Mišanca – edible wild greens

Reason 113: you can pick your own wild greens and cook a healthy, yummy meal

This particular reason for living on Brač would probably make my top ten on any given day. What you need here is a plastic bag (Konzum, Tommy, Kerum, Studenac… any of these will do ;)), a handy knife, knowing where to look and which plants are edible. The latter two I’m not good at yet, so for now I just go with Aunt Nada and follow her lead. IMG-20140226-01074 Once you’ve got a bag full, you can go home and clean it before cooking. IMG-20140226-01075 Cooking is simple. Just boil the water, add some salt and don’t cook for too long. You can also add potatoes, and if you don’t have a lot of mišanca, add any other greens you can buy or grow, such as blitva (chard). Blitva and potatoes will also soften the otherwise strong flavor of concentrated mišanca, if that’s prefereable. IMG-20140223-01049

Some of the plants that go into mišanca: žutinica, kostrič, radič, divlji luk, koromač, martaduha.

There is a guidebook on Brač wild plants which can help you identify the mišanca plants. Read about the guidebook here.

Sirnica… where’s the cheese?

Reason #111: tasty and sweet traditional Easter bread

sirnice2Photo by I. Cvitanić, via braconline.com.hr

Sirnica (or pinca, as it’s called in some parts of Croatia) is a traditional sweet bread made and eaten at Easter, marking the end of Lent.

As a kid I used to wonder where the cheese was, as the word sirnica contains the word sir=cheese in Croatian.

Sirnica is made with eggs, flower, milk, butter and sugar –  no cheese.

You can buy a decent sirnica at the baker’s or the suprermarket these days, but some people still like to make their own. In fact, they even compete for the best sirnica on Brač, each year on Easter Monday.

sirnice1Sirnice on display at the competition in Škrip. Photo by I. Cvitanić, via braconline.com.hr

This year Selca won first place. Yay!

sirnice4
Photos by V. Radmilović, via braconline.com.hr

sirnice3

Team Selca: Marina Jakšić, Ela Tonšić, Sandra and Marta Mančić… and, of course, their husbands ;)

More: sirnica/pinca on Wikipedia and photos at braconline.com.hr

Wild asparagus

Reason #80: here on Brač you can find wild asparagus – super healthy and yummy

If you have good eyesight, that is. They’re notoriously difficult to spot.

IMG-20140306-01129

As you can see (hopefully), they’re much thinner than their domesticated counterparts.

IMG-20140306-01128

Don’t overcook them, there’s no need. You could even eat them raw, especially if you don’t find enough of them for a decent sized meal.

Season with just olive oil and vinegar. Serve with a hard boiled egg and enjoy!

IMG-20140309-01198

 

And here’s a very short video about “the hunt” :)

Rafioli

Reason 78: delicious cookies with walnut paste stuffing

Not everyone can make great rafioli, but luckily (although my waistline would disagree that’s it’s lucky) I’m surrounded by Bračanke who lead the pack in this art. Especially my Aunt Nada who always spoils me for my birthday with a box full of these.

IMG-20140304-01099

The Rafioli Army, prepared for battle with hungry Bračani :)

IMG-20140316-01306

The crust is hard and the filling is soft and very, very yummy. If you like walnuts.

IMG-20140304-01102

Planting your own multi-vitamin (raštika)

Reason #68: it’s easy to plant collard greens and they’re super nutritious

Collard greens, or raštika and kupus, as it’s known here, is all the rage among health freaks out there. And it just happens to be the most basic veg over here, next to blitva.

So, I decided to plant some of my own. With the help of my aunt Nada, who’s  basically my Mr. Miyagi for all the Brački skillz.

IMG-20140226-01076First you get some seedlings from teta Antica (above).

IMG-20140226-01077Then you take a motika, eng. hoe (the tool, not the other kind), and you dig a deep, narrow hole.

Plant the seedlings and water them. Make sure the soil doesn’t go dry until they take.

IMG-20140226-01078I will report back on them over the summer.

Brudet

Reason #66: cook a delicious meal out of almost any fish

Selca is not a big place, and as discussed before, there’s no big fish market for us to to pick and choose what’s going to be for dinner. Sometimes it’s just a local guy who caught a bunch of small fish. Take it or leave it!

When you get a bunch of small fish that you can’t do much else with – you make a brudet, one of the yummiest dishes ever. So, we’re not complaining here, at all.

IMG-20140225-01061

There’s 6 types of fish in the bunch. Plus, a few shrimp.

IMG-20140225-01064

Cute :)

IMG-20140225-01070

Ok, so this is simple:

Again, like with practically any other meal here, you start with olive oil and onions. When they’re soft, add the fish.

Prepare some water, vinegar, Vegeta (spices, not the Dragon Ball character), konšerva (concentrated tomato paste), pepper, parsley… what else? I can’t remember. But that’s close enough.

Add that mixture to the fish in the pan. Cook for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.

While that’s cooking, make palentacornmeal porridge, to serve with the brudet.

My first attempt at brudet was pretty good. I forgot to add pepper and I could have used more vinegar.

The hardest part for me it’s cleaning the fish before cooking. I’ve only done it twice so far, so I still mess up the whole kitchen and it takes me forever. Aunt Nada suggested I do it outside next time. Good idea.

UPDATE: Ok, so, after she saw the post my mom called to complain. She said, ‘What kind of a pale ass brudet is that?!’. There’s an eternal tug of war between the two of us when it comes to how much konšerva should go into meals. This subject deserves its own post at some point.

But, yeah, you might want to add a bit more tomato paste than I did.

Wooden cooking spoons

Reason #61: cooking utensils used for cooking stuff other than food

You might still find these in kitchen cabinets  here on Brač. A stained wooden spoon and a light one.

The dark one is stained from all the different dishes it was used to cook with. The light one (unless it’s new) never stained because it’s only used for…. (try to guess before looking further)

IMG-20140222-01014

 

…boiling the whites!

Before there were washing machines and hi-tech detergents, housewives would “cook” the underwear and other white laundry in a big pot that was used only for that purpose and they would stir the pot using this big wooden spoon.

And it would never stain because it was only ever used for that.

Pašta fažol

Reason #50: a hearty, traditional bean and pasta meal

One of my favorite “basic” meals from Bračka cuisine. Pašta fažol (pashta fah-joel) can be made with different kinds of pasta (spaghetti, penne, subiotti, pipe, etc.), depending on what you like.

IMG-20140216-01002
This is a more soupy version of Pašta fažol, with spaghetti and without any meat. Beacause that’s how I like it :)

Fažol is the Dalmatian dialect word for beans and like many words in our dialect vocabulary, it comes from Italian: fagioli.

My mom says Pašta fažol has traditionally been a poor man’s meal, because beans were cheap back then and the wealthy could afford more fancy food. Plus, the beans would make them fart and that wouldn’t be classy :)

These days you can just buy canned beans, but the proper way to do it is to buy dried beans and soak them over night.

The type of bean is runner bean (šareni grah) from Central and South America.

sareni_grah

Like nearly any Dalmatian meal, you’ll base this on olive oil, onions, garlic and parsley. You can also fry a spoonful of flour to thicken the whole thing. Then add water and the beans.

The cooking will depend on how old the dried beans are. Anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. It’s best to use a pressure cooker to shorten this process.

It’s best to cook the pasta separately so you don’t overcook it. Put it aside and just add when the beans are completely cooked.

You can add cured meats for flavor.

My mom will add a bit of concentrated tomato paste (konšerva) for color. I don’t.

Don’t forget a couple of bay leaves when you start cooking, so you …. you know…. keep things more quiet “downstairs” later on ;)

Prijatno!

Beans ❤ Bay leaf

Reason #19: pick some bay leaves and de-gas your beans

Bay leaf is very common here on Brač. Beans and lentils are also a common food here. You might already know this, but if you put the two together you’re gas free!

IMG-20140118-00906 (1024x738)

Pick the leaves. Leave them in the open to dry (spread on a shelf in the pantry, for example). Put one or two in the pot when you cook your beans. That’s it!

On Brač you can either grow your own, pick them in the wild, or get them from a neighbor’s bush. Just make sure that, like with anything, the neighbor is ok with this ;).

IMG-20140118-00905 (767x1024)