It’s Thursday afternoon and the students on our Croatian Language and Culture Course on Hvar are in for a real treat. Regular readers may remember we interviewed internationally renowned local chef Ivo Buzolić (main photo, with daughter Maya; link to interview at the end). Julia Molden gives us the full story:
Croatian Master Chef
After classes today we were in for a new experience in that a family of chefs were coming to visit us. They were going to prepare our dinner for us and show us some of the tricks of their trade. Father Ivo and his daughter Maya and son Toni turned up with all manner of pots and pans and enough raw materials to create a sumptuous feast. They set up shop in our large outside kitchen and started preparing everything, talking to us as they went along.
They gave us some tips on cutting up onions without crying. The most important thing is to have a sharp knife but, if the onions are put in cold water before slicing, they will be easier to peel. Also, almost unbelievably, another trick to stave off the tears is to keep your mouth open while cutting. And, as far as the dicing is concerned, the best way is to cut the onion almost through while leaving a small amount attached before cutting across the first slices, which will have stayed altogether. And hey presto you have your diced onion.
Then it was on to making gnocchi. The basic ingredient was mashed potato to which was added milk and any flavouring required, such as herbs or paprika, before some coarse flour was put into the mix. Although they didn’t tell how much – you apparently just have to know by feeling the texture with your fingers. Then the mixture was bound together into a kind of dough and small amounts were broken off, rolled into strips and these strips were then cut into individual pieces of gnocchi. These gnocchi were then put into boiling water and boiled until they floated to the surface, when they were considered cooked. After that they were plunged into a basin of cold water to stabilise them and then they were ready to be eaten or frozen. A large amount was made, as there were several of us to feed, and the gnocchi were presented to us with a sauce of fresh tomatoes and herbs. However, even if preparing at home, it would make sense to prepare a similar amount and freeze what was not immediately needed for future use.
Other tips they gave us included that putting salt and olive oil onto thin slices of tuna would make it cook and change colour and this was our first course and very delicious it was. Also they advised us to plan meals at home in advance for the week, which would save time and panics in the long run. And apparently potatoes can be boiled in their skins and then stored in the fridge for up to ten days or so and when required can be brought out, easily peeled and reheated as required.
When we sat down to eat, we first tried out the gnocchi and this was followed by sea bass cooked with potatoes and herbs. Accompanied by red and white wine, it was a meal fit for a king and when the trio finally left us both they and we were very happy. They because they find this method of earning a living, interacting with and teaching people about food and its preparation, far more rewarding than running a restaurant and simply serving up food for customers as they had done over many years in the past. And, as for us, we had learned some tricks of the trade and were benefitting from a delicious supper.
When we all parted everyone was in a very mellow mood after another enlightening and exciting day.