Fish and Seafood

Fish and Seafood

By
Ino Kuvacic
Contains
18 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743792551

The Dalmatian coast and archipelago is a magical place. The sea is crystal clear with thousands of islands, reefs, channels and bays. Many rivers flow into the Adriatic, making it abundant with fish and shellfish species. Seafood from the Adriatic is some of the tastiest in the world – the higher salinity and nutrition from the rivers running into the Adriatic give the seafood a special flavour.

The most important thing when cooking fish and seafood is to ensure the fish is fresh. How do you do that? Do you check the expiry date? No, not really. The first sign is the eyes – they have to be clear, round and black in colour, and not white, pale or sunken. Second, the gills have to be a bright red colour (lift up the gill and have a look). Third, the fish has to smell fresh, just like the sea and not like a rubbish bin that has been sitting in the sun. Lastly, if your fish seller lets you touch the fish, the flesh should feel firm and not leave finger marks. Always try to buy local fish and buy what looks best – if you want to buy snapper but the whiting looks fresher, go with the whiting.

In Dalmatia we divide seafood into white fish (usually reef fish with white flesh, like snapper, mullet, garfish, monkfish, rockling or john dory), blue fish (oily deep-sea fish, like tuna, sardines, mackerel or swordfish), cephalopods (octopus, calamari, cuttlefish, arrow squid or squid) and shellfish. White fish is highly regarded and is usually more expensive – the bigger the fish, the higher the price.

Larger fish is usually barbecued, always with the bones, and then dressed with good olive oil, parsley and garlic. In Croatia, we have a saying that fish swim three times: in the sea, in the olive oil and in the wine. For barbecuing we use three kinds of wood – usually dry trimmings from vines, cesmina (Dalmatian oak) and pine – to add to the flavour. Smaller fish is fried or used for soups and brudet (traditional fish stew). Calamari and cuttlefish are also popular, grilled, fried or made into black risotto. Squid is usually used for bait and not for cooking. Frogs’ legs are popular in Croatia, and old watermills that have now become restaurants serve this speciality.

In Dalmatian towns, the fish market is one of my go-to places during the day, to check the daily selection, buy some fish and catch up on gossip. In my town, Split, we have a beautiful old fish market. Next to the market there are mineral sulphur baths and, for this reason, this fish market is probably the only one in the world without flies. The mineral springs are one of the reasons the Roman emperor Diocletian chose to build his palace here.

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