Dalmatinska pašticada

Pašticada is a beef pot roast, requiring many hours of preparation, so is usually served at Christmas or Easter.

This recipe quite closely follows the recipe here.

The beef cut in Croatian recipes is usually described as top round, but butchers in the UK who were shown the pictures from Croatian recipe books say that the cut of beef to get is Silverside:

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Carefully trim off the white fat that the butchers leave on. Spike the beef all around with a knife, and insert pieces of garlic and pancetta:

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Marinate in a bowl of red wine vinegar. Cover in a fridge, and leave to marinate for at least overnight, and ideally 24 hours, turning occasionally.

After marinating, dry off the beef, and fry off in a mixture of lard and olive oil until brown on each side. Remove from the heat, and fry off a kilo of finely chopped onions and some pancetta in the same oil. Once softened, return the beef along with chopped carrots, celery, parsley, a handful of dried prunes, a whole bulb of garlic, a few cloves, and a few peppercorns.

After half an hour, add some beef stock, half a bottle or so of full bodied red wine, a spoon of fruit jam, and some tomato concentrate. Leave to cook on a low heat for two to three hours.

Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and slice:

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Remove the juice, and put through a colander and then push through a fine sieve.

 

You don’t want to liquidise the mixture, as it will end up thicker and bittier than desired, instead of a really rich gravy. This is what’s left after sieving:

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Now, return the beef slices and gravy back to the pan and cook for another hour.

Serve with potato gnocchi  and a dusting of parmesan cheese:

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Francuska Salata

In Croatia, Christmas dinner is a multi-course extravaganza. First off, a beef soup is served, followed by starters, then a pot roast, followed by roast veal and potatoes, and then a dessert.

The starter is typically a platter of cured meats and cheeses, bread, and Francuska Salata. Francuska Salata literally translates as French Salad, but actually translates as Olivier Salad. It is a dangerous move to over-fill on starters as it will be a struggle to eat later courses.

To make Francuska Salata, cook carrots and potatoes and dice finely.

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Mix with peas, chopped boiled egg, finely chopped gherkins, salt, pepper, lemon juice and mayonnaise.

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Serve with bread, meat and cheeses, but don’t eat too much!

 

Bakalar

Similar to fritule, Bakalar is eaten in Croatia on days of fast; especially on Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

Bakalar is known in the UK as salt cod, the cod is salted and dried for preservation. In Croatia, they sell it in the supermarkets on the shelves as it is fully dried out (see here for an example). In the UK salt cod can be bought from Italian Delicatessens, but tends to be not quite as dried out.

The bakalar needs soaking for two to three days in water to rehydrate and remove the salt. Change the water frequently, and keep covered in a fridge.

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Remove as much of the skin and bones as you can, then place the code in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it is soft enough, remove the flesh from the bones. Remove from the pan, but retain the liquid.

Peel a few potatoes, slice, and alternate layers of potato and cod in the saucepan.

When cooked, add plenty of good extra virgin olive oil, enough to make even Jamie Oliver embarrassed. The olive oil is one of the key ingredients in this dish, and needs to be good quality – look for a good green colour and fresh smell. We’re lucky to get home-pressed olive oil from Marijana’s relatives in Croatia.

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Don’t even think of mashing the mixture. In Croatia, the tradition is to firmly grasp the lid of the saucepan and shake vigorously; this breaks up the potatoes and mixes in the cod.

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Add a generous handful of parsley and four to five clothes of finely chopped garlic, and mix well together.

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The starch released from the potato, and the oil give a creamy consistency, and this is truly delicious. Season to taste, and enjoy with a glass of good white wine.

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Fritule

Fritule are similar to mini doughnuts. In Croatia, it is traditional to eat fritule on days of fast, such as Good Friday or Christmas Eve.

Soak a handful of raisins in rum. Beat two eggs, add 50g of vanilla sugar and beat in 200g of yogurt. Then, mix in 300g of self-raising flour and then the rum and raisins. You can also add other flavours, such as cinnamon or lemon rind.

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Heat a pan of oil, to a medium-high heat; you want the fritule to cook fully throughout before the outer exterior gets too dark.

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Turn once while cooking so that each side is evenly cooked, before removing with a slotted spoon and leaving to dry on kitchen towel. Finish by dusting with icing sugar.

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Enjoy!

Njoki

It’s tradition in Croatia to eat Pašticada sa domaćim njokama (pot roast with home made potato gnocchi), and the njoki/gnocchi can be made in advance. They’re not at all tricky to make, and are delicious covered in thick rich gravy.

Take some fluffy potatoes (I’ve got Maris Piper) and place them into a pan of cold salted water, and bring to the boil.

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Once boiled, the skins of the potatoes turn really soft, and can be peeled off. Unless you’ve got asbestos fingers you might find it easier to use a sharp knife.

Now, prepare the work surface with flour and rice the potatoes. Ricing instead of mashing helps the moisture in the potatoes evaporate. If you think the potatoes are soggy you could pop them into an oven for a couple of minutes after peeling. We used strong bread flour – apparently the protein in the flour helps to soak up moisture.

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Make a well in the potatoes and add an egg, some salt, and a generous knob of butter.

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Bring all the ingredients together to form a dough, but don’t over-work them. You’re not baking bread, so definitely don’t go kneading it!

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Roll the dough into even portions, and then take each portion and roll it into long sausages. Chop each sausage evenly.

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Some recipes recommend pressing each gnocchi against a fork, but rolling out against a grater adds a better looking finish, and helps the gnocchi soak in and hold a generous amount of the rich gravy.

Press the gnocchi flat against the grater, and push downwards so that it flattens out against the grater. Then, roll it around to form the gnocchi shape.

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