Mark and I both come from a Croatian background although I am a bit of a mix as my Dad also has Italian heritage. Growing up, my family mainly spoke English at home so apart from rote learning prayers to say when we went to Croatian church or for when the priest came to bless our house (an annual Croatian tradition), my Croatian is not fluent or to be trusted.
I can understand Croatian when I hear it and I could follow what my Baka (grandmother) was saying as she used enough English words amongst her Croatian to help me along. I will get the general gist of about 70% of a conversation that takes place around me while I nod, smile and pretend I know exactly what’s going on. But, when I go to speak Croatian, some kind of terrible wire crosses in my brain and I always, always mix up words. Badly.
Here are some recent examples of what I have said and, in brackets, what I thought I was saying:
- To my Dad: “Look Dad, I’m wearing my pancakes” (“Look Dad, I’m wearing my cute Croatian knitted slippers”)
- To my work colleagues: “Try this cake in bear, it’s delicious” (“Try this honey cake, it’s delicious”)
- To Mark: “I love a**hole jam” (“I love rose hip jam”)
And, for some reason I have especially good pronunciation of the swear words and so this is usually what comes out by mistake. Sorry Mum.
But despite my spoken Croatian being very entertaining, I have always enjoyed the cultural traditions and in particular, the food. You don’t need Google Translate for food.
Croatian food is delicious and heartwarming and Croatians (especially Bakas) love feeding people. As a child, my beautiful Baka would greet me with a big hug and then immediately say, “Sjedi i jedi, Lien”, which means, “Sit and eat, Leanne”.
So to kick off The Picnic Press recipe series, I thought it would be fun to start with a Croatian recipe as a nod to our heritage and for something a little different.
I chose to make Sataraš (pronounced sa-ta-rush) for our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog Picnic.
Sataraš is the Croatian version of tomato relish and used as a complement to meat dishes.
I’m not going to claim that my version of Sataraš is authentically ‘Croatian’ as I have added in a couple of additional elements. But, it was tested on Mark’s mum (who is a fabulous cook) and given the seal of approval, so I’m less reluctant to share it.
Traditionally, Sataraš is made with majority red capsicum, tomato and onion. I had some eggplant and green capsicum to use up and thought, why not?
♦ 6 x onions (4 brown, 2 red), cut into wedges
♦ 2 x red capsicum, slivered
♦ 1 x green capsicum, slivered (optional)
♦ 7 x tomatoes, diced
♦ 1 x eggplant, cut into batons (optional)
♦ 2 – 3 tbl vegetable oil for frying (unfortunately I had run out so all I had was extra virgin olive oil. I took the punt, but recommend pure olive oil / vegetable oil as it is better for cooking with)
♦ 1 tsp Vegeta
1) Chop the onions into wedges first and then after you’ve dried your eyes, heat a heavy based pot to medium-high heat and sauté the onion in oil, until it gets soft. I’d estimate around 5 minutes (or however long it will take you to chop up 3 capsicum into 1cm slivers- do the capsicum while you wait).
2) Add in your capsicum. Leave to cook and meld with the sweet onion flavours while you chop up your eggplant.
3) Add in your eggplant and then let it cook uncovered while you chop up your tomatoes. By now, its starting to smell really good.
4) Dice your tomatoes and be thankful you wore a red top as a tomato explodes on you. Once diced, add to the pot.
5) Here is where you can start cleaning the kitchen and then make a cup of tea. It’s going to cook for a while. Keep stirring occasionally. It needs to cook uncovered and with a slight simmer so that the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates and the mix starts to thicken.
SHHH: Now, I’m going to reveal the Croatian cook’s secret weapon… Vegeta.
Vegeta (pronouced Ve-get-a, and not Vag-eet-a) is a vegetable stock that my Mum (and I’m pretty sure, all other Croatian mums and bakas) put into everything. Even Asian dishes. Yep, in our household, stir fry is Cro-Asian (Like what I did there?). It adds a secret flavour kick.
6) Add some Vegeta to your Sataraš. Warning: Do not add Vegeta and salt. It’s one or the other as Vegeta is salty. I went with a teaspoon and then let it sit for a while before tasting and agreeing this was all that was needed. Taste as you go along and add a little bit at a time if needed. The mix will get saltier as the juices evaporate so I find it’s best to do this closer to the end of cooking.
7) Leave your Sataraš to cook until it thickens and resembles a relish. For us this took around 30 minutes on medium heat. What you are after is a mix that wont drip from a spoon. The flavours will have melded with a delicious sweetness from the onion, capsicum and tomato.
8) When you are done and the mix has cooled, you can spoon into a sterilised glass jar to take to your picnic!
We used Sataraš as a complement to our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog picnic – it was delicious inside a crusty baguette with freshly cooked gourmet sausages from Victor Churchill.
(Croatian for “Bon Appetit”)