Croatia: Getting down to dumplings
Dobra večer, kako ste?
Fine thanks, how are you?! Yes, this week on Kryddhyllan, we got the chance to taste the incredible flavors of Croatia! A beautiful country that is probably best known for its incredibly surreal nature parks and beaches, Croatia can lay claim to such things as the adorable yet tricky to train Dalmatian dog, neckties (yes boys, it’s all thanks to Croatia that you’re able to dapper yourselves up for special events), King’s Landing (it’s true, rejoice all GOT fans!!), and last but certainly not least; some of the tastiest potato dumplings (otherwise known as knedle sa sljivama) you’ll ever feast upon. We had no idea what to expect in terms of the tasty goodness that lay in store for us when we met our Croatian correspondent Martina at our local ICA, and so all we could do was to blindly follow Martina as she expertly headed off in search of all the necessary ingredients needed for a dumpling feast of epic proportions. The first ingredient on the list was easy to recognize, as it was one that hits close to home: fresh potatoes. Spoiler alert: the rest of the ingredient list is short and the recipe simple and straightforward… so anyone who’s especially culinarily-challenged can whip these up to impress their friends. They’re also super versatile, and can be enjoyed as a side dish to soups (perfect for cozy winter evenings), or even on their own, with a generous dollop of sour cream. So get yourself into a pair of your comfiest, most stretchy pants, and read on to find out how you can make, and subsequently eat your weight in these delicious Croatian potato dumplings.
Recipe for Croatian potato dumplings AKA knedle sa sljivama:
Serves: Around 3-4 hungry people
Listen to: For the more traditional tunes look no further than Tamborice, a folklore style music from the Croatian hills. Zlatni Dukati is a popular group within this lovely genre. If you are feeling a bit more modern (yet classical at the same time) please look up 2 Cellos. These two Croatians have mastered the instrument and make interpretations of modern hits, like the Game of Thrones theme (what is there not to love?!)
First and foremost! They are to be enjoyed with: Gemist, a half-half white wine and spritzer combo (that sounds like pure liquid magic)
Usually this dish is enjoyed as a savoury meal, together with soup (Martina said tomato soup was a good complement). We made two versions of this delicacy: plain boiled with sour cream and another with breadcrumbs and nuts. Both were equally delicious and we strongly recommend that you try both (at once)!!
"I remember one time when I bought an avocado, but it was green and I didn’t know what to do with it. So I threw it away....what is this dragon egg?"
- 2 potatoes (the “flour-y” kind)
- 1 egg
- 5 dl flour (about 300 g)
- Apricot jam (preferrably plum jam, but we were out of luck when looking for this)
- 1 package sour cream
- 2 tbsp butter (melted) or canola oil
Bread crumbs mixture:
- About 1-2 dl of bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp butter
- Optional: Chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, sugar
- Peel, halve, and boil potatoes until they have a soft, mushy texture (15-20 min)
- Mash the potatoes with a fork and set aside
- Put flour, egg, and butter in a bowl and add in potatoes
- Using your hands knead the mixture into a dough
- Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it’s about 2-3 mm thick
- Cut small squares (about 4 x 4 cm) in the dough
- Add about ½ - 1 tbsp of jam in the middle of each square
- Fold the square in the middle and pinch the edges with your fingers to “lock” the jam inside
- Use a fork to press along the edges to make a pattern border of the dumplings (see photos)
- In a large pot boil water and put in the dumplings and add a few drops of canola oil
- Make sure to stir so the dumplings don’t stick to each other
- Boil the dumplings until the start to rise to the surface (about 10 min)
- For the boiled version, set aside and let cool (preferably in a cooler place. We put them out on the balcony in the swedish autumn climate) and then mix with sour cream
Version 2 (Dumplings with bread crumbs):
- Heat the butter in a pan and add the bread crumbs
- Fry on medium heat until bread crumbs get a golden brown colour
- Turn off heat and blend in nuts and/or sugar
- Mix the cooled off dumplings with the mixture
- Ready to serve!
In between bites of glorious potato dumplings, we got to talk to Martina about her inspiring tale of leaving her small Croatian town of Slavonia in order to move to Stockholm for better opportunities, as well as her surprising and infinite love for Swedish food. Check out the interview below:
Kryddhyllan: What’s your favorite food from home?
Martina: From home? Hmm, my favorite food from home is like… so we cook meat in water with vegetables, and then we serve that with tomato sauce. From this water we also make soup, and it’s my favorite. I could it this every day.
Kryddhyllan: What’s it called?
Martina: In Croatian it’s called (goveđa juha). It’s very simple, I don’t think it’s just Croatian, but to be honest I’ve never seen it really anywhere else.
Kryddhyllan: Sounds delicious! And why is it your favorite food?
Martina: I dunno, maybe because it’s kind of healthy? Because we don’t have so much healthy food in Croatia, especially in my side of Croatia, where I live.
Kryddhyllan: We don’t know what you mean, these are so healthy.
Martina: Yeah totally *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: What brought you to Sweden?
Martina: So first I was just here to visit my family, they’ve lived here for 14-15 years. I have an aunt and uncle and two cousins. So they invited me a long time ago, and I promised to come. So last year- actually, tomorrow it will have been one year.
Kryddhyllan: Happy anniversary!
Martina: Yeah, so I arrived and I met a girl who offered me a job taking care of her two kids, and I agreed. So I was in Sweden for a month, and then I went home for one and a half months. But in my heart I knew that I would be coming back to Sweden. So I went home and packed my stuff. At first I was thinking I’d be here just three months, then I’ll think about if I should stay or go.
Kryddhyllan: What was in your heart that was telling you to stay?
Martina: I don’t know. Even if I work sort of, not the best jobs, I have hope here. Really. I have hope that it’s gonna be better for me and my family as well, because now I can help them, because Croatia is in a very bad situation right now. So now, they have hope, I have hope. It can only be better. So this is like my biggest motivation- to help myself to help my family. And just to be positive, because here I can be. I can think forward and do the things.
Kryddhyllan: That’s so amazing, especially because when you grow up here or you’re from here, you kind of- there are things that you take for granted. You know, opportunities as you say, you think: “oh there’ll be jobs”, you know you might be in between jobs now and then, but it’s not like “I don’t know if I’ll ever find a future here”. You expect that even if things are tough, you do have a sort of support system of some kind.
Martina: Usually I don’t like to say “oh it’s so bad in Croatia, there is no work, we study so hard”, I mean it is like this. But maybe I could try harder, but I don’t know. I got this opportunity and I didn’t want to miss that.
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, and like you said, you might have some more Croatian friends moving here.
Martina: Yeah exactly *laughs. And there are already so many Croatians here, so we have a small village inside of Sweden.
Kryddhyllan: Like Stockholm’s Dubrovnik! So since you’ve gotten here, what are some of your favorite Swedish foods?
Martina: Ok this is the best part because I’m in love with Sweden food. Really.
Kryddhyllan: Really? You’re like the first person in Kryddhyllan history to say that. Some people truly have to think hard on this question.
Martina: No, no, no. I love lax every kind of way. Meatballs as well. My aunt, she is awesome at cooking, and she’s made a lot of Swedish meals for me to try. I can’t remember which one was my favorite. But definitely creamy lax and every kind of gryta, I love it. Why? Because it’s healthy, not everything but you have access to all kinds of ingredients here in Sweden. In Croatia, you don’t have the same possibility to buy avocado for example. It’s like a process, you’d have to order it *laughs. Maybe it’s different in Zagreb, but in Slavonia it’s hard. I remember one time when I bought an avocado, but it was green and I didn’t know what to do with it. So I threw it away.
Kryddhyllan: What am I supposed to do with this?
Martina: Yeah, what is this dragon egg?
Kryddhyllan: When’s it gonna hatch? Should I bring it to the fire? Will it open? Haha, but love your enthusiasm about Swedish food. You’re like the first person on our blog to be enthusiastic about Swedish food. Your post is going straight to the top. But what did you know about Swedish food before coming here?
Martina: Uhh, I just knew about lax and knäckebröd. My family comes every year to visit us in Croatia, so they bring all kinds of knäckebröd, örtsalt. I love örtsalt. And so I kind of grew up with these ingredients from Swedish, because they’ve lived for over 14 years and always bring something, I remember one summer my aunt was making semlor and kanelbullar. So I knew a few things before I came.
Kryddhyllan: Nice! What would you say is the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Martina: Best and worst? Hmm for me it’s just best I don’t know. Then again I’ve never tried blodpudding or something like that. I don’t know if I would like that as much, but with other dishes they’re not as heavy, and quite easy. And like I said, you have access to all ingredients to all recipes in every shop, so that’s the best.
Kryddhyllan: Any dish that you’ve tried that you don’t like?
Martina: Just blodpudding, I mean I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard that this is like, you know… and that stinky fish.
Martina: Yes. I haven’t tried that.
Kryddhyllan: Actually haven’t tried it either, but there’s no urge there either. Could probably go a lifetime without having tried it and be ok. Alex’s dad likes it though. He’s not allowed to eat it in the house though, he has to eat it far away from the house.
Martina: Oh boy.
Kryddhyllan: Yeah… but on another note, if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Martina: Definitely goveđa juha, the Croatian soup! *laughs I was talking about with either beef or chicken, cooked with vegetables and tomato sauce. It’s the best.
Kryddhyllan: Is it easy to get in Croatia? Are there a lot of places that serve it?
Martina: Hmmm, no. I don’t know if you can order it in a restaurant. But my family makes it and a lot of people from my village. Some other places in Croatia might not even know what it is. It’s not so usual, because it’s very simple. You don’t need to do anything, just put everything in water and after 40 minutes it’s done. You just have to make the sauce.
Kryddhyllan: Mmm, we’ll have to make that next time.
Martina: Yeah, and then you have water for soup, so then you can just add some pasta and some-something and it’s finished.
Kryddhyllan: Stews are the best, so good and so easy… we need to try this dish soon! But if you had to pick one spice for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Martina: Oh wow. I don’t know if it’s a spice, but it’s örtsalt. Can I say salt?
Kryddhyllan: Oh yeah, most people say salt. Someone has said coriander, and someone else said avocado. And someone else wanted lemon on everything. So salt definitely works. What would you say is the best meal you’ve ever had?
Martina: The best I’ve ever had… Hmm I need to think about it. Oh boy, I’ve had a lot of good meals in my life.
Kryddhyllan: A lot of people say something that’s connected to a strong memory, like not necessarily best food but-
Martina: Hmm, I don’t know, I’m not sure if it’s the best food ever but I like it so much… uh, there was a birthday party for a friend, and we went to a restaurant in a galleria here in Stockholm. I forget the name of the restaurant, but it was this really white fish in this beautiful sauce. I don’t know, but it was amazing.
Kryddhyllan: Oh yum, was it torsk with pepparot?
Martina: Maybe… anyway, it was so good and it was at place called Sturehof.
Kryddhyllan: Yum, we have to try it! So the next question is kind of related and it is about your favorite restaurant at the moment?
Martina: Actually I’ve been to a bunch of restaurants in Stockholm, and one favorite is Zink Grill. It’s amazing, I had this amazing lamb. I didn’t know you could eat lamb steak, like not prepared till the end. It was new for me. They had this amazing appetizer, it was a fish dish.
Kryddhyllan: Talking about food is just epic. Food will be the answer to world peace. That should be our next step, better than the UN. But thank you so much Martina!