Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The last dry-lend plant - Motar, Rock Samphire or Sea fennel

For a long time Motar was almost forgotten herb in Croatian cuisine. There were only few restaurants and chefs using it and they were mostly situated in islands like Lastovo and Korcula. Luckily, in last few years Motar is rediscovered and it is about to become the star of Croatian coastal cuisine!

All thought I'm happy that I don't have to travel for 5 hours to Augusta Insula restaurant on Island of Lastovo just to enjoy their famous Motar salad, I am little concerned how sudden popularity of Motar could affect the life of this wild green.

Motar (Crithmum maritimum L.), Rock Samphire or Sea fennel grows on rocky Mediterranean shores, it is the last dry-lend plant exposed to strong wind, salt, sea waves, draying sun... it survives extreme weather conditions but uncontrolled exploitation, initiated by growing gastronomic demand could be fatal.

Another danger for Motar menaces from tourism industry that builds hotels on the cost and destroys natural habitat of this plant.

I hope our little heroic plant that defies the wind, sea and sun for centuries will resist all threats of the modern age and that we all will enjoy it, hand-picking it moderately and wisely!

Motar has been used in different ways for centuries, from time of Greeks and Romans, as a food - raw, steamed, boiled or pickled, but it was also used as an medicament due to it's therapeutics and aromatic contents. Even today it is widely used in modern cosmetics perfumery and medicine.

I like to eat it pickled and this summer we (well, my sister did, to be more precise) pickled it ourself for the first time!

Well, Johanna from The Passionate Cook gave me perfect reason to post about it when she decided to host this months WTSIM... with a theme: SAVOURY PRESERVES.

Pickled Sea Fennel (Rock Samphire, Motar...)
Hand pick sea Fennel before it flowers. Pick of the small leaves.
Wash them in sea water (fresh pipe water will do).
Cook it in mixture of water and vinegar (70:30) for 15 min until tender.
Leave it to cool and store it in jars filled with diluted vinegar (half water, half vinegar).

You can use it for seasoning salads, or as a cold relish to round meat or fish dish! Play with it and you will discover wonderful ways to enjoy this extraordinary plant!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Late SHF entry - Fig brad: HIB

As so often in my life, I'm late again, but I hope Cream Puffs in Venice will accept my entry for SHF 35 since it is delicious one.

It is traditional welcoming sweet from island of Vis - HIB. It is purely natural product, full of taste and aroma, hight nutritional value and with such a remarkable history.

Original recipe is dated in pre-Roman period. It was prepared by peasants using only dry figs and natural preservative - fennel. It was further more preserved by dehydration method (sun dried) and for special occasions enhanced with walnuts.
Fig was very popular sweetener in time before sugar was brought to Europe by Arabs in 8th century. That's way so many traditional Mediterranean cakes are made with figs, honey, raisins.

In island of Vis Hib is traditionally served for Christmas together with domestic brandy.

It can be find in other parts of coastal Croatia too, under the name Smokvenjak and it is made with almonds (Mljet), or raisins (Cres)... It can be find in form of salami or small balls too..

In island Cres Smokvenjak is consumed with bread instead of salami and it was traditional food of islands farmers and shepherds who would carried while working in the fields, olive and wine yards or in pastures. It is usually formed into pyramid-like form. It was ideal food which they could keep for days thanks to it natural preservation, and thanks to its hight nutrition value it gave them strength and energy for their hard work.


dry figs, walnuts, fennel, domestic brandy, sun, rosemary, bay leafs

Originally dry figs were grinded in mortar with pastle but I used electrical processor to grind figs and the walnuts (make it 90:10 ratio).

I toasted the walnuts in advance since they are very oily.

During the grinding add little of fennel now and then so it spreads evenly thru the mixture.

Knead the mixture as a dough, add few drops of domestic brandy to help you form the small "scone".

Leave to dry in the sun for ten days, turning it regularly. Be aware to protect it from flies

After ten days packet it in paper, in box together with herbs: rosemary, bay leafs and fennel to give it more aroma.

You can see step by step photo recipe here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Decoding Nicky Hilton feast - Octopus salad

We will start decoding Nicky Hilton feast with the recipe for Octopus salad.

The basic recipe for octopus salad is very simple: clean the octopus and cook it until fork tender. Leave it to cool. Cut it into bite size pieces. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and and salt and pour over sliced octopus. Leave it in the cool place for several hours before serving.

Well, although this recipe says all you need to do to prepare excellent octopus salad, actually it does not say anything. All the important secrets, which often can't be scientifically approved, are left hidden.


First of all, if you are lucky enough to have hunted octopus yourself or bought it still alive, you will have to clean it. The best way to clean it is to turn it's body inside out by inserting two fingers inside the body. Pull out internal organ and stomach suck with fingers. Afterwards, remove beak (which you will find in the center where tentacles meets) and push the eyes out. Rinse the octopus and continue the preparation.

Other method is to cut around beak and removing internal organ, stomach suck and beak all at once.


To avoid rubbery and chewy octopus you will have to do at least one of the following:

- If you have hunted the octopus, beat it several times against rock as soon as you catch it (you can do this in your kitchen too, using the wooden kitchen hammer);

- put it in the freezer for at least two hours or over the night;

- remove it from cooking water before or after the phase in which it gets rubbery (yea, right!)

- Cook it with a cork in the pot;

- Precook the tentacles: Put the water to boil. Holding the octopus body, put the tentacles in water and then pull it out. Tentacles will curl. Repeat this 4 or 5 times. Afterwards, put the octopus in cold salted water, slowly bring it to boil for about 90 minutes (depending of the size).

- Leave it to cool in the water in which it was cooked;

- Before cooking, cut into the "root" of the tentacle with the sharp knife. It will cut the nerves which will "relax" tentacles and it will result with tender meat at the end.


- for the octopus of 1 kg takes about one and a half hour of cooking. Smaller octopus take less and bigger more cooking time;

- Some cook octopus in unsalted water since salt can hared the meat;

- Some like to put sliced lemon or small amount of vinegar in the cooking water;

- Some like to cook octopus in half water, half red wine vinegar,


Some like to remove the skin but I prefer to leave it since it's very tasteful (if skin goes off during the cooking, it shows that octopus is not fresh).

If you need larger amount of salad, you can add potatoes (carefully wash potatoes and cook whole, unpeald together with octopus. How long to cook potatoes? Add potatoes to octopus according to size and needed cooking time).

What method of preparation to choose it's up to you!

Eat like Nicky Hilton

Yes, less famous of notorious sisters Hilton visited Croatia and sailed around Dalmatian islands. Big deal. I did too!

But I do not see my beautiful butt on the cover of the local newspapers.

Nevertheless, diligent, so called, journalist accompanied by fearless paparazzi followed every step of poor little rich girl so that we, inpatient agitated public, can catch a glimpse of the wonderful life of shamelessly rich heiress.

So, we could read where did she party, when did she pass out, where did she lost her money gambling, and, at last but not least, where and what did she eat!

Luckily, best things in life are free and we all can enjoy our life as much as Nicky Hilton and her kin! All we need is little bit of sun, drop of sea and pinch of talent and one can prepare fast that even both sisters Hilton would die for.

But, let as start with treating ourself with dinner Nicky Hilton had on Island of Korcula (42° 58'N; 17° 08'E).

According to local newspaper on the menu for Nicky and her gang were:
for appetizer prawns and octopus salad; for main dish they enjoined grilled lobsters and they did not take any desert which is pity since Korcula's cookies are delicious.

I'm starting with the recipe for Octopus salad and hope to bring you all recipes as soon as possible!