Lunch in Croatia
One could easily say Croatia is a paradise for Foodies. Although still somewhat of a “well kept secret,” it’s becoming the next hot spot in Europe for its cuisine.
What, exactly, is “authentic” Croatian cuisine?
Croatian cuisine, like the country itself, is incredibly diverse. I’ve sampled a lot of food from this area:
• A gem of a restaurant, visited almost exclusively by locals in Zagreb that makes some of the best dishes from the north central region, which features a lot of meat, potato, bean, and cabbage-based dishes.
• The best burek and Bosnian food in Mostar. (I am now a certified, card-carrying burek snob)
• “Under the bell” roasted chicken and fish in Dalmatia, which was truly amazing. This method of cooking is probably one of Dalmatia’s best secrets.
The ways in which Croatian cuisine can be experienced is almost overwhelming. “Foodie tours” in Croatia are still quite popular these days, which often involve a different location each day to sample the local and usually authentic cuisine.
Croatian cooking in Dalmata isn’t limited to exotic truffle tasting and “high adventure” culinary tours. Simple home cooking is rather underrated, and a big part of the culture here.
Honestly, my favorite experiences have not been with restaurants or street food or culinary tours, but as a guest in a Croatian home.
This is something that most tourists don’t get to be a part of. If you get a chance, I highly recommend sitting down to a leisurely Croatian lunch (or dinner) and conversation.
At Pape B&B in Trogir, you can get this experience with Ira’s dinners and food tastings. It’s as if you were invited to a private dinner party. I enjoy the wine and conversation as much as the food itself!
I’ve always been amazed by how simple the cooking from this region really is.
I’ve sometimes asked “what’s the recipe?” and the answer is usually “Oh, it’s just potatoes with a little bit of salt and pepper and some cheese” or something along those lines.
At first, I thought that my hosts were protecting their secret family recipes. Seriously.. how could this chicken or potato dish be sooo good with just a few ingredients?
I assumed that if I tried something similar at home, I would fail. Was I born with the wrong cooking gene? Was I a product of my American upbringing, which most certainly wasn’t about relaxing and enjoying good food with friends? As a former health coach.. food in the U.S. tends to be more of a utilitarian endeavor, instead of about enjoying one of life’s most basic pleasures.
Slow Food.. and Simple Cooking
It’s true, cuisine here is simple. No complicated or weird sauces are needed to mask the flavor. In theory, the recipes are quite basic.
In practice.. I think I still need to take a class to master the art of Croatian cooking. It’s on my “bucket list” for sure.
Until I gain confidence and hopefully settle down with my own kitchen, I’m just picking up tips and tricks, like where to shop and what to buy at the local market. But I’m learning. Part of the “secret,” I think, is the relaxed vibe that seems so natural to Croatians, and Dalmatians in particular.
Croatian Hospitality and the “Pape Vibe.”
I’m not a fan of generalizations and stereotypes, but in general, I’ve been treated to some excellent food here, as a guest.
Being a guest in a Croatian home is much different than any restaurant experience, and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to sit down to a good lunch with friends. Of course, speaking the language adds a whole new dimension to that coveted “authentic Croatian experience” sought after by tourists.
Arguably, the most important meal of the day in Croatia is lunch, or ručak. (roo – chak) It is typically served anywhere between noon and 3 pm.
Sometimes lunches are informal and put together within a half hour.. with just a head a cauliflower, some bread, and ordinary ingredients from the refrigerator. It’s not uncommon to have a bit of wine with lunch.
Other times it is more of an event. This, to me is when it becomes no longer a mere lunch, but “Ručak” with a capital R. There are multiple dishes, tablecloths, and a fully set table for friends and family to gather.
This ritual may seem like “too much trouble” for your average American. Tablecloths? Pots and pans? Leisurely conversation? This is a rare thing in the U.S., even on weekends and holidays, as most are “to busy” with “catching up” with chores and tasks.. which often leave us too depleted to do things like cook or spend time with friends. (An thus our TV, takeout, and microwave habits)
Granted there are plenty of quick, easy lunches and yes, lunches consisting of “leftovers” or food cooked intentionally for a few days, which is smart. People are busy here too!
I realize how much I have been missing out.. and I no longer miss my microwave.
Croatian comfort food
My first day at Ira and Boris’s flat was an atypical cold day in Split. What is a perfect lunch for a cold late winter day in Split?
Something like this:
Of course I asked for the recipe, expecting something complicated for something this delicious. But it had just a few ingredients. (mainly mushrooms and cheese) The smell as it was baking was divine.
Vegetables at Ira’s are usually seasonal, and organic whenever possible. This salad was the perfect partner for the pie, along with a bit of a nice, dry white wine.
The second day featured a sweet and savory onion salad which Ira quickly and skillfully made from a Jamie Oliver recipe, Pohana Piletina (breaded chicken) and a pumpkin (bundeva) soup.
The red wine was also local, and perfect.
The third day was also simple, elegant, and delicious. We had barbeque sea bass with a salad on the side which can be served warm or cold. (on that day.. we enjoyed it warm!) For dessert, a sweet bread along with some coffee and more conversation.
Watching Ira prepare food was inspiring. If you are a “foodie” but find yourself intimidated by the idea of cooking food that is nourishing for both body and soul, (or food that you can proudly serve your own guests) her relaxed manner and generosity can help you gain confidence in your own abilities.
Or.. you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy, of course!
Cooking and preparing food is so natural for Ira… and she’s truly gifted at teaching people how to cook authentic Croatian food.
Lunch is the perfect introduction to an authentic Croatian food experience.
For more info about cooking classes at Pape B&B in Trogir, you can contact us or book a stay here and just let us know in advance when you would like to take a cooking class or even a private lesson.
Julie Odler is an American writer, digital marketing consultant for T&W marketing, and a former acupuncturist living in the Split/Trogir and Belgrade. She loves Croatia and writes about her experiences in her own blog, The Balkan Nomad.