Brodet, brudet or brujet, however you call it, this is another classic dish that not only makes the Flavours of the Adriatic list but should perhaps be heading it up.
So, am I talking about three different dishes or just different names? Well, it is actually a little from column A and a little from column B.
What’s in a name? Brodet, brudet or brujet…
Depending on where in Croatia you are, this dish will be known by a different name, here in Dalmatia you will most likely hear it referred to as brujet or brudet and my father-in-law tells me that brodet is correct in standard Croatian. However, we cannot say that brudet is native and original to Croatia; just like borders and languages, cuisine is very closely interwoven with history – just check out the story of the Croatian Macaroni here. Brodet (or brudet?) can be found in many Mediterranean destinations in various forms – in Italy it is known as brodetto, bourdeto in Greece and in France – bouillabaisse. While the names and ingredients may change slightly, the essence is always the same – a tomato-based fish stew.
And, whatever the case you are in for a treat, for a brujet by any other name would taste just as sweet…
From Rags to Riches, a brodet for all…
Food trends can be quite entertaining to follow and there are a tonne of different foods and cuisines that started off as ‘poor man’s food’ before becoming the new ‘it’ thing. Take sea-herbs for example, in history, these would have been ‘modest’ foods because they could easily be obtained; whereas today you will find herbs like sea-fennel gracing the menu of any top restaurant.
Brodet on the other hand, rather than starting out as a poor man’s food and evolving to something for the upper-class, it simply had two versions. While brodet on a nobleman’s table would have a rich array of seafood, those with less, made their brodet with less. A recipe exists for making brodet with stones, porous stones to be more precise, which often hide sea life or plankton adding flavour and protein to the dish.
You will never taste the same brudet twice
Every chef, mama, nonna, baba or dida, has their own recipe. This is one of those incredible dishes where you can eat it all around Croatia and it will keep delighting and even surprising you – what on earth are eels and frogs doing in my brodet? Yes, that’s right, depending on where you order brodet, the ingredients can differ quite significantly. If there is one thing I love most about the Croatian kitchen – it’s the inherent trait to follow the seasons and make the most of what is on-hand. In the western world, we are used to having anything and everything available on-demand. If you want to make a fish stew but you live inland or by a river, never mind, off to the giant supermarket you go.
Not so in a traditional Croatian kitchen. Of course, there are now large supermarkets, but still, many traditions and recipes have already been set. For example, it is by the mouth of the Neretva where you may be surprised to find eels and frogs in your brodet; in Central Dalmatia, the Islanders will proudly fill their brodet with octopus, cuttlefish, squid; even adding crab, scampi or various shells isn’t a faux pas. What about the type of fish for a brodet? While it is more common to find sea-bream, scorpion fish, monkfish, grouper or John Dory; there is still no rule or the closest thing to a rule would be – what did you catch last night? As in – use what is local and fresh and typically 3 types of fish are added to a brudet to give it a rich, complex flavour.
One thing that is consistent, is the base. Almost every good Croatian dish I know begins in the same way – olive oil, onions, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and in this case – whole peeled tomatoes.
Want to know how to cook it yourselves? Rather than me writing a novel of instructions, check out this video below or, if you are travelling through Croatia be sure to order this dish one night for a true taste of the Adriatic.
Oh and I forgot to mention one thing – be sure to wash this down with a hearty glass of red wine, my pick? Plavac Mali!
Credit: Tash Pericic – another dish that doesn’t look like much by its appearance but don’t let appearances deceive.