By Leigh O’Connor.
"In Croatia, we have
a saying that fish swim three times: in the sea, in the olive oil and in the
wine.” – Ino Kuvacic.
Born and raised in Split, Dalmatia’s largest city, Melbourne
Chef Ino Kuvacic’s love and appreciation of food and wine runs deep. His
maternal ancestors were one of the largest wine merchant families in Croatia
and some of his early childhood memories are of wine making and olive picking in
family vineyards and olive groves.
In his first book, Kuvacic brings together a collection of
dishes he grew up eating and watching being prepared by his family – warm,
honest cooking using produce of the highest quality. Interspersed with stunning
photographs of the Dalmatian coastline and countryside, the recipes are some of
the country’s most treasured dishes with an identity of their own.
Divided into four chapters: vegetables, fish and seafood,
meat, and sweets, Dalmatia is the quintessential Mediterranean handbook for
those wanting to explore the tastes of this region.
Begin the day with wild
asparagus, eggs and truffles; the wild version is thinner and more pungent
in flavour than regular asparagus and appears in pine forests all over the
Croatian coast in Spring. These vegetables have a magical flavour when combined
with eggs and Istrian truffles and locals believe this is a meal fit for the
From the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic coast comes
some of the tastiest seafood in the world, due to the higher salinity and
nutrition from rivers running into the sea, giving it a special flavour. In Dalmatian towns, the fish market is one of
the go to places during the day to check the daily selection and catch up with
It takes a special touch to make Dalmatian
fish stew and it’s usually the head of the household who prepares the dish,
using at least three different types of fish including reef and rock. The stew
is serious business and it takes time to master the flavours of garlic, onion,
tomato passata, white wine and fish stock. Usually served with polenta, it is a
staple dinner meal for many Croatian families.
Game and meat are prepared with extra care as it’s not every
day that locals’ tables are visited by a nice pheasant, hare, boar or deer.
Usually it is marinated in red wine and vinegar overnight to tenderise it and
then cooked in rich stews, served with potato dumplings, handmade pasta or
The queen of Dalmatian dishes, slow-cooked
beef stew with prunes and apples, is not a quick fix – taking at least a
day’s marination and then four hours braising. It is usually served as an
ensemble dish for big occasions such as weddings, christenings and other
important days and in Dalmatia those who can make this stew are seen as great
Kuvacic’s grandmother was considered an expert and this
recipe is a salute to her culinary skills.
With more than 100 authentic recipes, Dalmatia transports
the reader from their kitchen to the Croatian coast, capturing the charm and
tradition of a region defined by the sea, rambling vineyards and olive groves.
Recipes and images from Dalmatia by Ino Kuvacic, published by Hardie Grant Books. RRP $50 and is available in stores nationally. Photography by Chris Middleton.