Dalmatian traditional food – top recipes to try / Fish menu
Although Croatia is a rather small country, it’s diversity in the cuisine is to be thankful to the multicultural influences of the historical conquerors and neighbour countries. As Dalmatia was mostly a Roman province, the influences on the today gastronomy are very noted.
If you have ever wondered about Croatian cuisine I suppose at least a few times you have wondered is it difficult to cook some of them. Here, we will give you a few fish recipes that you can try by yourself.
Here is a fish menu of 4 courses that you can try as it is or separately with friends:
- Cold plate – Octopus salad
- Warm plate – Black risotto
- Main plate – Dalmatian Brodetto
- Desert – Rožata
Cold plate – Octopus salad
This dish has several recipes, depending on the ingredients that you want to add. I will give you the basic one and you can add whatever ingredient you choose or all of the listed ones. Except with octopus, you can make it also with musky octopus.
When cooking any kind of fish or any kind of mollusc it is good that you buy it fresh, best from the local fish market. When you buy the octopus first clean it – turning the body inside out and removing all intestines, then turn it over back, remove the eyes and teeth and wash truly with cold water. Do not cut the tentacles or anything, keep it entire. It would be good if you can freeze it for one day; in this way, the meat will be soft after cooking (try to calculate this when you want to cook this dish). For cooking, just put in the abundant water (without any species) and cook. The cooking will last at least one hour until it softens. If you have a pressure pot you can shorten this time to half. When it is ready, cool it and cut it into rings of approximately 1 cm wide. Keep the water from cooking.
Flavour the octopus with extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar, add some liquid in which the octopus was cooked and pepper. After tasting, salt only if needed.
So finally, this is the basic receipt and depending on your preferences you can add also:
- Cooked potatoes, sliced into cubes
- Chopped rucola or green salad
- Fresh cherry tomatoes halved or diced regular tomatoes
- Capers, olives or both
- Onion, finely chopped
- Garlic, sliced or chopped
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon juice
To finish, mix all well and place the octopus salad in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Serve with warm home-made bread.
Warm plate – Black risotto (with cuttlefish)
Here we start with the cooking part. The black risotto is a delicacy that, after tasting it, you will always want some more.
To get the best of this dish it would be important to get fresh cuttlefish and a few bags of squid or cuttlefish black ink (you can buy on the fish market or bigger supermarket).
In addition to the cuttlefish, you will need
- one big onion,
- two cloves of garlic,
- plenty of (at least 3 dl) fish stock (homemade or store-bought),
- 1/2 a kilo of Arborio rice for every kilo of cuttlefish,
- olive oil,
- some fresh parsley,
- a teaspoon of tomato concentrate,
- 2 dl of white wine,
- salt and pepper.
Stew the finely chopped onion with olive oil and, when soft, add also the garlic. Then add the cuttlefish cut into small cubes approximately the same size. Pour with warm fish stock and let it cook for ten minutes. Then add the black cuttlefish ink from the bags - carefully squeeze into the pot where it is cooking. Don’t be afraid if it gets too black, in this case, it is better to be blacker. Cook it all for a while on a light heat to get a thick homogeneous black mixture. Then add rice and cook for another 20 minutes on light heat, stirring constantly and pouring warm fish stock and white wine when needed. After ten minutes add also the tomato concentrate. Try the risotto, season it with chopped parsley, salt and pepper according to your taste. In the end, add a cube of butter (or a spoon of extra virgin olive oil), stir well and let it "rest" for 5 minutes before serving.
The risotto should be served immediately because it loses its creaminess and becomes slightly dry so good timing on the table can be also important.
If you want you can serve with some parmesan cheese.
Main plate – Dalmatian Brodetto (fish stew)
Originally this dish is coming from Italy, once it was a pour people dish and it is claimed that it was served on the Last Supper. With the years it changed a bit and became a traditional dish in Dalmatia. In the preparation, there is diversity in the cooking – as many cooks you have, so many differences you will have. I will give you here my family receipt, tested and tasteful.
You will be needing one big and deep cooking pan and:
- 1 kg of mixed fish (most often it is conger, scorpionfish, monkfish, spiderfish,..)
- about 1/2 kg of onion (we like to put even more)
- 2 fresh medium tomatoes
- Salt, pepper, parsley
- extra virgin olive oil
Fry the chopped onion with extra virgin olive oil, add the tomatoes and a bit of water. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Put the fish inside that previously has been cleaned and peeled. The fish should be put whole, do not cut it in halves (only if it is too big to fit in the pan). When you insert the fish, pour the water on to cover all fish, the pepper and cover to boil. Open the cover and cook on low heat. The dish should not be mixed but just shaken so the ingredients do not stick to the bottom. It is ready when the fish meat is getting off from the fishbone. Try it and if needed add salt. At the end ad some parsley on the top, the quantity is according to your taste (you can also try without it).
This dish is usually served with cooked polenta but if you prefer you can serve also with cooked potatoes.
Desert – Rožata
Rožata is a traditional Croatian custard and it has different flavour variants depending on the geographic area but it is similar to flan and crème brûlée. It got its name from the Dubrovnik rose liquor “rozalin” that originally was used in the preparation of this desert, but today more common ingredients are used (vanilla, rum). If you don’t feel like cooking, you can find it on the menu in almost every Croatian restaurant.
- 250 g (12 tablespoons) of sugar – for the caramel
- 1 l of milk
- 12 eggs
- 2 teaspoons (bags) of vanilla sugar
- 0,4 dcl of rum
- Grated peel of 1 lemon
- Grated peel of 1 orange
- 150 g of sugar
For the preparation you will need two baking bowls that can fit one in the other, the bigger one can also be a big baking tray or big cooking pan that can be put in an oven also.
Pour the sugar into a pan and then place on low heat until it dissolves. When the sugar syrup takes a golden brown colour, remove the pan from the heat and carefully spread the caramel (on all sides) into the smaller bowl. Do it quickly as the caramel, once removed from the heat and poured in a cold bowl, will harden quickly.
Mix gently without making bubbles eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon and orange peel, rum, and at the end pour the milk. You can do it also on the lowest mixer speed.
Mix lightly for up to 20 minutes to get the best bond and bubble-free mixture and lightly pour into the smaller cooking bowl. Take the bigger bowl also and pour some cold water is up to 2/3 of the height of the smaller one when put inside. Overlay the smaller bowl with aluminium foil (break through the hole if the bowl has one in the middle so the vapour can circulate freely). Place both bowls (one inside the other) in the oven preheated to 200 degrees for 45 min. after that remove the aluminium foil and bake for another 30 minutes on 180° to get a light curd. The Rožata is finished when it starts to separate from the baking bowl and gets a golden yellow colour. Put it out of the oven and let it cold (the smaller bowl). When cold completely, turn it upside down on a deep plate or platter. Do this also quickly as the caramel will flow over the cream.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream and a cup of coffee with friends
Note: the baking will depend upon the oven, so the baking time can be little longer or shorter.
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