Croatia was one of the more difficult countries to pick recipes… from what I read (and what I can still remember several weeks later), their cuisine is pretty varied, with different regions enjoying food similar to Bosnia, Italy, Austria, or Hungary.
When I was looking through possible recipes, one that immediately caught my eye is pasticada, also known as a Dalmation pot roast. Dalmatian like the region… not like 101 Dalmatians. It is a cut of beef that is marinated and slow cooked with bacon inside of it, then served with a savory tomato/fruit/rosemary/bay leaf/etc. sauce and gnocchi. Sounds delicious. We also made a poppy seed roll called makovnjaca for dessert.
Potato Gnocchi (recipe)
We looked at a few gnocchi recipes and went with this mashed potato based one. We started with boiling and mashing potatoes, which were mixed with butter and left to cool. Then they were mixed with flour, eggs, salt, and cut into small pieces. It made a LOT. We still have 1/3 of the uncooked gnocchi in the freezer for a future meal.
I didn’t get a good picture from after boiling the gnocchi, so you’ll just have to wait for the picture with the main course to see how they turned out.
We started with a cut of beef and stuffed little pieces of bacon stuffed inside it. This was marinated with apple cider vinegar and mustard, and then it was browned in oil. The onion, garlic, and vegetables (carrots and celery root) were sautéed in the oil, then the meat and veggies were simmered for a couple hours in red wine, water, and sugar.
By the way, it was our first time experiencing a celery root… that thing looked and smelled like pure evil.
More wine and sugar were added throughout the cooking time, as was the tomato paste, apple slices, prunes, and figs. Later the bay leaves and rosemary went in, too.
At the end, a little bit of semi-sweet chocolate and plum jam were added to taste. The meat was removed, the remaining sauce/produce were blended, and it was served over the gnocchi!
This recipe started with making a yeast based dough that was left to rise for several hours. After that, the (ground) poppy seeds were cooked in hot milk on the stove with honey, lemon rind, cinnamon, and rum. Then this was left to cool off a bit.
The dough was rolled out and covered with the poppy seed filling.
This was rolled up and could be topped with either sugar or poppy seeds. Due to some misunderstanding of the recipe, we did not scale it at all and ended up with TWO rolls, so we made one each way.
And here it is cut into slices (the swirly was actually much better in the second roll, but I never took a picture of it):
We were very pleased with how this meal turned out. The gnocchi, beef, and sauce were fantastic. You definitely had to be mentally prepared for a very rich meal, since the sauce was puréed fruit, aromatic vegetables, and herbs. But it was delicious. We both rated it pretty highly. I’m also excited to get out the frozen leftover gnocchi sometime when we need a quick dinner idea.
The makovnjaca (poppy seed roll) was good, although I would have liked for it to be a bit sweeter. I normally am okay with less sweet desserts, but this took it a bit too far for my taste. That said, I thought the dough was very good and enjoyed the taste of poppy seeds… I can’t say I have eaten something so prominently featuring them. It was pretty good with a cup of tea.