Friday, 8 October 2021

Taste the Mediterranean: Masterclass with French Chocolatier Claude Krajner

October 8, 2021 - What better way to start the day than with a taste of handmade chocolates?  Thankfully, the Taste the Mediterranean Food Festival brings one of the best chocolatiers of France - Maitre artisan chocolatier Claude Krajner to Split. A look into his masterclass with 15 aspiring culinary students from Aspira University College.

The day was sweeter than usual in the building of Aspira University College where the brilliant creator of Le temps d'un chocolat in Marseilles, France, chocolatier Claude Krajner, conducted a special cooking workshop with students from Aspira University College. The class was eagerly attended by at least 15 culinary students and was organised by TTM Festival in cooperation with Aspira. Since Claude is French with Croatian descent, the workshop was held in French and Croatian. 

IMG_5376.jpgPhotography by: Princess Prkić

Claude Krajner received the title Maitre Artisan Chocolatier in 2015 and is recognisably one of the best chocolatiers in France. He is also a member of the prestigious Academie Nationale de Cuisine and Disciples Escoffier International. His passion for artisan chocolates began at an early age so he naturally pursued the culinary world and built his experience from working in the best restaurants in Paris and later on proceeded to the Canary Islands where he worked at Les Moulins de Paris in Lanzarote as a pastry chef. Chef Claude is also a permanent lecturer at Villa des Chefs, a highly-regarded culinary school in Aix en Provence where short courses and masterclasses are regularly offered by famous chefs and confectioners. The famous chocolatier also creates personalised chocolate products for big companies including Swarovsky, Palais des Thes, and Kartell. Since 2010, Claude Krajner has served as Vice-president of Chocolatiers et Biscuitiers de France - French masters in the art of chocolate and dry cookie making. 

IMG_5310.jpgPhotography by: Princess Prkić

The masterclass was not just a theoretical lecture, but the culinary students of Aspira were also hands-on in assisting the guest chef. At 4 PM today, Tonči Drije, the head of gastronomy and practical workshops at Aspira University College will also take part in "Learn and Make Your Dreams Come True", a panel event by TTM Festival, in Briig Boutique Hotel. This event was organised by Mediterranean Women Chefs, an international group dedicated to improving the role of women in gastronomy. Other panelists include pastry chef Tea Mamut of Patisserie O'š Kolač, Split, chef Deni Srdoč of restaurant Nebo Hilton, head of Raise the Bar Academy Kruno Rozič, and chef Nikolina Putica.

IMG_5389.jpgPhotography by: Princess Prkić

As part of the Taste the Mediterranean festival, French chocolatier Claude Krajner will also be a guest chef in an exclusive dinner hosted by chef Stjepan Vukadin of restaurant Zrno Soli which boasts a Michelin plate and 3 Gault & Millau toques. Other guest chefs include Chef Anastasios Paraskevaidis of restaurant Hotel Mount Athos in Ierissos, Greece, and Chef Jure Tomič of restaurant Debeluh in Brežice, Slovenia. 

To learn more about the festival's special events, follow TTM festival's Instagram page.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Eat Your Way Through Croatia: The Croatia Michelin Guide for Foodies 2021

July 01, 2021 - Ranked as the 4th most underrated foodie destination in the world, Croatia now boasts 7 Michelin stars, 10 Bib Gourmands, and 51 Michelin Plates restaurants. This is your ultimate food guide for an unforgettable gourmet Croatia experience! The Croatia Michelin Guide for foodies this year. 

Originally a guide for French motorists started by brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin back in the early1900s, The Michelin Guide is now the Oscars of the culinary world and the holy creed for ardent food lovers. Although the star system is the most revered and famous among others, the Michelin stars are not the only way the Michelin Guide recognizes restaurants - they also give out the Michelin Bib Gourmand and The Plate Michelin awards to those deserving to be distinguished in the culinary world!

THE MICHELIN GUIDE CROATIA 2021

Find your way to the best restaurants and konobas in Croatia with just one click!

1 Michelin Star - "A very good restaurant; worth a stop!"

2 Michelin Stars - "Excellent cooking; worth a detour!"

3 Michelin Stars - "Exceptional cuisine; worth a special journey!"

Other Awards:

Michelin Bib Gourmand - "Good quality and good value cooking"

The Plate Michelin - "Good cooking: Fresh ingredients and carefully prepared"

SPLIT-DALMATIA 

The Plate Michelin 

Zoi - Split, Mediterranean Cuisine

Zrno Soli - Split, Seafood / Mediterranean Cuisine

Dvor - Split, Mediterranean Cuisine 

Kadena - Split, International Cuisine

Konoba TRS - Trogir, Meditteranean Cuisine

Jeny - Tucepi, Modern Cuisine

Michelin Bib Gourmand 

Konoba Škoj - Isola di Solta, Mediterranean Cuisine

 

ŠIBENIK-KNIN

1 Michelin Star

Pelegrini - Šibenik, Modern Cuisine

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Photo credit: Instagram: pelegrini_sibenik

The Michelin Guide describes chef Rudolf Štefan's menu as perfect and a result of long, painstaking research and hard work. Pelegrini highlights the usage of local ingredients such as oysters, sea snails, sea urchins, mussels, lamb, and veal. 

MUST TRY!
  • Carrot mussels and sausage
  • Chicken tingul
  • Fig and ricotta

The Plate Michelin

Konoba Tri Piruna - Vodice, Modern Cuisine/Contemporary

Konoba Boba - Murter, Modern Cuisine

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Konoba Vinko - Konjevrate, Country Cooking  

 

ZADAR 

The Plate Michelin

Fośa  - Zadar, Seafood and Classic Cuisine

Kaštel - Zadar, Meditteranean Cuisine, Contemporary

 

DUBROVNIK-NERETVA

1 Michelin Star

Restaurant 360 - Dubrovnik, Modern Cuisine

206900740_1080078275733665_4486270558936051504_n_1.jpgPhoto credit: Instagram: 360dubrovnik

A restaurant with a perfect view of the picturesque and historical city of Dubrovnik, the restaurant is equipped with real professionalism and young and dynamic staff. The menu is elaborately prepared and beautifully presented, including the wines. The Michelin Guide describes it as the best choice for an enchanting and gourmet evening in this romantic city.

MUST TRY!
  • Two textures of scallops and turnip: turnip creamy base with slightly seared scallops, sour turnip disc, and marinated scallops carpaccio in lime juice, crunchy quinoa chips, and thick onion soup
  • Pan-seared duck breast, soy sauce glaze, Jerusalem artichoke purée, sour onion filled with duck confit, croutons, and anchovies foam
  • Milky chocolate velouté base, Kadaif filled with cooked pear in timut pepper and vanilla, Tonka cream, homemade vanilla, and oat ice cream

LD Restaurant - Korčula Island, Mediterranean / Modern Cuisine

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Photo credit: Instagram: lesic.dimitri.palace

This restaurant offers superb Mediterranean cuisine showcasing local products, especially olive oil, excellent fish selection, and exotic ingredients. The outdoor area is perfect for al fresco dining and has the perfect view of the sea and the islands. 

 MUST TRY!
  • Foie Gras (Apple, grapes, brioche crumbs, cherries)
  • Prawn gyoza (Mousseline sauce, chili, daikon, sesame)
  • Chocolate Crocante

 The Plate Michelin

Vapor - Dubrovnik, Modern Cuisine

Nautika - Dubrovnik, Classic Cuisine

Above 5 - Dubrovnik, Creative

Stara Loza - Dubrovnik, Mediterranean Cuisine

Proto Fish - Dubrovnik, Seafood 

Dubrovnik - Dubrovnik, Mediterranean Cuisine

Bistro Tavulin - Dubrovnik, Traditional cuisine

Pjerin - Dubrovnik, Mediterranean Cuisine 

Bugenvila - Cavtat, Classic Cuisine

Filippi - Korčula Island, Mediterranean Cuisine

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Konoba Mate - Korčula Island, Country Cooking

ISTRIA

1 Michelin Star 

Monte - Rovinj, Creative

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Photo credit: Instagram: monte_rovinj

The Michelin Guide describes Chef Danijel Dekić's cuisine as highly creative, almost theatrical with contemporary and exciting techniques. Monte is located in the heart of Rovinj, with a modern and trendy vibe. Definitely worth a stop!

MUST TRY!
  • Omega 3- three preparations of Northern Adriatic fish
  • Suckling pig, lentils, yellow cabbage, pork rind
  • Apple & Rose- rose ice cream, apple mousse, candied rose petals

The Plate Michelin

Alla Beccaccia - Valbandon, Traditional/Classic Cuisine

Meneghetti - Bale, Classic Cuisine

La Puntulina - Rovinj, Mediterranean/Regional Cuisine

Zigante - Livade, Traditional Cuisine

SV. Nikola - Porec, Classic Cuisine

Konoba Čok - Novigrad, Seafood

Marina - Novigrad, Creative

Damir & Ornella - Novigrad, Seafood

Konoba Morgan - Brtonigla, Traditional Cuisine

San Rocco - Brtonigla, Contemporary/Modern Cuisine

Badi - Lovrečica, Meditteranean Cuisine

Konoba Buščina - Umag, Traditional Cuisine

Pergola - Zambratija, Seafood

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Batelina - Banjole, Seafood 

 

PRIMORJE-GORSKI KOTAR

1 Michelin Star

Draga Di Lovrana - Lovran, Modern Cuisine

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Photo credit: Instagram: hotel_draga_di_lovrana

The Michelin Guide commended the restaurant's promotion of local produce and its dishes that are creative, modern with Mediterranean influences and occasional French twist. The restaurant has an impressive wine list that perfectly complements the restaurant's daily menu. Since 2021, this modern kitchen is being run by chef Zdravko Tomšić.

MUST TRY!

  • Rolls of deer ramsteak, mousse pastrnjaka, carrot, pomegranate
  • Pork belly, Roman gnocchi, beet chutney / apple
  • Whiskey biscuits, baked pear cream, mandrine sauce
  • Kvarnerski ceviche, orange emulsion, black basket

The Plate Michelin

Villa Ariston - Opatija, Classic / Modern Cuisine

Navis - Opatija, Contemporary / Mediterranean Cuisine

 

ZAGREB

1 Michelin Star

Noel - Zagreb, Modern Cuisine

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Photo credit: Instagram: noelzagreb

The restaurant serves contemporary, modern, and imaginative dishes with carefully selected Croatian, French and Italian wines. This trendy and hip restaurant is owned by owner-chef Goran Kočiś and his business partner and sommelier, Ivan Jug.

MUST TRY!
  • Zagorski Štrukli with Istrian truffles
  • Wild fish, young beans, yuzu, beurre blanc
  • Apple, rosemary, passion fruit

The Plate Michelin

Tekka - Zagreb, Japanese/Asian, Takeaway

Zinfandel's - Zagreb, Modern Cuisine

Le Bistro Esplanade - Zagreb, French

Beštija - Zagreb, Market Cuisine / Contemporary

Apetit - Zagreb, Mediterranean Cuisine

Takenoko - Zagreb, Japanese / Fusion, Takeaway

Boban - Zagreb, Traditional Cuisine

Pod Zidom - Zagreb, Market Cuisine

Dubravkin Put - Zagreb, Mediterranean Cuisine

ManO - Zagreb, Steakhouse / Modern Cuisine

Bistro Apetit by Marin Rendić - Zagreb, Mediterranean Cuisine

Mon Ami - Velika Gorica, Mediterranean Cuisine, Takeaway

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Agava - Zagreb, International

Tač - Zagreb, Traditional Cuisine

 

KRAPINA-ZAGORJE

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Vuglec Breg - Krapina, Regional Cuisine

 

LIKA-SENJ

1 Michelin Star

Boškinac - Novalja, Pag, Modern Cuisine

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Photo credit: Instagram: hotelboskinac

Surrounded by greenery, Boškinac showcases Pag island's various delicacies in its menus such as olive oil, Pag cheese, lamb, fish, and wine. The restaurant is located in a property that is perfect for an idyllic and relaxing holiday in Croatia.

MUST TRY!
  • Scampi, seaweed, basil and almond emulsion, planktons
  • Pag lamb burned with pine needles powder, roasted lamb belly, peas, and mint cream, pickled carrots
  • Beetroot cream, fermented lemon and yogurt cream, olive oil sponge cake cover, beetroot jelly, pickled carrot leaves

 

VARAŽDIN

The Plate Michelin

Bedem - Varaždin, Traditional Cuisine, Takeaway

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Zlatne Gorice - Varaždin Breg, Regional Cuisine

 

MEDIMURJE 

The Plate Michelin

Mala Hiža - Mačkovec, Regional Cuisine

 

OSIJEK-BARANJA

The Plate Michelin

Waldinger - Osijek, Regional Cuisine

 

VUKOVAR-SYRMIA

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Dunav - Ilok, Country Cooking / Regional Cuisine

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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

Thursday, 6 August 2020

International Cuisine In Zagreb: Khaos Thai

August 6, 2020 - Continuing our series on Zagreb’s international food offer and the stories behind these cuisines and businesses. This time, the spicy but light takeaway lunches of Khaos Thai.

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Rinrampai Lateja and Saralee Madnui standing outside the Khaos Thai kiosk, next to Importanne Gallery on Vlaška ulica © Mateo Henec

Saralee Madnui: We’re both from Thailand. I’m from the south of Thailand, close to the border with Malaysia.

Rinrampai Lateja: I’m from Bangkok, the capital city. It’s in the centre.

Saralee: I’ve been here for five years, her for ten. We’re both here for the same reason; we’re married to Croatians. I met my husband when he was visiting Thailand. She met her’s while she was working on a cruise ship.

Saralee: Every region of Thailand has a different taste. In the north, the food is a little bit soft, but still spicy from curry paste. In the northeast, their flavours are really strong, spicy and sour, but they use much less fat. The land in that region is not so rich and the food is fast and simple, cooked quickly on the grill or in a pan. In the south, where I’m from, we have all the food; coconut, fish from the sea. The climate is good and anything can grow there. It’s a very rich cuisine. In central Thailand, the taste is more smooth, but flavoursome from strong seasoning.

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Khaos Thai © Mateo Henec

Saralee: The food at Khaos Thai is more like central Thai cuisine. We make some of the most well-known dishes from Thailand. Although, we also make Larb, which is from the northeast. It’s meat, fresh herbs, chilli, lime juice and rice. Salad is one of our most popular dishes here. Ours is salty, sour, crunchy and spicy, with dried shrimps, peanuts, green papaya, long beans, red tomato and chilli. It’s a very colourful dish. This is very typical of Thai cuisine; lots of different textures, flavours and colours. Like with Thai curry – the meat is cooked until it is soft, but we also add bamboo, for texture. The dish from this region that most reminds me of Thai food is goulash. It’s not the same, but it looks very similar to Massaman curry; red and with oil floating on the top. Goulash is spicy from paprika, whereas Massaman is spicy from herbs, a little more sour and it also has coconut.

Saralee: The first food that impressed me when I came to Croatia was cevapi. But, now I like more sarma. It has that sour taste that Thai people like, from the pickled cabbage. I also like it made with the green leaf (blitva). Interesting.

Saralee: When we are not working, we both very much like cycling. Cycling changed our lives.

Rinrampai: You cannot cycle in Bangkok. You would probably die. There’s so much traffic. And people just drive how they want. Never mind the rules. But, here it’s so easy to use a bicycle. You can get anywhere in Zagreb in 5 or 10 minutes on a bicycle. In Thailand, you must use a motorbike or a car.

Saralee: We love our bicycles here. We travel to work every day on bicycles. When we’re not at work we’re always riding our bicycles. I ride with my husband. I’ve ridden to Velika Gorica, Rakitje, Samobor and all over Zagreb.

TCN: You went all the way to Samobor on a bicycle?

Saralee: Yes. With my poor husband. But, he knows the tricks. He said “OK, we go Samobor for kremnšita. Then I will have power for the journey.” Ha! He was the same when we went to Velika Gorica. When we arrived, he said, “Ooh, do you remember that restaurant that is here..?"

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Pad Thai, one of Thailand's most famous dishes © Mateo Henec

Saralee: The dish people come back the most for here is Pad Thai. When we first opened, I thought maybe this might be too sweet for them. But, they really like it. They like the Thai Green Curry too. Some of our customers have been to Bangkok or other places in Thailand and they like to come here because our food reminds them of their visit. People tend to get the curry if they think Pad Thai is too soft for them in spiciness, or too light.

In the first week we worked, we opened at 12 midday until 8pm. There were queues around the corner. We couldn’t finish before 9pm. It was too much. There’s only the two of us. Nobody else can make this food. So, we had to reduce the hours. Now, we only work in the afternoons; midday until 5pm. But, that works very well.

Thai food is perfect for lunch; it’s all in one dish, you can hold it in your hands, it’s quite light food. The chilli and spice wakes you up and the lime and the herbs refresh you, so you are ready for the afternoon at work. It’s particularly good food for the summer.

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Larb, a salad full of flavour from northeast Thailand and Pad Thai © Mateo Henec

Rinrampai: Life in Croatia is much easier than it is in Thailand. Less people, less traffic, it’s smaller, you can go anywhere. In Bangkok, if you have an appointment at 1pm, you must leave your house at 11am, sometimes earlier. The whole city is a traffic jam all day.

Saralee: Thai people and Croatian people are very similar in being very helpful, particularly to strangers. Any questions I had when I arrived, people were always happy to answer. Croatians are also a lot more friendly than other Europeans, in my experience. They are very open people. This is like Thai people too. Although Croatians follow the rules better than Thai people. Thai people ignore them all.

You can visit the Khaos Thai kiosk outside Importanne Gallery, at Trg Drage Iblera 10, on the corner of Vlaška ulica.

You can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment here

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


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

International Cuisine In Zagreb: La Turka

August 4, 2020- Continuing our series on Zagreb’s international food offer and the stories behind these cuisines and businesses. This time, the authentic Istanbul experience of La Turka.

My name is Tayfun Azakli. I lived in Istanbul all my life. My mother’s family is from the part of Turkey near the Greek border, but my father’s family all come from the other side, near the border with Jordan. The western side is very close to the Balkan region in terms of food and culture. They like meat and vegetable dishes. On the Black Sea side, near Jordan, the diet is much more based on fish. The climate is also very different. It’s sub-Tropical there. They have tea fields. My grandparents were tea farmers. My mother’s parents were also farmers, but in their more European climate, they grew wheat, sunflowers, like here. They also speak different languages. On the Black Sea side, the people are not ethnically Turkish. They are Laz.

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La Turka's retail manager Fares Hadad and co-founder Tayfun Azakli © Mateo Henec

I lived in Slovakia for two and a half years before coming here. I worked for Cisco Systems for 15 years – it’s one of the top 5 IT companies - and that’s where the job took me. My wife is Croatian and we decided to relocate here. We lived here for two and a half years initially, then we went to Dubai for six or seven years before coming back here two years ago.

I have two sons. I didn’t want them to grow up in Dubai. Dubai is very nice, but there’s a certain life standard. I think that if you get used to that lifestyle, you couldn’t be happy anywhere else. It’s very high end. Almost every house has a maid or nanny. Your income is three to four times what you would get in Europe. This is a huge contrast to my childhood. My mom was a teacher, my dad a civil servant. We had a limited income. Challenges to finish the month. I would work in the fields when I stayed with my grandparents. My kids were growing with a completely different perception of life in Dubai. I don’t expect them to have the same experience as me. Times have changed. But, I don’t want them to be handed everything on a plate.

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La Turka © Mateo Henec

Zagreb is a very safe and calm place to live. There is no rush in the day. The pace is quite slow. It can take some getting used to. People are nice. In any big city – be it Istanbul or London - people can be rushing and also quite rude. That doesn’t happen here. There are a lot of opportunities for businessmen here. It’s a good combination, a good place to invest. For me, at least.

In 2012 I met my business partner, Vedi Zarifgil, here in Croatia. He’s also Turkish and married to a Croatian. We started the company the next year. Originally, we were focussed only on wholesale and export. Only last year we decided to go into retail. We partnered with our friend, Fares Hadad, to open this store. It’s gone well. We plan to open two more in Zagreb during the next six months.

Ten years ago in Zagreb, there were only a few Chinese restaurants and a couple of bad Mexican places. Now, it’s very vibrant. The product that we sell is not foreign to people here, but they usually only know the Bosnian version. This is the Turkish version.

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La Turka © Mateo Henec

We’re very careful about the quality of our product. For a niche product like this, I believe that you must present it at a very high quality. Then, it will sell. We didn’t expect to be so much of a hit, but we were successful from day one.

The main product we sell is baklava. The Bosnian version is made with walnuts. That’s what grows there. Ours has more finesse. In comparison, we make ours with extremely thin layers of pastry and the main nut we use is pistachio. In Bosnia, they tend to use a lot of syrup. Ours is drier. The syrup must not overpower the flavour of the pastry, the nuts, and the ghee (clarified butter). It’s a very fine balance. You should be able to taste each ingredient.

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A selection of halva at La Turka © Mateo Henec

We import our pistachios from southern Turkey. Ghee is quite expensive; it’s rarely used in Bosnian baklava. Certainly not commercially. We have around 30 different variations of baklava on sale. We use almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashew. For each of those varieties, we also have chocolate versions. For the classic baklava, the amount of nut is set, and it is ground. For alternative versions, we use whole pieces, sometimes with cream.

The presentation is key. It must look good. Classy. We want people to stop and look. We chose this street to open our business because everyone ends up here at some point. All visitors come to register at MUP. Our main client base walks here every day.

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Baklava and Turkish coffee, served on the terrace at La Turka © Mateo Henec

We also have around 40 different kinds of Turkish Delight, halva (made from tahini, with different versions using cacao, chocolate). We sell the finest quality coffee available in Turkey. It’s quite unlike anything on sale here. We also have Turkish tea, which we present complimentary to anyone who comes to sit and try our food.

We want to offer an authentic taste of Istanbul. Everything from the interior design to the music we play helps us do this. We’re aiming to be a little like the Grand Bazaar. Except we don’t sell carpets, obviously. Ha!

You can visit La Turka at Petrinjska 47

You can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment here

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

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

International Cuisine in Zagreb: Layali Lebanese Restaurant

July 22, 2020 - Offering Arabic food, Middle Eastern lunches like falafel and dips with salad, or spicy grilled meat wraps, Layali Lebanese holds an authentic provenance.

Once famous mostly as a run of beer bars and backpackers, over recent years Tkalčićeva in the capital's upper town has also become the focal point of international cuisine in Zagreb. But, even among the city's more exotic menu of meals, Layali Lebanese Restaurant stands alone. Offering Arabic food, their light, Middle Eastern lunches like falafel and dips with salad, or spicy grilled meat wraps hold an authentic provenance. Mastermind behind the menu is Zafer Hindash, who comes from the Middle East. He runs the restaurant with his nephew Bernard Solaković. Both practicing Muslims, alcohol is not permitted on their premises, so this is a destination that's all about the food

IMG_5195.jpegZafer Hindash and his nephew Bernard Solaković © Total Croatia News

Zafer: My name is Zafer Hindash and I'm 53. I was born in Jordan but I left there in 1976. I lived almost all my life in Dubai. My brother got a job there, so we moved the whole family. The things I remember from Jordan are the people, the neighbours, the atmosphere. It was a very similar feeling in Dubai when we arrived. There were not so many rich people there back then, unlike today. You cannot imagine what it was like to be there to see all the changes. Really, it felt like everything was running too fast. You could walk down the street one day, come back the next and it would look totally different. A few years ago, I was searching for the next place I could be, for retirement. I went to Turkey, I visited here and I liked it. I left Dubai in 2017 and came to Zagreb.

Bernard: I didn't really know so well Arabic food until Zafer came here. I'd tried things my aunt would make on her visits here from Dubai. The food inside a Muslim home here in Zagreb is different from what you would find in a Catholic home. We brought many dishes here from Bosnia, which is where the older generations of my family are from, so it's very normal for us to make pita and burek at home. Some people might only buy this from pekara. We also make baklava at home and other sweet specialties.

Layali_fullresolution_logo-8253.jpeg© Layali Lebanese Restaurant

Zafer: I travelled a lot and, honestly, most places are the same; you can find good people everywhere. But, I love it here. The people, the neighbours. The pace of life is more stable here than in Dubai. I am at an age now where you cannot handle everything moving so fast. This is now the best place for me to be.

Bernard: At first, people couldn't understand why we don't serve alcohol here. Tkalčićeva is so famous for drinking. But, after we explained that it is a religious thing, that this is our Hallowed way of working, people accepted it. We offer instead our Arabic teas and coffee.

Zafer: I was in business all my life. This is the first time I worked with food. Before this, it was only a passion in my home. Preparing food is like the sea; so many spices, so many different combinations. The food we make at Layali is the food I love to make at home. I would describe our food as Arabic, but really now, some of it is international. They ask for it everywhere. And not just falafel and hummus. I get shocked when people ask for muhamara or fatoush. I guess food and people travel a lot more these days.

Layali_fullresolution_logo-8184.jpeg© Layali Lebanese Restaurant

Bernard: It can be tricky to eat out here if you are a Muslim, because so much of the meat here is mixed and it may contain some pork. It's even more difficult if you strictly adhere to religious rules which dictate you can only eat Halal meat. We have a Halal supplier for all of our meat here. There are farms in Croatia and the wider region which provide meats in this way.

Zafer: All of our spices are imported. We tried everything that is on offer here, but nothing is quite the same as back home. All the spices we use are really fresh. We import them from Lebanon or Dubai. We use the fresh parsley from here. In every Arabic home, you'll find a mix of seven spices. It's very important to our cuisine and it can differ from house to house, from region to region. We have different spice mixes for each meat dish we make. We tone down the spices to more suit European tastes but, if someone asks, we make it how we make it back home.

Layali_fullresolution_logo-1393.jpeg© Layali Lebanese Restaurant

Bernard: In my home, we mostly eat meat. We don't actually eat so many vegetarian main courses. But, when I eat the vegetarian options from Layali, such as falafel, I really don't miss the meat. It really encourages you to eat less meat. I feel lighter - especially when I'm working - if I eat like this. It's perfect for a lunch in this hot, summer weather.

Zafer: If I'm not working, I love to walk. I love the city and I love the weather. I walked all over Zagreb. I don't have a map, I just walk. I love the old buildings and the nature. In Dubai, all the buildings are new. It looks artificial to me. When I'm tired, I stop in some cafe for a drink. Especially I love the rain. When it rains, I walk. If I eat somewhere else, I usually take pizza. It's something we don't make here.

Layali_fullresolution_logo-8343.jpeg© Layali Lebanese Restaurant

You can find Layali Lebanese Restaurant at Tkalčićeva 59

You can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment here

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

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