Flavours of the Adriatic: Sardines

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Credit: Tash Pericic

Croatia has so many wonderful flavours and cuisine to discover; continuing our series, this week we have only one word for you – sardines.

Are we running out of ideas or can we really class sardines as a dish all by themselves? No to the former, yes to the latter.

So far in this series, we have shared some wonderful dishes like Vis Pie and Crni Rižot to the more unusual like Brač Vitalac. Today, I wanted to share something with you that could easily go unnoticed in a series of cuisine and gastronomy, but to do so, would not do justice to Dalmatia.

Last week I worked on a luxury yacht as a hostess for the week and my love of food was reignited thanks to the incredible chef we had onboard. Every day, he produced an outstanding 3-course menu with entrees such as beef carpaccio, octopus salad, plates of pršut and sir, anchovies three-ways… Mains were likes of seafood tagliatelle, oven-baked sea bass, crni rižot to lobster and scampi buzara. He is a proper old-school chef, everything he made was not necessarily gastronomical, but it was bursting with flavour and cooked to perfection – don’t even get me started on the desserts!

I digress; anyway, while all of these dishes were divine, there was one meal that really stood out – can you guess where this is going?

You got it – sardines.

Credit: Tash Pericic

The Captain went ashore in the morning for a few supplies and came back with fresh sardines from the market. The Chef baked them in the oven with white wine, tomato, onion and garlic for the guests, but we simply had them fried.

I recently wrote about fishermen’s nights and how I believe they are a true taste of the Dalmatian spirit, sardines are one and the same. On this occasion, I don’t even need to go into the maritime history of Croatia and how fishing is representative of Dalmatia. My point today is that there is nothing, as pure a pleasure as putting sardines on the grill or frying them, covering them in domače olive oil, a little garlic and… dinner is served.

Note: according to the chef – ‘fish isn’t fish, without garlic.’

Sometimes it is easy to get swept away with the latest trends for everything in life, including gastronomy – quinoa, pink salt, slow-cooked egg at 65°c, ‘clean eating’ (let’s not go there)… Everyone wants ‘art on a plate’ that is Instagram-able; but honestly, after living in Croatia, this picture means everything to me.

Credit: Tash Pericic

There is nothing else needed – sardines, bread to mop up the olive oil and a glass of gemišt to wash it down. Tell me, is this not the definition of simple pleasures? Also, whenever I have eaten sardines, it has always been in the company of family, good friends or crew (who become your second family).

Working in hospitality and tourism, people always ask what is the authentic and traditional cuisine of the region or what is a ‘must-try’ and I am always quick to list – brujet, peka, crni rižot, lamb on a spit, buzara, pršut, Komiža Pogača… which they are, but sometimes I forget about the most obvious answers.

I don’t know how everyone would react if a plate of sardines was put down in front of them, but whoever wants a genuine-food experience, minus the bells and whistles – do yourselves a favour: head down to the fish market, buy some fresh sardines, throw them on the grill or fry them, sit down and simply savour the moment. Welcome to the flavours of the Adriatic.

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