Croatian continental dishes generally have early proto-Slavic origins. In more recent times, as Croatia has developed closer ties with countries which have very specific style of cooking, such as Hungary, Austria and Turkey, dishes using freshwater fish, various cuts of meat, and vegetables have become more popular. These ingredients now feature in the majority of continental Croatian food.
Croatia’s coastal dishes have been heavily influenced over the centuries, as one would expect, by Greek, Roman and Illyrian styles of cooking. In more recent times, Mediterranean styles – in particular Italian and French – have also featured highly. As cuttlefish, squid, shrimp octopus and lobster are all readily available here, a number of different preparation and cooking methods using prosciutto, olive oil and vegetables are employed to create delicious seafood dishes.
The Croatian region of Slavonia is full of castles; two of the most impressive are Pejacevic Castle in Našice and Požega Palace. Osijek is the biggest urban centre in Slavonia. This town’s most well known landmark is an imposing fortress, which looks down over its people. As a prestigious university town, it has the distinction of boasting two Croatian winners of the Nobel Prize – Prelog and Ružicka. Slavonski Brod is another fortress town; it is home to Europe’s biggest baroque fortress, which dates back to the 1700s. The town of Valpovo also has two beautiful baroque buildings; Prandau Normann and Prandau Mailath. When passing through the town of Ilok, make sure you pay Odeschalchi Castle, dating from Renaissance times, a visit. Horsey people cannot miss the stud farm at Lipizzaner, where these famous horses have been bred since the early 19th century.
Slavonia’s most traditional foods are Kulen’s sis sausage, ham and Kulen sausage. No dinner in this region of Croatia is complete without at least one of these on the plate. Some of the most traditional dishes in Slavonia would be grah cobanac (shepherd’s bean stew) and fiš paprikas (fish stew with hot red pepper). The accompanying beverage will, most likely, be plum schnapps. Slavonia produces a large number of noteworthy wines, like Graševina, Kutjevo’s Riesling and Ilok’s Traminac. The most common desserts to finish off a meal are saljenaci (made with pork fat), and a delicious cake which, oddly enough, is called Poderane gace (literally meaning ripped underpants). Pastries with apple or walnut fillings are also very popular.
Lika is a fascinating Croatian region. This is where Nikola Tesla, counted amongst the best thinkers in the world, was born (a museum dedicated to him is located in Smiljan, his village of birth). In the town of Krasno is a breathtaking Marian seminary. Head south and to the coast, and you will find the Senj fortress of Nehaj, which dates back to the 1500s, along with a museum on the Senj Uskoks, who were local pirates. Karlovac is the cultural heart of the region, with Dubovac, Bosiljevo and Ozalj castles, numerous rustic towns and Dominican, Franciscan and Pauline monasteries.
The Lika potato is so special in Croatian food, it has been awarded a Protected Geographical Indication. Velebit honey is also held in great esteem throughout Croatia. In Lika, a traditional meal begins with a berry liqueur or a pear / plum schnapps. This is followed by a starter of škripavac cheese with dried slices of game. The main course is lamb cooked in an iron bell under burning embers. This is accompanied by the ubiquitous Lika baked potatoes. For dessert, forest fruits such as raspberries and blueberries are enjoyed.