Exploring Croatia’s Intangible UNESCO Heritage: The Mediterranean Diet

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Continuing our look at the intangible UNESCO heritage of Croatia on November 5, 2016, a recent addition to the list has been the Mediterranean diet, which recently became intangible heritage for several Mediterranean countries including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Morocco, Italy and Croatia (with the islands of Hvar and Brac respresenting Croatia).

Apart from the fact it’s good for your health, the Mediterranean diet is also tasty and one of its main characteristics is a connection between natural resources and the nutritional needs of people living in the area. Mediterranean food is created and influenced by different historical and cultural factors as well as natural preconditions. The most representative examples of Mediterranean food are olives, wine and often consumption of sea food and different aromatic herbs.

This joint UNESCO heritage for all the Mediterranean countries presents a set of different practices and traditions related to food preparation and common use of local products. Mediterranean food is also a form of social event and is generously included in all important events in everyday life. Women have a crucial role in preserving and sharing knowledge about this cuisine.

These characteristics can clearly be seen in Croatian cuisine. In addition, the traditional way of making food, carefully kept old recipes are popularised and promoted by different cultural institutions, agricultural estates and individuals. There are even more and more food festivals dedicated to food heritage in different Croatian regions.

An important aspect of Mediterranean cuisine is the social impact it has on people involved in the food making process – it is often the case that some dishes require a special preparation process or have specific way of making process. A good example is popular Dalmatian peka – or dish under the bell – in order to make this dish you first need to buy the “bell” from the local craftsmen (locally called peka or sač) and prepare open fire oven, coals and woods. Then you need to prepare meat (usually lamb or veal but octopus can go too) and vegetables. Finally, for the meat, the average cooking time is 1,30h – the best you can do while waiting is to have a snack and drink a glass or two rakija or wine. Finally, when the peka is done you have already spent a couple of hours in the same company and made new friends.

Another good example of social events related to food is grape and olives harvesting – most local families will have their own vineyard and olive trees. Grapes are harvested from the end of August to mid-September for most of the Dalmatian varieties, while olive harvesting happens in late October and the beginning of November – both require a number of people (usually family and friends) to harvest these fruits which will soon afterbecome wine and olive oil. Finally, after being processed, these products will be used in future food preparation.

One of the special characteristics is also the involvement of food in everyday life but also in special events. In Croatia this can be noticed in all the food preparation for different holidays and local festivities – like Christmas, Easter or local patron saint feasts.

In order to nurture this UNESCO protected heritage we are bringing you one recipe variation for Dalmatian peka:


2 kg veal / lamb / or alternatively octopus
1 kg potatoes
2 tomatoes / 5-6 cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper
1 grated carrot
1/2 zucchini
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons tomato puree mixed with salt, pepper, Vegeta spice, rosemary
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

Cut the vegetables and put all the ingredients into a large casserole and prepare the wood and coals for fire oven (or preheat the oven on 210 Celsius and then lower it to 180 Celsius. Cover it with iron lid „peka“(or with aluminium foil if in regular oven). Bake for approx. 45 min and then turn the meat and potatoes on other side for 30 more minutes. If you are making this dish in the oven, the baking process is a bit shorter and lasts 10 to 15 min less. You should combine fresh ingredients and regularly check the dish while it is baked and lower the open fire to maintaining even temperature.

Dobar tek!


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