Eating in Croatia: Local Dalmatian Specialities to Try on Hvar
With the Adriatic at its disposal, coupled with excellent local vegetables and some great meat dishes, dining on Hvar is a culinary delight.
Hvar is a gastronomic delight, with an abundance of fish, fresh local vegetables and excellent meat. No McDonalds here, but there is plenty to taste and enjoy, with some interesting dishes for the more adventurous. Here are a few to look out for on a Dalmatian menu.
Prsut and Pag Cheese
Served at every wedding and the most common starter in many a restaurant, a plate of smoked Dalmatian ham and cheese from the island of Pag is almost a prerequisite. Served with olives and bread, it is a good dish to nibble on before the main course. Pag cheese is salty and comes from sheep; it's the most popular cheese in Croatia.
Octopus is not a common dish in the West, and the common tourist reaction to the notion is revulsion, but probably the biggest culinary surprise is the change in attitude after the first mouthful. Served cold and mixed with onions, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.
Lamb, Veal and Octopus Peka: Under the Bell
No trip to Hvar is complete without a hearty peka, a slow-cooked feast of meat (or octopus), potatoes and vegetables. The ingredients are placed under a large pot and then inserted into the embers of a fire and cooked over a long period. Orders usually need to be placed 24 hours in advance by a minimum of four.
Risotto is a popular dish in Dalmatia, and black risotto is a local specialty, a delicious mix of fish, olive oil, onions, garlic and rice.
Bakalar: Dried Cod for Christmas and Easter
For more traditional fare at festive periods, it would be hard to avoid bakalar, a dried cod dish served in every household over the Christmas and Easter celebrations. Usually imported from Norway, the cod is boiled and then served with potatoes and the ever-present olive oil.
One of the best recipes to enjoy the local shellfish is scampi buzzara, a messy but rewarding adventure with prawns, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and white wine.
One of Croatia's more popular dishes at home, it is a shame that this excellent meat stew appears so rarely on tourist menus. Pasticada is a slow-cooked beef stew served with gnocchi. It is possible to find and is well worth seeking out.
Sarma and Stuffed Peppers
There is plenty on offer in the shape of hearty winter food, with sarma and punjena paprikatopping the list. Both dishes comprise of flavoured minced meat stuffed inside either cabbage or peppers. The dish is more popular in winter, for obvious reasons.
Blitva and Other Vegetables
Unlike British supermarkets, tomatoes are not available all year round, but also unlike British supermarkets the vegetables in season are fresh, full of flavour and colour. There is wild asparagus in April, unlimited tomatoes in the summer, but one of the most popular vegetables is blitva, or Swiss chard, a wonderful side dish when mixed with potatoes and olive oil.
Bread, Bread and More Bread
A Dalmatian without bread is more bereft than a desert without sand. Bread is the staple of most Dalmatian diets, and there are an impressive range of locally produced loaves every morning.