My Dalmatian Cookbook: Take the Tastes of Dalmatia Home

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My Dalmatian Cookbook is the perfect souvenir to take the tastes of your Dalmatian holiday home with you; relive the incredible food scene of Dalmatia or wow guests with traditional Dalmatian recipes.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the world is beginning to learn about the incredible food and wine scene in Croatia. You would think that a rave review by Anthony Bourdain in 2012 on his show ‘No Reservations’ would have done it but every year people arrive to Croatia and still have no idea what to expect from the food and wine scene.

I work on a yacht with my husband, sailing up and down the Dalmatian coast all summer long; we cook nothing but fresh seafood and traditional dishes aboard, like – crni rižot (black risotto), brujet (tomato-based fish stew), octopus salad, grilled sardines, marinated anchovies and so much more. We send them wine tasting, olive oil tasting and provide or point them in the direction of some of Croatia’s award-winning cheeses.

Every week our guests are absolutely blown away by the quality of the wine and food; many are world travellers and have dined in some of the best restaurants around the world and yet they still exclaim that the gastronomy scene in Croatia tops some of their best experiences.

When it comes time to buy souvenirs to remind them of their holiday, we always recommend buying wine, olive oil or anything that is locally crafted in Croatia (versus the cheap souvenirs in the markets). And, without fail, every week our guests ask us to write down some of our recipes for them. I have been on the lookout for a great cookbook that they could buy with some traditional recipes in English (to save me from writing our own mini cookbook), but couldn’t find anything, until I stumbled upon ‘My Dalmatian Cook Book’ in the incredible artisanal shop – ‘Za Pod Zub’ in Stari Grad on Hvar.

The cute illustrated cover immediately jumped out at me and upon turning the pages, I was sold. My Dalmatian Cook Book is written in English and full of traditional dalmatian recipes and gorgeous illustrations to go alongside. It was exactly what I had been looking for and I have since bought several copies to give to our guests as a parting gift so they might take the flavours of their holiday home with them.

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When I found out that the chef and author lives in Split, I had to meet her to learn a little more. Jolanda Vitaljić is the creative genius behind the book and also a full-time chef at Pikulece and Uje restaurants; so, we met for a coffee (because nothing in Croatia without coffee) to chat.

I learned that the concept of the book was inspired by her mother, when Jolanda went to University, her mother made her a book filled with handwritten recipes –

“In Croatia (if you haven’t already realised), the most important thing is food. Everything happens around food and whole discussions (even arguments) can be had around recipes and the ‘right’ way to cook something.

Working in restaurants and especially in the open kitchen of Pikulece, I was always asked for my recipes, so it just made sense to write a cookbook.

I wanted the book to be illustrated but met Boris Matešić by chance while I was in search of somewhere to publish the book – as having every part of the process be local, even if it was more expensive, was really important to me. Boris heard about my project and asked to do the illustrations because he’d always wanted to do a project like this, so it worked out perfectly.”

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Inside you will find simple recipes (read: comfort food) such as ‘salsa di pomodoro’ – a staple of every Croatian home, asparagus and eggs, grilled sardines and roasted red peppers… to traditional dishes like gregada, pašticada and stuffed peppers. And, there are also a few sweet recipes – like homemade marmalade, paradižot, stuffed figs and candied orange peel. It is such a sweet and homely collection of recipes and really feels as though it was made by your mother with love.

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Speaking of things made by your mother, Jolanda’s creativity doesn’t stop there, she has several creative outlets and projects on the go, one being a gorgeous shop called Nered with her partner Đenko Ivanišević. Nered sells authentic Croatian products – including t-shirts made be her mother, aptly named ‘mamafaktura’! Again, this was inspired by everyone asking her where she buys her t-shirts (they are made by her mum), so she put her mum to work!

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“My mother is extremely creative, I guess that’s where I get it from! I can never do just one thing, we are always working on other projects, all inspired by love and passion.”

Nered has a beautifully curated array of local and authentic products including her cookbook and designs by Đenko and her mother. A perfect stop to pick up some wonderful souvenirs. As well as ‘My Dalmatian Cookbook’, Jolanda has also created a vegetarian notebook with a few recipes and space to write your own notes, also beautifully illustrated.

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My Dalmatian Cookbook is an absolute delight both because of the recipes and the illustrations, making it more than a souvenir but rather something to inspire, remind you of your time in Croatia and even proudly display on a coffee table. After years sailing in Croatia, it was a real joy to come across this cookbook and Jolanda and Đenko’s shop – another local gem to recommend to our guests.

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Jolanda has a genuine (and infectious) passion for sharing the story of Croatian food, as well as highlighting and supporting other local creatives and designers; this kind of thinking and attitude it exactly what Croatia needs more of.

At the beginning of the cookbook, there are 10 questions for the author, the last asks – what is your philosophy of cooking?

“Simple and tasty. Cooking should be a pleasure, life is already complicated enough.”

And, I couldn’t agree more.

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Do yourself a favour, if you are travelling Croatia or in search of a gift for a friend, buy My Dalmatian Cookbook and relive the tastes of Dalmatia.

You can find My Dalmatian Cookbook stocked in Split (Nered), Vis (NEred), Zagreb (Galerija Link), Dubrovnik (Life according to Kawa), Rijeka (Croatia in a box), Hvar (Divino), Stari Grad (Za pod zub), Korčula (Galerija Vapor), Čakovec (Nu shu concept store).

Or, if you want to try Jolanda’s cooking in-person, you can find her in Uje or Pikulece most days!


All photos courtesy of and copyright to Jolanda Vitaljic

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