Croatian appetisers, cheeses and desserts
Our magazine features a whole story about EXPLORING CROATIA’S REGIONAL FOOD but that article did not touch on the cheese, appetisers and desserts you can sample. Why? Because there is so much to try!
Croatia’s most famous cheese is without doubt paški sir, which is a sheep’s milk cheese from the island of Pag. It has a hard, yet crumbly texture and a light, slightly salty, aromatic flavour. Pag’s rocky hills are covered in fragrant plants such as sage and the local sheep feast on these plants, giving the milk a unique quality and taste that then permeates the taste of Pag cheese.
Another local cheese to try is škripavac, which roughly translates as “squeaky” cheese due to the sound it makes when eaten. This variety, from Lika, is made from cow’s milk and is served fresh in salads and sandwiches, or can be grilled like halloumi.
We also recommend prgica (smoked cheese from Varazdin) and livanjski sir (a bit like gouda, and from just over the border in Livno, Herzegovina).
A common dish to share as a starter or appetiser in Croatia is a mixed meat, or meat and cheese platter.
The cheese is often paški sir (see above) and the meats are usually pršut ham (just like air-dried Italian prosciutto) from Dalmatia or Istria, or kulen, a kind of sausage made from pork, paprika spices and garlic.
Zapečeni štrukli is a delightful appetiser that is popular in the Zagorje region, just north of Zagreb. The štrukli is a kind of dough that has a filling consisting of cow’s cheese, eggs, butter, salt, and a small amount of sugar.
Croatia has its own versions of well-known desserts that would be familiar to most travellers, such as apple pies (pita sa jabukama) and fritters (fritule). However, there are some unique, regional sweets and cakes that are often unheard of to Croats from a different region! Here are 3 of the best:
(1) Stonska torta (Ston cake). A bizarre one to start with as this cake contains penne pasta! It is a layered cake consisting of penne, ground nuts (walnuts and almonds), vanilla, chocolate, eggs and sugar. Give it a try – you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.
(2) Mađarica (layered chocolate slice). From the weird to the universally popular. This simple dessert is alternating layers of cake dough and chocolate with a topping of chocolate-butter glaze.
(3) Trogirski rafioli (filled cookies). A delightful treat from Dalmatia – a sweeting almond filling inside a half-circle shaped dough ravioli.
If you are intrigued by this brief overview of some of Croatia’s smaller dishes and specialities, then you should definitely check out this article on the Balkan nation’s wine culture.