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Eat and Drink

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Eat Morocco

    Chapter Eleven – The Flavors of Morocco

    Cumin, paprika, garlic and saffron.  You can smell it in the air.  Onions, harissa, citrus and dates.  Wherever you are, Morocco’s flavors and smells will make your mouth water and your tummy growl.  This colorful country is a feast of flavors and colors and tastes unlike anywhere I have been.  You just can’t get enough.

    Lemon and olive Chicken Tajine

    We’ve been in Morocco for three weeks now, and we still have more than a week to go.  We have learned some of tips for the cuisine of this North African nation that has

    Grilled lamb chops

    been a crossroads for thousands of years.  From cultures near and far the Moroccan cuisine developed into the flavor-filled mix of vegetables, meat and spices we know today.  The Berber’s long history in this region, combined

    Spices

    with the Romans, the Vandals, the Phoenicians, and later the Jews, the  Spanish, the Brits and French, certainly makes for a unique combination of cultures and flavors.

    Farm to market produce

    Today Morocco stands independent under King Mohammed VI, and the delicious food is a proud tradition as seen in the medinas and restaurants, street food and homes through out the cities and rural regions of Morocco.  Seafood on the coast; beef, sheep, goat, chicken and even camel makes an appearance in the interior; and the ever-present olive can be found at breakfast,

    Grilled fish

    lunch and dinner.

    We had a very special experience during our ten days in Asilah on the Atlantic Coast.  Our airbnb in Asilah came with a full-time cook, a sweet and talented Moroccan woman named Latifah.  She fed us the

    Latifah making couscous

    most remarkable meals during our time there and we were spoiled beyond reason.  We learned a lot about the cuisine, watched her cook and asked her so many questions.  She took us to the market with her and helped us understand the foods she was

    Latifah serving pastilla

    making for us.  What a remarkable opportunity this presented and we were so grateful.  We wanted to stuff her in the suitcase and keep her forever!  So through Latifah we learned the cuisine.

    There are some surprises too – like the flavorful fava bean and garlic

    B’sara soup

    soup called B’sara served for breakfast.  Not a dish found on restaurant menus but if you ask it can be made for you.  We did just that, wanting to try it and the proprietor gladly made it for us even though it was lunch time and well past the normal morning hour it is usually eaten.  It tasted much like a split pea soup but spicier and very satisfying.

    Another surprise is the pastilla – a completely

    Women making the filo on round griddle

    unexpected sweet and savory “pie” resembling spanakopita but filled with nuts and dates, chicken or pigeon, sweet and savory spices and baked then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.  It can’t decide if it’s dinner or a dessert, but it is delicious and unusual all at once.  The dish is created with a super thin filo type pastry made by hand by artisans in the

    Latifah unveiling the tajine

    markets using a very surprising shaped cooking shaft that the thin dough is placed on for just a few seconds to let it cook.  Pastilla is usually reserved for special occasion meals, but can be found in most restaurants serving tourists.  We were very lucky to have a special one made for us by Latifah.

    More well-known are the bubbling tajine dishes cooked and served in their unique crockery.  Tajine can be made from many things including lamb,

    Lamb and dried fruit tajine

    beef, chicken and vegetables and the best part is usually the wonderful rich broth at the bottom of the pot.  My favorite ones were the chicken olive and lemon and the lamb, dried fruit and nut.  These two are also favorites among locals and its easy to see why. I had them multiple times and each time it was delicious.

    Couscous

    Another well-known dish is Couscous.  But the couscous we know back in America is very different from what we have enjoyed here in Morocco.  In fact, making couscous is a major undertaking and is reserved for Fridays, the holy day in Morocco.  We spent much of one day watching Latifah make us a remarkable (and gigantic) couscous feast that included chicken, carrots, zucchini, potato and turnips and of course the couscous itself.  A special steamer is used to steam the couscous over boiling water – a most unusual and time-consuming preparation.

    Harira soup

    Dried figs and dates

    When all is said and done this lovely and colorful pile of deliciousness is topped with a flavorful broth that has been simmering and reducing for hours.  It just really is a special meal and poor sweet Latifah had a real workout in the kitchen on this day.

    Grilled meats on a stick, similar to such things in other countries, can be found at restaurants and street vendors.  Known as Brochette’s,  popular varieties are lamb, chicken and beef, as well as ground lamb, but my favorite was a lime-marinated fish brochette I had in a restaurant.

    Brochettes

    While in Asilah by the sea we had a great opportunity to sample the local seafood.  Latifah made us the most amazing selection of grilled and fried fish including sardines and dorado served with a delicious green chili sauce and lemon. Simple and sublime.  We also had anchovies in lemon, octopus salad, rich and delicious fish soup and tiny deep-fried sardines.

    The country is teeming with the freshest and most colorful produce that makes its way into every meal. All of these goodies are locally grown and pesticide free, usually harvested with hours or days of your purchase.  Unlike the United States, rarely are things in the market being shipped in from other countries. My favorite was the persimmon, pomegranate and tangerines – hands down the best of those I have ever had.  A walk through the market is a kaleidoscope of tomatoes, radish, squash, plums, grapes, pears, oranges and lychee, as well as a never-ending variety of nuts and beans and grains.

    But there is one thing I have not yet elaborated on  – the key to all of the distinctive Moroccan foods we have savored over the past three weeks.  The spices.  Moroccan cuisine has developed through a magical mix of spices, in a region abundant with the finest.  In the markets  you find the colorful choices piled beautifully on display while Moroccan grandmothers sniff and purchase

    Fresh mezze salads

    the savory wonders.  Most common in dishes are salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric (often referred to curcumin), saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and white pepper.  A special spice blend known as Ras El Hanout is a blend of dozens of spices and is unique to individual shops and regions.  Ras El Hanout means “best of the shop” and will include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, turmeric and often other “secret” spices.

    I’m taking away from Morocco a real gift in this cuisine, an excitement to try new flavors and techniques I’ve learned here.  I wonder why there aren’t more Moroccan restaurants back home and encourage you to get out and find the flavors of Morocco wherever you can.  Because there are so many amazing things about this country – but if you can’t visit – at least eat Morocco.  You won’t be disappointed.

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Barcelona Cooking Class – Eat Local

    Chapter Ten Final Days

    When in Barcelona – eat! And if you can – cook!  Because the Catalan cuisine is simple, seasonal, fresh and fabulous and a day cooking in a Spanish kitchen makes for a great memory.

    I researched many options for cooking classes in

    Frutes de boca

    Barcelona. There were a lot. But I chose the Barcelona Kitchen, the cooking school housed in the Mercado de la Boqueria, for its class choices and menu.

    Since I’ve been in Spain for two months and

    Seafood so fresh it’s still moving.

    traveled through multiple regions, I’ve tasted a variety of regional dishes as well as regional takes on national favorites. In Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is the largest city, food is celebrated every day and regional pride in the local Catalan cuisine is evident everywhere you go.

    Catalan cuisine is not about heavily spiced or sauced dishes.  Rather it is about the best, freshest and

    Fresh picked today

    most local ingredients. Right now in October that means frutas de boca (fruits of the forest) which includes a variety of mushrooms, snails, nuts and seeds. October is also bountiful in tomatoes, squash, fruit, greens, root vegetables, peppers, potatoes, onions, figs, and much more.  Combine these ingredients with seasonal fish, shellfish, meat, fowl, and the unforgettably delicious Iberian jamon (ham) and you have yourself the makings of a special feast.

    Stock simmering.

    Add a little Spanish wine and as the Catalonians say Bon Profit! Muy Bien!

    My class, led by Lena, began with a tour and shopping trip for our ingredients through the Mercado de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s famous and fabulous market. Here we learned about many of the products and producers from eggs to olive oil and saffron to cuttlefish.

    Making the Crema Catlana

    Back in the kitchen we set to work for three solid hours cooking and preparing five of Catalan’s favorite dishes; Tortilla – egg and potatoe omelette like pie (the national dish of Spain that sustained me daily on the Camino), Seafood Paella (the only

    Finished Paella

    way Catalans eat Paella is seafood), Pa amb Tomàquet – Catalan Tomato Bread, Gazpacho – cold tomato soup, and Crema Catalana – a delicious dessert similar to creme brûlée but better!

    I was surprised at the amount of time the tortilla takes to make but I loved it. I also really enjoyed making the Paella from scratch including the stock which simmered and reduced on the stove for more than an hour. It was rich and delicious.

    The beautiful Gazpacho

    The Gazpacho was incredible, easy and fast. Unlike our chunky style at home this cold tomato soup was creamy and smooth using the food processor and adding lots of olive oil to emulsify it. Perfecto!

    Our class enjoying the feast

    As usual, I loved learning from a local and cooking this incredible cuisine.  Spain has been many things to me over the past two months, including delicious!

    Our time in this sweet country is ending and we move on now to Chapter Eleven – Tunisia, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa. But Spain will always hold something very special for us and we will definitely be back.

    Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos.  Fabulous!

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    A loaf of bread A Jug of Wine & Thou

    Hikers Cannot Live on Bread Alone

    A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” —Omar Khayyam

    The sentiment in Khayyam’s words are not lost  on me. Particularly as I try to walk my Camino with an open mind for a simple life. Medieval pilgrims certainly would have been grateful for bread alone and may have subsisted solely on it – with a watery soup and wine thrown in from time to time.

    Tortilla Espanola

    But man I want a salad.

    As in most European countries bread is life.  In Spain the Panaderia on every corner is busy from the break of day.  This is true in the cities and in the small villages we walk through.  Some small towns we find the “Bread man” (my term) driving through the streets honking his horn.  Kinda like the ice cream man when I was a kid.

    Croissant with ham and cheese

    Boccadilla

    Along the Camino finding food is a bit of a challenge unless you are in a large city.  And finding food that includes nice fresh produce is even harder.  And dinner before 8pm? Forget about it.

    Likely for convenience and cost, the places that pop up for sustenance on the Camino sell baguette sandwiches called bocadilla, or the national dish of Spain, Tortilla Espinosa (an egg and potato torta/omelette), and coffee.  Sometimes apples and bananas.  This is what is considered both breakfast and lunch food.  It’s cheap and easy to carry.

    I’ve learned to pick up fresh fruit when I see it and stash it in our pack.  Clearly we are a long way from starving but a girl needs something to help her walk 14 miles each day.

    Eggplant Hummus

    A couple of days ago on a particularly uninhabited stretch of our walk I had  ham and cheese on a dry baguette for breakfast, tuna on hard focaccia for lunch and ham and cheese on baguette for dinner.

    That was the day I said no more bread.  No mas!

    And there was the one night we shared a can of tuna and a whole zuchinni while laying in bed.

    At the end of each day we can usually find what is

    One salad mixta from a very good Peregrino dinner

    called the Peregrino Dinner.  In every town we have found this except for one.  This meal is usually $10-12 Euro and includes two or three courses with choices.  The first course may be a choice of salad mixta, soup or pasta.  I always get the salad which 99% of the time is lettuce, tomato, canned tuna and maybe carrot and egg.

    But the second course is ALWAYS French fries with some meat.  You can choose chicken, pork, beef or

    This was an excellent salad in Burgos

    maybe veal or lamb.  No veg.

    Sigh.  I just want some nice zucchini or spinach or green beans or kale por favor!

    One evening we did encounter a Peregrino Dinner with a vegetarian option.  I happily ordered the vegetarian paella instead of meat and fries.  It was warm and yummy saffron rice with peas, beans, cauliflower and carrots.

    In our 16 days on the Camino our best meals have

    Catalan soup with pork and pasta

    come in the bigger towns.  No surprise.  I’m still dreaming about the Caesar Salad and Eggplant hummus we had in Pamplona or the beautiful Salad Mixta with fresh tuna, asparagus and beets I had with Catalon soup in Burgos.  And the best peregrino meal we enjoyed was a pork knuckle and the first course was fresh baby artichoke hearts with lemon in Puenta la Reina.  Happiness on a plate.

    Thumbs up for this Paella

    And so I’ve grown even more appreciative of fresh food with fresh ingredients and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  And when I can’t get it, well I am then grateful on those days for a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.

    Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; – Ecclesiastes 9:7

    191 miles done.  298 to go!

    Buen Camino!

     

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    To Market To Market

    Buying local, eating local on the Grand Adventure

    I finally found a scale to weigh myself for the first time in nearly three months and was pleasantly surprised. Down a total of 19lbs since leaving the USA nearly nine months ago.

    Night market Chiang Mai Thailand

    I attribute that partially to exercise, although

    Sunday market Luang Prabang Laos

    I was very active in the US too, so mostly I attribute it to a new way of eating.

    Our food intake is fresh and local and slow. No fast food. No junk food. And almost all organic.

    And this without any effort.  Fresh, local and

    The Lagos Saturday market

    organic is everywhere. Easily accessible, affordable and a way of life in most places we have been

    “Helping” in the city organic garden Hoi An Vietnam

    (except of course in the crazy lettuce – free country of the Seychelles).

    Beautiful cherries in Bulgaria

    We shop in grocery stores but the majority of our ingredients come from markets, such as the Saturday morning produce Market here

    Daily market in Split Croatia

    in Lagos where we shopped this morning and the daily fresh fish market here which is open 365 days a year.

    Some of my favorite fresh markets we have enjoyed over the past nine months include the massive

    Veliko Tărnovo market

    market in Chiang Mai Thailand, the daily produce market in Veliko Tărnovo Bulgaria, and both the daily market and the fish market in Split Croatia.

    Fish market in Split Croatia

    Even when shopping at the tiny shops or major grocery chains you find local and fresh and seasonal. It’s such a nice way to shop and cook.

    So local markets are part of our Grand Adventure making healthy eating an easy and satisfying way to live.

    Daily fish market Lagos Portugal

    To Market, To Market to buy – well to buy whatever is available and fresh today.  Happy, healthy me.

    Fabulous!

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Come and Cook

    Chapter Ten – Cooking in Portugal

    As I do in nearly every country, I signed up to take a cooking class here in Portugal. It’s no secret how much I love to cook especially using local, fresh ingredients – and how much I love to eat too!

    Here in Lagos it was a special day to be able to visit the New Forest Lodge with my son Erik. He also enjoys cooking and together we spent the day about 30 minutes drive outside of Lagos in the hills above the city.

    One of the things I find most interesting about these classes I take is meeting local people and often meeting them in their own homes. At the New Forest Lodge we spent the day with Frances a transplant from England and her son-in-law Milton a Portuguese. Their family began offering cooking classes about 8 years ago and also have three rooms available at the lodge. Additionally they offer horseback rides throughout the region.

    Well I am not a horse person, but I definitely like to cook, so a day in the kitchen and in front of the wood burning oven was enjoyable, despite the 85 degree Portuguese summer temperatures.

    We started with a trip to the small Mercado in Aljezur, about a 15 minute drive. The fish and produce here were beautiful. However the only item we purchased was fresh sardines. The rest of our produce would come from the New Forest Lodge gardens.

    Back in the kitchens Milton had the wood burning oven at optimal heat and we began by creating four different kinds of breads; breadsticks, pumpkin bread, chorizo wrapped crescents and olive and sundried tomato wheat bread.

    Midday we took a break and ate the breadsticks with a delicious and healthy dip made from sweet potato, chilies, lime and garlic.

    We spent the rest of the day preparing and cooking a delicious layered dish with the Portuguese favored bacalhau (salt Cod) that included onions, peppers, potatoes and cream and nutmeg then cooked in the wood burning oven.  We then prepped and cooked prawns, and a prawn stock, both of which went into the  Arroz de Camarao.

    We also made Paneer cheese (yes like you would have in an Indian restaurant) which was very simply made just from milk and lemon juice then hung in cheesecloth to drip all the moisture out.

    The beautiful sardines we got at the market were salted and left to sit for about an hour. The salt makes it so the skin can be easily removed after cooking. Then the sardines were grilled over an open flame – this ended up being Erik’s job with the help of Milton (Note Milton’s Seattle t-shirt he bought at a flea market).

    While Erik was at the grill fellow student Emma was making the rice and I was prepping a tomato salad with some of the loveliest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. We finished the tomato salad by crumbling the finished paneer over it and dousing with olive oil.

    We took a stroll around the garden where many beautiful and familiar items were flourishing like peppers, zucchini, pumpkins and tomatoes in addition to some items I wasn’t familiar with. The cute little cucamelon tastes like a cucumber and looks like a tiny watermelon. Cho Cho looks like a green gourd and tastes like a cucumber and Lovage looks like dill and tastes like celery.

    The fruits of our labor were enjoyed at the end of the day with a spectacular feast, lots of vino verde (a delicious local summer wine) and finishing with Tarte da Nata a light and fluffy famous Portuguese dessert made simply from cream, condensed milk and a cookie crust similar to graham crackers

    We enjoyed cooking with our new friends Maureen and Emma from South Africa and spending the day with Francine and Milton on the family unique little homestead.  I recommend the day of cooking course at New Forest Lodge if you are in Lagos. If you are a horse lover, that part of the business looked fun too.

    And by the way I learned two really cool facts during this excursion- Portugal used to be a major producer of wine corks.   We saw how cork trees grow and how cork is harvested.  With the advent of artificial corks and screw tops the world e cork market took a dive.  Today Portuguese cork production has diversified into shoes, handbags and trivets .  In addition I learned how pine nuts come from a specific low growing rounded pine tree, that is both cultivated and grows wild here in southern Portugal.  The pine cones are heated to open them and release the valuable little nut inside, so that you can have your lovely pesto!

    So my day was very educational. I’m ready to head to the local fish monger now, because I’m pretty sure the  preparation we used on the sardines could be done on many different fish. And I definitely need to make the bacalhau dish. I loved that.

    So once again it was a great day and worth every penny. It ticked all the boxes that are important to me: meet locals, meet other traveling foodies, learn local culture, eat and cook fresh and local ingredients.

    A fabulous day!

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Feed Me

    Chapter Ten -Eat Portugal

    Well we have only been in Portugal five days and we have already experienced an amazing array of fabulous, fresh and delicious foods. And one dud.

    We have a great kitchen in our Airbnb but except for  yogurt and beer the fridge is bare. I think I will cook tonight. It’s just been too tempting to explore the dining scene in Lisbon. And explore we have!  Like famished wolves.

    If you plan to be in Lisbon and the surrounding area take note. I highly recommend checking out these

    Fried Chicken at El Rei de Frango

    places:

    El Rei d’Frango – we waited twenty minutes for a table at this tiny hole in the wall place specializing in “Frango” chicken. It was very inexpensive and very delicious. They have other items in the menu too but we really enjoyed the Frango Frito (fried chicken) and the Frango Bras – a Portuguese specialty of chicken with Cod. A must visit. Thanks to my friend Donna for the recommendation.

    Canto de Villa Bistro – while exploring the old town area of Alfama we randomly chose this restaurant

    Bean Hash at Canto de Villa

    and had a spectacular lunch or Portuguese specials. We enjoyed a bean and vegetable soup, a bean and ham hash with egg as well as a Cod bras.  A perfect way to test the waters as we get to know the local cuisine.

    Bacalhau Na Villa – we spent a day in Sintra  we wanted a light lunch before we climbed the mountain to the palace.  I was headed to a touristy place near the center but Erik insisted we wander

    Cod Bras at Bacalhau Na Villa

    back in the narrow alleys and look for something. Good idea.  We found this restaurant specializing in Cod.  Amazing.  Cod is a staple in

    Octopus salad and chickpea salad at Bacalhau

    Portugal , even though the Cod they eat comes from Norway and Canada.  There is no locally caught Cod and there never has been.  It’s very interesting that it is such a staple.  We had a wonderful meal including Octopus salad, chickpea salad, Cod bras and green salad with crispy Cod skin.  We loved it.

    The crab at Cervejaria Ramiro

    Tiger Prawns

    Our best meal hands down so far was at Cervejaria Ramiro just two blocks from our Airbnb.  Expect to wait for a table but it’s worth it.  This popular
    restaurant is considered by the locals as Lisbon’s best. And Anthony Bourdain agrees when he was here a few years ago.  Bourdain’s endorsement has brought the tourists to eat with the locals but the
    food and service remains stellar.  Lucky for us we were dining with a local, a friend of Erik’s names Salvador who lives in Lisbon. We gave him free-reign to order for us and with abandon.

    We started with small shrimps followed by sweet tiny steamed clams.  Next was a spectacular whole crab served with a soup made from the crab guts.

    Crab

    Sounds gross?  I couldn’t get enough.  One of the most delicious and unique things I’ve ever had.  Next we ate giant tiger prawns and for some reason it’s tradition to end the seafood meal with a small beef sandwich.  I could eat that beautiful beef sandwich everyday for the

    Beef sandwhich

    rest of my life.

    After all this I declined dessert but Erik and Salvador enjoyed a lime vodka ice cream.  The beer flows freely here and bread too.  They keep bringing both unless you tell them to stop.  A great local experience and meal.  Don’t miss it when in Lisbon.

    Organi Chiado – this was another recommendation from a friend, Scott who was here just last month,

    Fish cake and veg at Organi Chiado

    so we checked it out.  Recently opened this organic place is making a name for itself with its incredible fresh and healthy offerings. The menu changes each day and is pretty small, but really good. We loved the tuna and the fish cake both served with green salad, grilled veg and brown rice.  We also tried the carrot and coconut soup and the gluten-free rice bread was excellent.  If the weather is good sit outside.

    Unfortunately I have one thumbs down – our most expensive meal was the worst. Clube de Fado was a huge and expensive mistake.  The music was

    Tough and unseasoned veal at Clube de Fado

    delicious, the food was not.  My veal chop was like shoe leather and completely lacking seasoning. For $33 Euro it was unacceptable.  There are many, many places to enjoy the beautiful Fado music- find somewhere other than Clube de Fado.

    So if you are going to be in Lisbon, be ready to eat local and enjoy this fabulous cuisine of Portugal.  I plan to take a cooking class when we get to Algarve next week so watch for that blog coming soon!

    Feed me! Fabulous!

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Food As Culture and History

    Chapter Nine – Croatian Cooking

    It’s my goal in each country to take a cooking class.  It is always an unforgettable experience – as much about culture and history as it is about food. Unfortunately it didnt happen in New Zealand, Seychelles or Bulgaria. But here in Croatia I’m back at it, and enjoyed last night an amazing cultural Croatian experience at the historic Agroturizam Kameni Dvori

    Coming to Dubrovnik?  Make this a priority. Definitely.

    Our tour guide Marija with Dubrovnik Food Story picked me up right across the street from our Airbnb. I joined one other couple, Americans on their honeymoon from Dallas.  We drove about 35 minutes into the hills outside of Dubrovnik, enjoying the scenic views along the way. Our destination Kameni Dvori in the village of Livorno in the Konovale region. This tiny part of Croatia is about ten minutes west of the border with Bosnia Herzegovina and 15 miles north of the border with Montenegro and is steeped in agricultural as well as border conflict history.

    We were greeted on arrival by Katerina, one member of the 16 member family that lives on this site. The family Mojo can trace their ancestors in this very house back to 1536. Remarkable.

    Katarina welcomed us with two kinds of homemade grappa, two kinds of homemade candy and dried figs followed by a brief tour of the main house which is now used for the cooking classes, a taverna and for dining for guests of the inn.

    The massive open fireplace dwarfs the tiny kitchen where we headed next to make Turkish coffee.  While we sat and enjoyed our coffee Katarina and Marija talked about some of the history of the house and the family. Then it was time to head to the garden.

    Baskets in hand we proceeded to gather the fresh ingredients for our dinner picking tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, celery and parsley.  Then we toured the rest of the garden where everything from laurel trees, figs,olives and pomegranates grow.  We gathered eggs from the happy Croatian chickens and headed back to the kitchen.

    First job was to get the fresh bread mixed and kneeded and set it to rise. Next we whipped a dozen egg whites to a lovely froth, added sugar and flour to prepare the traditional Croatian wedding cake called padispanj. While it baked we popped in to the car and drove to the next farm over where we milked a goat. My first milking experience! Thank goodness for a patient goat!  It was fun, not too difficult and surprisingly warm!!

    Milk pail in hand we thanked the neighbor and looked forward to the goat cheese we would be having at dinner thanks to her goats.  Back to the kitchens we went where it was time to start the fire for the main attraction the Peka, traditional Croatian meat and potato dish .  It takes an hour to get the coals hot enough in the fireplace so while the fire burned we prepared a vegetable soup with hand made gnocchi.  Our gnocchi was not potatoe but made simply with egg, olive oil and semolina flour.

    Next we sliced eggplant and zucchini dipped in corn flour and fried it golden brown on the stove, then let it sit on paper towels.

    When the coals were ready the Peka was prepared – olive oil (produced on the farm) is poured into a large round and shallow pan.  Into the pan goes veal, lamb, garlic, onion and salt.  A layer of potatoes goes on top and then it is placed into the fire and covered with a giant steel “bell”.  Ashes are placed all around to seal and then the bell is covered with coals.  Now it bakes for 90 minutes.  Oh the smell!

    Peka is a complicated and time -consuming dish. Not something you would prepare everyday. It is for special occasions and unfortunately there is no “quickie” version.  If you don’t have a giant fireplace you aren’t going to be making Peka.

    While the Peka was on the fire we hiked up to the top of the property to survey the estate. Here you can see the entire valley and all the way to the Adriatic Sea. We learned more about the incredible history, including that during the 1991 war the Yugoslav Army occupied the village and the estate and the family fled into old Dubrovnik. Luckily the estate was not destroyed, although many things were stolen.  Not everyone was so lucky.

    Back to the kitchen and it was time for dinner. We first enjoyed grappa and figs as well as our own bread with olive tapenade, pickled peppers and cheese from our friendly goat.  Next a beautiful selection of smoked meats they do on the farm and a different cheese from our goat as well as sliced fresh tomatoes and our fried eggplant and zucchini.

    Next the Peka was served and it was incredible.  The lamb so tender and the veal falling apart.  Best potatoes I ever had.  When our platter was empty and we were all full here comes another platter full! All of this washed down with both white and red wine made on the farm. Delicious.

    We ended our Croatian feast with our light and airy cake with a cup of warm fresh goats milk and mint tea.

    A remarkable experience.  I felt very much a part of this family and their remarkable tradition and dedication to their culture and history- all while enjoying a spectacular meal based on sustainable farming and dedication to historical practices.

    When you are in Dubrovnik, make this a priority. And anywhere you travel – slow down and embrace food as culture and history.

    Hvala to Dubrovnik Food Storyand Kameni Dvori. Hvala!