Croatian Recipe for Peka
One of the most popular meals in Croatia’s Dalmatia region is “peka,” a blend of vegetables and meat drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome, or “ispod čripnje.” You’ll see it listed on menus throughout the region, and if you are lucky enough to be invited into the home of a Dalmatian family, it’s likely that you’ll feast upon it for dinner.
It is traditional for Dalmatians to cook “peka” in their fireplaces at home. Many Croatian families, especially those in the countryside, even have a special oven outdoors for cooking. A “peka” is a large metal baking dish with a bell-shaped dome lid, used to cook food in an open fireplace, with hot coals and embers placed on top of the dome for even, slow cooking. Think of it as a primitive slow-cooker! Meat, poultry, fish and vegetables can all be cooked in this way, and the finished dish is also referred to by the same name: peka!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook method: open fire
Ingredients (for 6 people):
- lamb (lamb shoulder with bone in, or leg)
- 1 kg waxy potatoes, halved
- 2 onions, quartered
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 tomato
- 1 small eggplant, halved
- 1 green capsicum
- 2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise
- 3 rosemary sprigs
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
Build a hot crackling fire in a barbecue hearth and allow it to burn down to hot coals.
Place all ingredients, except the wine, in the peka pan. Cover with lid, place into prepared hearth and pile the hot coals on top of the dome.
Cook for 1 hour, remove the peka from underneath the hot coals and remove the lid. Using tongs, turn the meat and vegetables, add the wine, then cover with the lid and replace in the hearth with hot coals on top. Cook for an additional 45 minutes or until the meat is meltingly tender and vegetables are soft.
If you don’t have a peka, you can cook this dish in a cast-iron casserole pan with a lid for around 3 1/2 hours at 160 C (320 F), and add all the wine at the start.
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By Peg Kern
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