The continent of Brac

Contributed with permission by:  Mila Hvilshøj, journalist, wine connoisseur & sailer. Frequent contributor to Total Split, Taste of Croatia and Lonely Planet research.

THE GIANT ISLAND OF BRAČ FLOATS ACROSS THE ADRIATIC WATERS FROM SPLIT.   BEYOND ITS AZURE BAYS AND STONE QUARRIES HIDES A MYRIAD OF DISCOVERIES FOR THE PALATE.  WE VENTURE ONTO THE ISLAND TO UNCOVER THE CULINARY DELIGHTS OF THIS JAGGED ISLAND CONTINENT.

The landscapes of Brač reflects a hardworking history of laborers; shaved hillsides by quarries, trimmed olive groves and geometric Plavac Mali vineyards by farmers, fishermen’s villages and aromatic pastures for a shepherd and his sheep.

Despite the island’s impeccable natural beauty and rich history, it is often overseen by tourists and recognized mainly as a destination reserved for beachside lounging. Brač is referred to many as a continent, and for good reason. The island’s many bays, villages and valleys all bear a distinct history and culture of which many can be discovered directly on your taste buds. Brač has an opulent gastronomic identity with many specialties and ingredients autochthonous to the island.

The Foundation of Brac Cuisine
Since the Venetian Republic, Brač was also a haven for olive cultivation and today over a half-million trees dot its pruned groves producing reputable oil from the oblica and the rarer mastrinka variety; no wonder why every dish from the island is drizzled with this liquid gold. Formerly inhabited by laborers, Brač’s staple ingredient was the affordable and easy-to-cultivate broad bean and many worker lunches were based on this nutritious legume, prepared in every imaginable way. Particularly famed are the lamb from Brač who have not yet tasted grass, but only their mother’s milk who has grazed off salty open pastures with sage, fennel and other aromatic herbs. Procip is another local favorite, a less than 24-hour fresh sheep cheese that is baked in caramelized sugar.

Five Indigenous Dishes
As the lengthily procedure of firing a lamb on the spit begins, vitalac is prepared to nibble on as you wait. Vitalac is an ancient dish of lamb’s offal fired on a spit, then wrapped in caul to be further grilled. Eating innards may be for an acquired palate and a mental block will probably stop you from even trying but if you dare to delve into this culinary discovery, you will uncover a bacon-crispy sensation revealing a tender stuffing.

Another quirky specialty from Brač is the dormouse (puh in Croatian), once a favorite appetizer amongst Roman emperors. They are hunted just before winter hibernation, then skinned, grilled and simply served between two slices of bread.

More peculiar bites include the Bročki spuži, high-altitude forest snails from Vidova Gora, the highest peak of the Adriatic. The spuži are salted and grilled and once they stop squealing, they are ready to be forked out and dipped in a concoction of vinegar, olive oil and pepper.

The tranquil village of Dol in the hilly hinterland is the home of the mighty Hrapaćuša cake. This hearty sensation consists of two layers; an almond sponge cake soaked in Maraschino with orange zest, topped with coarsely chopped almonds and walnuts folded in sugar and egg whites. This rich cake is prepared for special occasions only and its name, meaning ‘rough,’ is inspired by the craggy stone caves in the area, a similar texture to the cake.

Brač is after all an island; so many dishes are obviously based on the freshest catch from the Adriatic. Other than simple grilled fish, there is the Brujet od sipe s varenikom, a cuttlefish stew flavored with a sweet reduction of grape must, varenik. Brač even has a festival in October devoted to varenik and its importance in local recipes.

So hop on to this well-connected island and unearth a whole new continent of culinary discoveries.

Source:   This article was first published in Dalmatia Hotspots Magazine.

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