When we think of the Adriatic many of us tend to think only of the Italian side of things, but across the water is the Balkan peninsula and Croatia. A similar climate and a similar cuisine but one that hasn’t changed overmuch lacking until relatively recently much influence from outside.
Korcula is a Croatian island and a favourite place of Barbara Unkovic, a New Zealander with a Croatian father. She is an established’flash fiction’ author and a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, but don’t let that put you off.
She lived for seven years on Korcula and amassed recipes in plenty as well as, judging from her other books on the subject, wrestling with all kinds of demons non-food related. The neighbours seemed to be positively hostile, she had to padlock her lemon grove for heaven’s sake, and the old woman next door deliberately killed her lavender plant. Not exactly A Year in Provence it would seem and so it’s perhaps no wonder Unkovic has since moved to France.
There are seventy recipes here, some familiar such as tapenade, tomato chutney, olive and lemon chicken and unusual ones such as Bear’s Paws, a traditional Croatian shortbread as well as a Croatian take on stuffed peppers and black risotto.
The book is simply designed, the recipes clear, the words around them simply written. There are no pictures, only drawings by her brother, which perhaps are best described as being as equally rustic as the recipes.
Nonetheless it’s a small and useful book that reminds us that Croatia is more than the scenes one sees on the TV and while its cuisine is less refined than most, it is that unchanged aspect that makes it all the more interesting in an era where science has all too often replaced the spatula in the kitchen.