By Imogen Bishop
Self-catering accommodation is an ideal way to save money on food, but this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on local flavours or luxurious dining experiences. In the comfort and privacy of your home away from home, you can get stuck in to recreating authentic dishes on your own. Once you’re done cooking, pop open a bottle of wine and sit down to enjoy your culinary masterpiece by candlelight on the terrace of your villa.
Image by sailn1, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)
To help you make the most of your self-catering trip to Croatia, we’ve found a recipe for traditional Lamb Peka to get you started:
Every region in Croatia boasts its own unique cuisine, and peka is a signature dish in Dalmatia. Peka is a delicious pot of vegetables and tender meat mixed with herbs and olive oil. It takes its name from the peka dish used to cook it – a large steel pan with a bell shaped lid – and traditionally, it is baked in a fireplace.
However, with a casserole dish and an ordinary oven, you can make peka in your rental home. The scent of Dalmatian herbs will be wafting through your apartment or villa in no time. What’s more, this entire dish is made in a single pot, so you won’t have much washing up to do afterwards.
Rosemary is one of the main herbs used to flavour peka. In the Croatian climate, rosemary can be grown all year round, and when you use it fresh, you’ll be adding a dash of authentic Mediterranean flavour to your cooking.
Image by Ole Husby, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)
The best bit about peka is that it can be made with almost any meat you like. Veal, chicken, and octopus are other favourites in Dalmatia, so once you’ve mastered lamb peka you could try again with a different twist.
2.5kg lamb (you can take your pick of cuttings, but meat on the bone promises the best flavour)
8 garlic cloves
1 green bell pepper
3 rosemary springs
60ml olive oil
250ml dry white wine
Salt and pepper for seasoning
First, you’ll need to prepare the vegetables. Peka is a chunky dish so you don’t need to spend a lot of time dicing and slicing. Before you begin, make sure you thoroughly wash all the ingredients to remove any grit or dirt. Cut the potatoes in half, quarter the onions, half the tomato, and keep the garlic cloves whole. Half the aubergine and courgettes before slicing into large chunks.
Next, prepare the lamb. You can cut up any larger pieces, or if you’re using legs, leave them whole. Using your hands, coat the meat thoroughly in olive oil, salt and pepper.
After that, you’ll want to combine the lamb with the vegetables in your pan or casserole dish, spreading everything out evenly. Add the wine, then garnish with the three sprigs of rosemary.
All you have to do now is place the dish in the oven at 160 degrees Celsius, and leave the peka to bake for 3 ½ hours. Halfway through cooking, use tongs to turn the vegetables and meat so that everything is baked evenly.
Often, peka is served with a salad and bread, so if you want to keep busy while you wait, you could use fresh local ingredients to prepare a simple side salad. Once everything is done, serve it up and enjoy alongside a glass of Croatian wine!
Imogen Bishop is a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.