Baked Black Olives Recipe

Enjoy the flavors of summer year-round with this Croatian recipe for preserved black olives.

| July 2019

boat
 Photo by Ino Kuvacic and Chris Middleton

Dalmatia and its cuisine

Dalmatia is a region defined by the sea, with white-pebbled beaches, azure blue sky and the myriad islands that sparkle like jewels in the crystal clear Adriatic. The climate is typical of the Mediterranean, as is the vegetation, with olive trees, lavender bushes, vineyards and fragrant pine trees. Vegetables and seafood are the staples of a diet that has had to do the best it could with harsh, rocky terrain. Dalmatians had to be frugal and inventive, creating the best they could with limited produce. Meat has always been a luxury and rich dishes were only ever served at festivities or during special times of the year, such as Christmas. Much like other Mediterranean diets though, this has been a blessing in disguise as the diet is healthy, as is evident in the traditionally low rates of diet-related illnesses. Vegetables such as silverbeet (Swiss chard), tomatoes, asparagus and beans are the cornerstone of the Dalmatian diet and feature heavily in the recipes in this book, along with the fresh harvest from the sea, such as sardines, octopus and mussels. And of course olives and grapes are like gems produced by the earth in this region, olive oil often being considered as ‘liquid gold’.

More elaborate dishes that feature on the Dalmatian table include brudet (a thick fish soup, which is served with soft polenta), crni rižot (squid ink, or black, risotto), punjene paprike (stuffed capsicums/bell peppers) and salata od hobotnice (octopus salad). Special occasions call for more complex dishes, requiring hours of preparation, and include meat. Slow cooking is characteristic of celebratory dishes in this area – pašticada is a rich, slowcooked beef cheek stew with a thick prune and tomato sauce, often served with gnocchi, while peka is a slow roast of meat, potatoes and vegetables, cooked in their own juices in a wood-fired oven under a bell-shaped cover.

Wine-making has been an important part of Croatian culture for thousands of years and, as with the cuisine, there are two main wine regions – continental and coastal. Despite being a tiny country, Croatia has over 300 geographically-defined wine-producing areas. People all over Croatia enjoy wine with their meals daily, and have done so for many centuries.



A typical Croatian meal

So what does a typical Croatian meal look like? In many parts of the country, and similar to many other countries in Europe, when entertaining guests, meals often begin with plates of cured meats (pršut in the south, kulen in the north) and various types of cheese, pickled vegetables and bread. This will be accompanied by an aperitif, such as a brandy, followed by the first course, a bowl of warm soup – no matter what the weather.

squids
 Photo by Ino Kuvacic and Chris Middleton






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