with bits of pork too, like the one we have unfortunately pictured.

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Youtube screenshot © Andreina kuhinja

Granatir / Pašta s krumpirom

Also known as grenadir marš (grenadier march) or pašta s krumpirom (pasta with potatoes), this is a simple dish from Slavonia and is popular in other parts of northern continental Croatia. Onions and potatoes are the exciting ingredients, but the flavour comes from the ground paprika powder so prevalent in Slavonian food. Further away from Slavonia, you might find spring onions added and it seasoned instead with white pepper. You can really imagine the Austro-Hungarian troops of old marching on full stomachs of this cheap dish. Vegetarians fond of this meal might try exchanging the spring onions for leek (poriluk), for a change.

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Vanjkuši are probably the most obscure of all vegetarian food in Croatia so, again, we couldn't find a picture. Their name can be translated as pillows © Jay Mantri

Vanjkuši

Some in Croatia might not have heard of vanjkuši (also known as vankuši or jastuci). They are a distinct speciality of the old region of Moslavina, located to the east of Zagreb. Vanjkuši are not wildly exciting in colour, but these baked pastry rolls filled with egg, cornmeal and cottage cheese are a tasty snack or extravagant side dish, seasoned with salt, white pepper and sometimes butter and/or cream.

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© Nenad Damjanović / Croatian National Tourist Board

Pera

This little-known snack from Vrbovec is a much more authentically-Croatian take on pizza. The thin crust is topped with fresh cow’s cheese, sour cream and egg (sometimes cornmeal too), cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven and then cut into triangles for sharing.

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© Rainbow Pizza

Pizza

Yes, it's Italian. But most of the food on the Croatian menu either comes directly from other nations - Turkey, Bosnia, Hungary, Austria, Greece - or is inspired by them. Pizza is included because it's on sale everywhere in Croatia and almost everyone eats it. Like that other Italian favourite, ice cream/gelato, Croatians are brilliant at making pizza. It is possible to buy inferior pizza in Croatia, but you're not wise to do so - just look a bit harder. There is a great pizza available almost every place you go in Croatia.

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© Bonč

Štrukli

Sometimes štrukli is claimed by Zagreb. But, it's suspiciously close to dishes prepared in both Slovenia and Austria. We prefer to allocate this boiled or baked pie-type dish to Zagorje, the agricultural region over the mountain, north of Zagreb. The land, agriculture, food and recipes of Zagorje inform the capital's cuisine more than anywhere else. Štrukli comes with all manner of fillings, although the most popular (and the best we've tried) comes filled with cheese.

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© BiHVolim

Zeljanica

Zeljanica is burek made with spinach. Except in Bosnia, where burek je samo s' mesom! (burek is only with meat!) There, it is only called zeljanica. Nobody in Zagreb is going to shout at you if you ask for burek with spinach. The spinach is wrapped in rolls of pastry before being cooked, the outside layers baking, the inside layers being steamed. Fans who cook this at home should really try a combination of spinach and feta-like or fresh cheese - it's delicious, but almost never on sale to the public.

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© Kokini recepti

Ćoravi gulaš

A peasant stew translated as blind goulash, this thick and tasty soup-like dish boasts potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, parsley and sometimes peas. It is flavoured with ground paprika, salt, pepper, bay leaves and garlic. Best eaten with artisan or homemade crusty bread, this is a brilliant light lunch or inexpensive evening meal.

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© Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Fritaja sa šparogama

Asparagus is one of those foods, like sprouts, which you probably avoid as a kid, but can't get enough of when you grow up (after you've lost your extra taste buds). They certainly can't get enough of it in some parts of Istria, where there are festivals dedicated to the delicacy. You're sure to find fritaja sa šparogama on the menu of the best traditional Istrian restaurants during the vegetable's growing season. This egg-based dish also contains onions, olive oil, simple seasoning and often herbs. It's great for breakfast, brunch or lunch, eaten with crusty bread and it's a super treat when served with goats cheese and cold Istrian white wine like malvasia. Yum.

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© V Cirillo

Maneštra

Another dish from Istria, these days this stew-like soup is sometimes flavoured with meats. But in its traditional peasant serving it is a vegetarian favourite, comprised of beans, potatoes and sweet corn and flavoured with garlic and parsley.

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Burek is the most common vegetarian food in Croatia © Nikola Škorić

Sirnica

This is burek with a cheese filling, except in Bosnia where... you know the rest.

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Stews like Đuveđ make up a large percentage of the vegetarian food in Croatia © Rainer Zenz

Đuveđ

Đuveđ, sometimes called Đuvec, is a stew of Turkish descent. Its ingredients vary depending on who's cooking and what's in season, but it's not uncommon to find all of the following in this inviting dish - tomatoes, onions, carrot, courgette, aubergine and rice. Flavour can come from a variety of herbs, including oregano, thyme, rosemary and/or marjoram, depending on the chef and region, also salt, pepper and paprika powder.

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Of all the burek / pies in the list of best vegetarian food in Croatia, Bučnica is perhaps the most extravagant © Bučnica fest

Bučnica

Bučnica is arguably the most extravagant of all the burek/pies as its filling has the greatest number of ingredients. Inside its layers of pastry, you will find pumpkin, fresh cheese, sour cream, eggs, butter, salt and pepper. It's seen more frequently in autumn after pumpkins are harvested.

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© zeevveez

Sataraš

Though small in ingredients and simple to prepare, it's really easy to make a mess of sataraš. For the best results, always cook the ingredients in this order - onions, then peppers, tomatoes towards the end. This light vegetable stew is from Hungary and their best version uses the lightest of fresh peppers and the freshest tomatoes. Garlic is often added. Similar to French ratatouille, in other regions, they add courgettes and chilli powder to the dish. This is essentially simple, inexpensive, peasant food. To ramp it up to gastro-levels, try cooking one or all elements separately and then combining together at the end, like a salad. This works especially well with the peppers. Approaching sataraš in this non-traditional way preserves the individual flavours of each vegetable and stops it turning into a uniformly tasting mush.

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Pasta with truffles, one of the most opulent offerings of vegetarian food in Croatia © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Fuži s tartufom

This Istrian pasta dish shines its spotlight on locally-sourced truffles. You can find it made with both the more common black truffles or the rarer (and more expensive) white truffles. If it's made with truffle oil, give it a miss - it's not the real deal. Unusually for a pasta dish, this one often makes use of butter. It adds to the luxuriousness of the taste.

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© Чакаровска

Krumpiruša

You might hear one or two people insist that Croatians don't usually eat meals that include more than one carbohydrate. This small number of people are usually from Zagreb and presumably forgot about krumpiruša (or indeed that many ask for bread to accompany their sarma - which contains rice - and is served atop mashed potato). Krumpiruša is lowly in ingredients, but one of the most satisfying pastries in Croatia. For the best results, again, use white pepper to season if you're making it at home.

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Youtube screenshot © Sašina Kuhinja

Zlevanka

To an outsider, zlevanka sounds like the name of the charming lady who rents you a holiday home in Montenegro. It's actually a speciality sweet pie from northern Croatia (particularly Međimurje), a peasant dish made with eggs, sugar, salt, cornflour, milk, fresh cheese or sour cream, yeast and oil. The cornflour is essential to give it the snack its distinct yellow colour. You might also see it called bazlamača, zlevka or kukuruznjača. Even sweeter versions are available which include apple or poppy seeds.

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© Cyrus Roepers

Gibanica

Popular all over the Balkans, in Turkey, Syria and in German-speaking nations, the origin of gibanica is a fight for some other writer. We're only concerned with the delicious taste of this strudel, which stars egg and cottage cheese. It can be served as a sweet or savoury snack.

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Soparnik is the undisputed king of vegetarian food in Croatia © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik

Profiled recently in a popular TCN feature, soparnik is the king of Croatian snacks. It is the rarest, usually only found in the Dalmatian hinterland behind Omiš. It is also the most authentically-Croatian item of food on this list. Blitva (a hardy, green chard), a little onion and salt are the filling inside this delicate, thin pastry, which is cooked in huge rounds on a traditional wood-fired oven. Delicious olive oil and tiny pieces of garlic are placed on top while it is still warm.

If you want to try some of the best vegetarian food in Croatia, check out this list of vegetarian restaurants

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

International Cuisine In Zagreb: Pekinška Patka, international minimarket

September 20, 2020 - Continuing our series on Zagreb’s international food offer and the stories behind these cuisines and businesses. This time, international food market Pekinška Patka

My name is Josip and I'm Croatian by birth. We opened Pekinška Patka in 2013. There was a real lack of stores like this in Croatia. My partner Andrea and I were sick of working for other people. Andrea has been a vegetarian for a long time and she likes cooking. I like travelling and trying new foods, so we both had an interest in international foods. We're also both big music fans.

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The first places I started travelling to were Greece and Turkey. I must have returned to those countries 10 times now. They really aren't so far from here and, when you go, there's something really similar about them, yet at the same time the cultures are very different (from here). Croatia is a mix of cultures, we have influences from there. In Istanbul, you can even find ćevapčići. The food is often very fresh, lots of vegetable dishes. They take great care over their food. For instance, if a guy does gyros in Greece, he takes great pride in what he does. The ingredients are always the best. It's a job probably he will do his whole life. People who do that job in other places, they don't have that sense. For them, it's just work.

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I visited Japan around 10 years ago for work. That was an excellent experience. I had plans for the first day I arrived, but they went out of the window. It was culture shock. I was there for around two weeks. I discovered ramen there. It was one of the easiest things for me to order. I ate sea urchins and onigiri. Everything was super tasty.

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The stock in Pekinška Patka has been changing ever since we opened. We never used to have Mexican food. Now we have a whole shelf. And our Asian food range is now really big. We have foods and ingredients from India, the Middle East, Mexico, some from South America and also some West African basics like Egusi, Ogbono, Gari and Okra We try some things at home and if we want to promote them, we add them to the stock. Other new items come from customer requests.

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It's difficult to say what are the most popular things we sell. Everyone comes for different things. Filipino customers like to pick up ingredients for their tamarind soup - Sinigang. Some Croatians only come for noodles and Asian food, others only for Mexican or to buy spices. Most of our customers are Croatian, after that, lots of Filipino people come here, Israeli students, ex-pats and members of different Asian communities here in Zagreb. We like it most when families come in with their kids and you see that a child of maybe 10 years old is crazy about Asian food. When we were kids, it was impossible for our parents to bring us to a shop like Pekinška Patka. They didn't exist here back then.

Right on cue, TCN's chat with Josip was halted by two delightful Filipino ladies coming into the store. Regular customers of Pekinška Patka, they were only too happy to tell TCN what they like about the shop

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My name is Liezel and this is Marisol. We are from the Philippines. We discovered the shop on the internet maybe three months ago. We arrived in Croatia maybe one year ago. Life is much better since we discovered this store! We used to go to Metro, but it's far on the bus from where we live. They sell things here that we can't find in other supermarkets – good Oyster sauce, products we like from the Philippines, fish and snacks. The ingredients we buy here help us make some of our most famous national dishes, like pancit. You need special noodles to make it. Our Croatian friends are very curious about Filipino food. They love to try everything. And they like it, mostly.

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Josip: Regular Croatian customers usually get more adventurous over time. They like trying new things. And they ask for recommendations, which I'm always happy to give. I've tried almost everything in the shop. In our house, we always have Lao Gan Ma chilli oils from China, Mexican salsa verde, Petjel peanut sauce from Indonesia, which is very aromatic and Japanese mayo, which I recommend to anyone who likes mayo. It's really special.

You can visit Pekinška Patka at Vlaška 78

All photos © Mateo Henec

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

International Cuisine In Zagreb: Boršč, Pan-Slavic Food Specialists

September 15, 2020 - Continuing our series on Zagreb’s international food offer and the stories behind these cuisines and businesses. This time, Croatia's only pan-Slavic food specialists - Boršč

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My name is Demian and I'm from Ukraine. My mother worked in Croatia, so I went to high school and to college here. She used to work in diplomacy. We moved around a lot. We went from Ukraine to Serbia, back to Ukraine, then to Croatia. Since coming here, aged around 15, I've been back to Ukraine only for visits – a month or two at maximum. Although I'm from western Ukraine, Lviv, a cultural town near the border with Poland, I also speak Russian and Croatian. And English. Apart from English, they're all Slavic languages, so you can find many words that have the same root. But, knowing both, I can say that the Russian and Croatian languages are really different from each other. Ukrainian is quite similar to Russian, although not as similar as some of the Balkan languages are to each other.

We opened Boršč four years ago. It started as a family business, me and my mum. We wanted to stock all the things we missed. Food and drinks from Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Ukrainian food is really not so sophisticated. Some dishes can take many hours to prepare and cook, but ingredients-wise, it's really not complicated. For instance, we have varenyky – the nearest thing you'd know them as is pierogi from Poland. They are traditional dumplings. You can fill them with anything you want. Cabbage. Potatoes, mushrooms. Potatoes and mushrooms. There are sweet versions with cherries or berries like strawberry. The savoury ones we usually fry in a pig fat which has some meat on it. It's a bit like Croatian čvarci, but softer and with more meat attached.

We have boršč. The recipe is a bit different to the Russian ones. Several countries lay claim to the soup. But, many do say that it is originally Ukrainian. Its name comes from a green plant which grows there, in wet areas, borschevik. The original boršč was green, not purple from beets. We still make the green one now, sometimes with different ingredients, and more often in summer. Sometimes it's completely vegetarian, other times it has meat and some people cook it using only vegetables and beef or pork bones.

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I've never come across a country more reliant on pig meat than Ukraine. If you think that Croatians eat a lot of pig, you should go to Ukraine! You have much more beef, veal and lamb in the Croatian diet. Those dishes you don't have regularly in the Ukrainian diet. We do eat chicken and, yes, there are some beef dishes. The fish we eat is completely different to that eaten in Croatian – ours comes from the Black sea, the Baltic or the North sea. The most popular is salmon. To be honest, I don't know the English names of the other fish, ha! I'm sure people in the UK have the same ones on their menu.

The climate in Ukraine can be tough. It's much colder there. Potatoes and cabbage grow well. In Croatia, you have beautiful tomatoes and green salad. You would not see that in Ukraine. But, our potatoes are the best. The land is very fertile, particularly in central Ukraine. It's good for growing.

In Boršč we sell several kinds of fish which are popular in Ukraine and Baltic countries – salmon, herring and trout. Our smoked salmon comes from the north sea. Almost everything in the shop comes from Europe, much of it from Norway, like the salmon, the red caviar, other fish. This salmon is actually smoked in the Netherlands. In Croatia, salmon is usually sliced thinly in the stores. They don't have the tradition like in northern countries to sell it in these styles of pieces. It's a really popular item in the store. We have caviar from the North sea, some from the Caspian sea. And we have salt cod – bakalar in Croatian - and cod liver, which is incredibly popular in Ukraine. It's considered a delicacy and is something of a national dish, often served on toast.

DSCF5912.jpegChocolates from Russia, Ukraine and Poland were one of the biggest revelations TCN tried at Boršč - they were incredible! They have a higher content of (expensive) cocoa and less (cheap) sugar than most of the chocolates made in Croatia

Sweets are really good in Ukraine and Russia. They're very different to sweets in western Europe. And different to those in Croatia too. Something like Lindt is much more sweet and buttery. Ukrainian and Russian sweets have a higher percentage of cocoa. Some of our Croatian customers are chocolate connoisseurs and these are very popular with them. Another popular purchase made by Croatians is halva – it's usual to only find the Turkish ones here. They are quite tough, made from sesame. Ours are softer, made from sunflower.


DSCF5883.jpegThe colourful display of pan-Slavic specialist chocolates dominates the centre of the shop - you so want to try them all!

We have dark beers and light beers. They're from Lithuania, Russia and Poland. We have wines from Moldova and Georgia. We have sparkling wines from Russia and Ukraine. The Georgian wine is the best we have. Georgia claims to be the oldest winemaking country in the world. Winemaking is proven to be at least 8000 years old there. They have the oldest indigenous grape in the world. Georgians bury their wine underground in Kvevri - huge clay jars, which add an extra flavour. After the wine is fermented like this, it doesn't require the addition of preservatives when being bottled.

We have many preserved vegetables, like yellow tomatoes, seasonings and different types of sunflower seed, condiments that might be comparable to ajvar. This one is from Georgia and is a spicy mix of vegetables, using garlic, paprika and horseradish. One of our best-selling items is actually condensed milk. It's used not only in the Slavic kitchen but in the cuisine of Asia and South America.

This is kvass. It's a fermented drink, but it's non-alcoholic. It's popular in all north European countries, the whole Baltic region and especially popular in Russia. The taste is very specific. It's somewhere between Coca cola and beer. The ones we sell come from Russia and Ukraine. We also have a couple of types of birch juice. It's a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from the sap of the birch tree. It's maybe a little comparable to Croatia bazga, but much, much less sweet. It's very healthy. The sugars in it are natural ones. It has an incredibly refreshing taste and maybe a very soft lemon aroma (TCN tried this – it was amazing!)

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Some of the most prestigious items we sell are the varieties of hard alcohol. We have Armenian brandies. This one, Ararat, is considered to be the best one in the world. We have several vodkas, including Beluga, which is a premium vodka from Russia. We have a Ukrainian vodka and we have a honey and pepper flavoured one too. You can easily tell the quality of a vodka from the aroma and the aftertastes.

Most of our customers are actually Croatian - around 60%. Russians and Ukrainians are the next highest percentage. We have some Polish and Lithuanian people come in, but it's usually young people who are here to study with Erasmus.

I've been living in Croatia for about 11 years now. I enjoy life here. Everything is simple, easy, relaxed. It's considered one of the safest countries to live. And you can really feel that. It feels safer than the other two countries where I've lived. I'm maybe too young to yet know if I will stay here forever, but I can definitely say that I enjoy Croatia.

You can visit Boršč at Vlaška 58 (ulaz s trga Drage Iblera)

Here you can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment

To follow our whole series on international cuisine and to follow the Croatian restaurant and gastro scene, keep an eye on our Gourmet pages

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All photographs © Mateo Henec

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Hidden Dalmatia: Soparnik - 100% Authentic Croatian Food

August 12, 2020 - Vegan-friendly, delicate and delicious, traditional soparnik should be Croatia's national dish, yet few have even tried it.

The most popular fast food in Croatia is doubtless pekara (the bakery). Its handheld pastries like burek and pita - and pizza - a simple solution to pangs of hunger; satisfied easily, on the go.

Despite their omnipresence across Hrvatska, none of these foods is of domestic origin. But, Croatia does have its own unique pastry. More delicate and delicious than the Turkish options, soparnik gives even the greatest pizza a run for its money on flavour. And yet, you'll likely never see it while visiting.

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© Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Soparnik hides in a historic region known as Poljica, a part of the Dalmatian hinterland behind the coastal town Omiš, on the side of the Cetina river closest to Split. Here, the women of villages like Gata so closely preserve the tradition of making it, that the pastry is protected at an EU-level as Poljički soparnik (soparnik from Poljica). One of those women is Mira Kuvačić.

Though its ingredients are few and humble - dough, blitva and onion, with garlic and olive oil to finish - the making of an authentic soparnik is far from simple. Now 70 years of age, Mira, and women like her, pass down the know-how to their younger neighbours and relatives, ensuring the dish stays alive and its quality remains intact.

A relative newcomer to preparing the dish, Mira only started to make it 25 years ago. Since then, she's won several competitions, been recognised by local authorities, national press and has gained an increasingly demanding customer base.

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Mira Kuvačić mixes blitva and thinly-sliced onion for the filling © Marc Rowlands

She starts by taking blitva and onion from her garden. Blitva is a spinach-like plant with large leaves. It thrives throughout coastal Croatia. She cuts the leaves into small pieces, discarding the tough stalks, which are added to the feed of the chickens and pheasants she keeps. The finely sliced onion is added to the leaf pieces along with a small amount of salt and olive oil.

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Mira rolls the dough in her extremely hot oven room © Marc Rowlands

She then builds a fire in her traditional oven. She uses only thin branches from the olive tree to do this, or vines from grapes. The embers required must be small otherwise the soparnik will burn. Each of these two kinds of wood imparts a flavour to the soparnik. Its taste also differs depending on the time of year; blitva is planted in stages, throughout a long season, to ensure it never runs out. Its water content alters depending on the sun's strength. Blitva harvested in midsummer is best for soparnik.

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The blitva and onion mix is spread evenly on the circular sheet of pastry © Marc Rowlands

In the same room as the fire, she rolls out two circular sheets of a simple dough; flour, salt and water. The room is very hot and the layers of pastry are extremely thin. On one, she evenly spreads out the blitva and onion mix before placing the other sheet atop. The large circular wooden board she will use to carry the soparnik is briefly placed above it, flattening the surface.

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Adding the second layer of pastry © Marc Rowlands

She trims and then carefully crimps the edges, ensuring there will be no bite without the tasty filling. The embers of the fire are brushed away to form a clear space on the hot stone where she carefully lays the soparnik. The embers are then dropped on top.

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Crimping the edges © Marc Rowlands

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Embers are brushed to one side to make room for the soparnik to lie flat on the hot stone © Marc Rowlands

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The tiny, burning embers are placed on top of the soparnik, so each side cooks quickly and evenly © Marc Rowlands

While cooking, she finely chops garlic. Mira has cooked soparnik thousands of times before. She instinctively knows when it is ready. She brushes the embers from the top, removes it from the hot stone and places it on top of a wooden board to cool. She uses a traditional brush to remove the layer of grey ash that remains on the surface. Once it is less hot, she sprinkles the garlic across the surface, then olive oil, which she rubs in evenly with her hands. It must be allowed to cool a little more, so the pastry can harden, before being cut.

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Soparnik placed on the hot stone © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik is always cut into diamond shapes and the middle four are always the first to be removed and eaten. These are traditions. A large wooden vessel was usually placed where these diamonds once were, a shared jug of wine from which everyone drank.

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Soparnik is always cut into diamonds. The middle four are always removed and eaten first © Marc Rowlands

Soparnik is traditionally a peasant food. At lunchtime, the women of Poljica would place a small cushion on their heads, then carry the wooden boards and soparnik into the fields where others were labouring. These days, people order it over the phone and collect it themselves, or Mira takes their address and arranges for it to be delivered. She made five soparnik before 3pm when we visited. During the hour we were there, she took no less than three new orders over the phone.

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Traditional cushions, placed on the head, would help women carry soparnik into the fields © Marc Rowlands

If you want to eat soparnik, you must either know someone who makes it, or you must order it from someone like Mira. You cannot find it in almost any bakery. Other soparnik makers, who live by the side of the road, advertise that theirs is a house which makes soparnik. Mira lives away from the road. Her busy custom comes only from word-of-mouth recommendation and her reputation.

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Another soparnik maker advertises by the side of the road that her's is a house which makes soparnik © Marc Rowlands

Vegan-friendly, incredibly moreish and 100% authentically Croatian, soparnik should be the country's national dish and sold on every street. Instead, this secret speciality is savoured by a precious few thousand in the Dalmatian hinterland and across a short stretch of coast around Omiš. If you're ever in that region and want to discover Croatian cuisine you won't find in any neighbouring country, drive up into the hills of Poljica and seek it out.

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Soparnik © Marc Rowlands

On these links you can read the other features in our Hidden Dalmatia series:

Drniš - Drniški Pršut and Meštrović Roots

The Fantastic Food of the Cetina River

Baško Polje - Forgotten Paradise of Yugoslavia Holidays

Incredible and Mysterious 10 Rajcica Wells near Klis

Wild Rides on the Cetina River

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