Preparing meals inspired by the dishes specific to the places you visit on your sailing holiday is part of the charm of being at sea for extended periods of time. Croatia’s coastal towns, fishing villages and the sea itself provide an endless supply of fresh seafood, while aromatic herbs and spices grow in virtually every corner of the coast. The abundance of ingredients and the variety of options will tempt any seasoned cook or gourmet to play with the Mediterranean flavours and try to recreate some of the delicious foods that are commonly served in the local restaurants and taverns.
Typical Croatian dishes are relatively easy to cook on a boat. Like its Mediterranean neighbours, coastal Croatia prides itself on meals full of seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood and the excellent locally produced olive oil. Locals typically do not use too many spices, preferring instead to bring out the flavour of the food itself. The herbs most commonly used in cooking are rosemary, sage, parsley and bay leaves. All these can be picked from a bush and do not require a trip to the grocery store.
Grilled or baked white fish with boiled potatoes and Swiss chard is a signature Dalmatian dish. Prepared with only parsley and olive oil, it is also one of the simplest dishes to make. Grilled squid served with fresh seasonal vegetables is a popular option for a light meal in the warm summer months, while shrimp or other seafood with green tagliatelle and pasta sauce sweetened with local dessert wine can be found in taverns across Dalmatia.
Brudet is one of the mainstays of Dalmatian cuisine. The saltwater fish stew can be made with any type of fish and is traditionally served with soft polenta. There are as many variations of the dish as there are cooks, but the basic recipe involves stewing cutlets of at least three types of fish with onions, tomato sauce and white wine, and adding laurel, chili pepper and other spices to your taste. The fish should be marinated in olive oil, parsley, garlic and lemon juice prior to cooking.
Octopus salad is the perfect meal for a sailing holiday and there are a number of different ways to prepare it. In addition to the octopus, which is cooked and cut into small, bite-sized pieces, a typical Dalmatian recipe includes such ingredients as cooked potatoes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, pepper and parsley.
Buzara is one of the most popular ways to prepare fresh shrimps and mussels on the Croatian coast. The seafood is sautéed in olive oil, tomatoes and garlic and what makes the sauce particularly delicious is the addition of white wine, parsley, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs. Buzara is cooked in less than 20 minutes and should be served immediately after cooking.
Black cuttlefish risotto is one of the most requested dishes in restaurants all along the Croatian coast and it is not difficult to prepare. Sliced cuttlefish is cooked with finely chopped garlic and onion until lightly golden. Rice is then added to the mixture, followed by fish broth, and then the risotto is cooked until it gets sticky. Cuttlefish ink is mixed with butter and vinegar and added to the pan. The tentacles are cooked separately in olive oil for a couple of minutes and served with the risotto. Parsley or parmesan can be added before serving.
Stuffed peppers are very popular in the summer and relatively easy to prepare. Bell peppers are stuffed with and mixture of minced beef, rice and spices and cooked with tomato sauce. They are most commonly served with mashed potatoes.
The Zucchini and mozzarella casserole, another popular summer meal, can be served both as the main course and as a side dish. Zucchini are first sliced, salted, dipped in flour and briefly fried, and then arranged in a dish and covered with sliced mozzarella and a mixture of eggs, sour cream and milk. The dish is baked until it turns golden-yellowish and ready to serve immediately.
Cooking on a boat can be challenge, especially if you are sailing on a monohull that keeps rocking back and forth or leaning at an angle every so often. Galleys (boat kitchens) are considerably smaller and hotter than an average kitchen, and if you are missing an ingredient you can’t simply run to the nearest store. This makes it very hard to prepare more complex meals and sometimes even to spend too much time in the galley, especially if the weather is hot. However, with proper planning in advance, not having the ideal conditions or an endless supply of groceries can be an advantage, as you will sometimes need to get creative in order to make each meal more exciting and the resulting dish can turn out to be a fantastic new recipe.