Rhapsody in purple – eggplant

When it comes to gastronomy, ingredients fascinate us with their flavours, shapes and colours. The eggplant’s visual properties definitely make it fall under the category of one of the most special vegetables. An ingredient that has left a lasting mark on numerous national cuisines is just as important in Croatia. After all, eggplant is the first thing that springs to our mind at the mention of the immensely popular ajvar. Even though it’s widely considered to be an ingredient typical of continental cuisine, eggplant is just as frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine as well.

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A warmer climate with lots of moisture makes ideal conditions conducive to growing eggplants, which is why they’re grown in all regions of Croatia. Eggplants have a distinct, somewhat bitter flavour and, when preparing it, you can combine it with other seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers or others, but it’s also fabulous when it’s the main ingredient. You can use eggplants to prepare exquisite spreads, warm or cold salads, side dishes in combination with all kinds of cheese such as goat or aged cow milk cheeses, various casseroles, pasta sauces, while stuffed eggplants baked in an oven will just knock you off your feet.

The eggplant’s bitter yet unobtrusive taste goes great with spices having a mild, sweet, sour flavour or even pungent, spicy ones. We recommend you try preparing an excellent roasted eggplant and parsley spread. You can serve the spread with toasted rye bread or crackers. Eggplants go great with lamb and you should try baking everything in an oven with red wine. We’re sure that foodies will just love this delicacy. Octopus and eggplant salad or the vegetable casserole with layers of eggplant, tomato, pepper and courgettes is one of most prominent Mediterranean delicacies.

What do renowned Croatian restaurants have to offer? We started our search for eggplant dishes in central Dalmatia or the Primošten peninsula, to be more precise. Not only has the family tavern"Tereza“ and its homemade cooking, pleasant atmosphere and a classic Dalmatian twist managed to win the affection of guests, but that of the prestigious French guide Gault&Millau as well. Magdalena Žarkov, owner of tavern “Tereza” shared with us her eggplant and prawn sauce recipe.

  • Both my husband’s and my parents live in the countryside and, luckily for us, they grow their own vegetables. We do our best to use what the garden has to offer as much as possible. That’s how we came up with this dish, we simply wanted to combine as many available ingredients as possible. First we make the šalša sauce for this dish. We slice the onion and garlic and fry them in olive oil. We dice the other vegetables, courgettes, carrots, tomatoes and eggplants and add them to the onion. We wait until the vegetables release water and then we add some spices, salt, pepper, fresh oregano and basil. We take another pan to fry some garlic in olive oil and them we add the cleaned prawns. This dish is served with homemade gnocchi which are cooked in the šalša sauce. When it’s done, you add the prawns – she describes the procedure.

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Hotel Lug – restaurant Kod zlatnog bunara is located in central Baranja, not far from Osijek and Nature Park Kopački Rit. In addition to traditional Slavonian food, chef Ivan Krist always tries to add new flavours to local ingredients and that’s how he came up with an interesting eggplant appetizer.

  • First we have to wash the eggplant really thoroughly because we’ll prepare it together with the skin. We make thin strips using a peeler, we add some salt and Vegeta and leave the eggplants to stand for a while so as to release excess water. We use sliced Mozzarella cheese to stuff the eggplants. We roll the Mozzarella cheese in the eggplant, we join it with a toothpick, place it in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and then we put it in deep fat. Once the eggplants are done, we put them on paper towels so as to absorb the excess oil and we serve them warm with tomato decorations – Ivan Krist says.

New Zagorje cuisine of restaurant Villa "Magdalena” has made an impression on countless food critics, as well as representatives of the French guide Gault&Millau. Headed by chef Mislav Božić, they showcase a new vision of traditional recipes, as well as the very best produce of Zagorje and its rolling hills. Mislav Božić always goes to great lengths to give his culinary creations a dash of international cuisine and showcase local ingredients with interesting flavours.

  • We’ll prepare the eggplant as a classic tempura. We’re going to slice it, roll it in flour and fry it in fat, or you can use sesame oil. Once the eggplant is done, we pour fermented soya paste or miso paste over it and you can also grate katsuoboshi. It’s tuna prosciutto which is grated on an apple grater in this particular dish. When added to a warm appetizer, a part of katsuobushi sticks to it, while a part disappears because of the temperature, which makes the dish even more aesthetically appealing – Božić points out.

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