Oh beautiful Croatia, how I long for thee! Sandwiched between the Balkans and Central Europe, it has been a part of many different empires all leaving their mark on this land of stunning natural beauty. Known as ‘The Land of Regions’ owing to it’s wealth of cultural influences and varied terrains, Croatia is a treasure.
Gorgeous beaches, myriad rocky islands, awesome mountains, caves, canyons, and unbelievably scenic lakes and waterfalls. There are eight impressive National Parks and ten equally scenic Nature parks. To sum it up everywhere you go – it’s picturesque!
Settled from the early stone age, there is fantastic architecture from many ages, all jumbled together, from Greco-Roman palaces, Viennese and Venetian mansions, Slavic churches and Napoleonic fortresses and medieval walled towns, seven places are listed with UNESCO.
A colourful culture with loads of festivals and religious holidays and strong traditions in the arts such as painting, singing, folk dancing, traditional wooden toy making, lace weaving, and baking heart-shaped gingerbread. Many of these crafts are listed as culturally significant. A regional family orientated cuisine where eating and drinking are very important and a big part of any festival or (frequent) religious days which often feature a special food or dish.
Sites to See
There are too many fantastic things to see in Croatia to mention them all, I’d love to go there myself! Have now put it on my ever growing list of places to see before I die! But some of the enormous range of top spots are: Dubrovnik and its’ impressive medieval walls, Split has a retirement palace built by the emperor Diocletian in the 3rd Century, Zagreb the capital has a laid back charm, Pula features a fantastic Roman amphitheatre (better than in Italy!) in Zadar there’s Roman streets and a forum, there is the UNESCO world Heritage St James cathedral in Siblenik and the basilica in Porec not to mention Trsat Castle.
Spectacular natural beauties include the striking other world weird beauty of Pletvice Lakes and the waterfalls at Krka and limestone rock formations at Paklenica Nature Park, the very popular Zlatni Rat beach, and various scenic islands off the dramatic Adriatic coast.
The cuisine of Croatia is hearty peasant food with many distinctive regional styles, it follows the European traditional diets of protein, dairy, vegetables and grains. An emphasis on fresh seafood from the sparkling Dalmatian coast where the influence is more Mediterranean, to the interior where the Austro-Hungarian influence is strong, and from the East came the spices, pastries and coffee of the Ottoman empire.
A popular cooking method is in a pekawhich, a wood fired brick oven where all manner of food is cooked to perfection sealed in a peka, a dish rather like a tagine. Another popular cooking method is spit roasting and grilling meats particularly over an open fire or coals, game is a favourite, and especially cevapcici, like a skinless sausage.
Pasta and dumplings like djoki gnocchi are common, and Croatians are extremely fond of their enormous range of charcuterie. Wonderful tasty soups are integral to most meals e.g. Zagorska juha with porcini mushrooms, bacon and capsicum. Ajvar is ubiquitous and delicious condiment made from roasted eggplant and capsicum, and spices like poppy seeds, caraway, and paprika along with citrus and Meditterean herbs such as sage, bay, marjoram and rosemarThere are many sweet treats ranging from pastries like strudles, pancakes(palacinke) meringues, cheesecakes and doughnuts and a vast array of complicated cakes, kolači or torta’s many featuring fresh or preserved fruit. Special favourites are cherry, plum and apricot as well as walnuts, almonds and poppy seeds. Custards and cream fillings are popular too.
Huge coffee drinkers, and not surprisingly big beer drinkers too, surrounded by many world class beer brewing countries, Croatia does make some of its own. There are over 300 wine-producing regions and many fruit or nut flavoured spirits are produced.
Paprikas with buttered caraway noodles
- 500gm chicken thigh fillets
- 1 large onion
- 1 tb oil
- 1 large potato
- ½ red capsicum/bell pepper
- 3 tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp gr chilli
- 200ml white wine
- 4tb sour cream
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 250ml water
- 300gm egg noodles/pasta
- 1 tb butter
- ½ tsp caraway seeds
- finely chopped parsley
- Cut up chicken into bite sized chunks, chop onion, peel and dice potato and capsicum.
- Heat oil in saute pan on medium, cook onion until soft and golden brown. Add chicken and brown well.
- Add potato and capsicum, brown lightly, add spices and seasonings, stir 1 minute till fragrant.
- Add wine and bring to boil. Add water and cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes until chicken is tender and potato is cooked. Uncover and reduce to a soupy sauce.
- To serve : toss cooked egg noodles in butter and caraway seeds, place in bowls, ladle on Paprikas, garnish with sour cream and parsley.
This recipe came from a Croatian cuisine web site but I looked at so many I can’t remember which one! Paprika Chicken in one form or another has long been a favourite of our family, so while this dish was no surprise, it was still enjoyed by all, and is particularly nice served with the caraway noodles – although Bunny declared a new found aversion to caraway seeds! Scored 7/10 – pleasant but not memorable.