Croatian Fish 'Brodet'
It's five O'clock in the morning on the Dalmatian island of Hvar, Croatia, and it is already starting to get hot. The sun is only just beginning its ascent into the turquoise blue skies, but down at the docks, the local fishermen have been awake for hours, filling their small boats with fish and preparing the catch for market.

Local restaurants, housewives, and children flock here to secure their share of this bounty, and you make your way through the crowds to join in, arriving at the waters edge where the fishermen are waiting. With a broad smile, the invite you onboard, and proudly fling open the hatch,
revealing
a kaleidoscopic array of fish, crabs, octopus and other sea life just waiting to be turned into mouthwatering dishes. You grab a shopping bag and fill it up. It costs 5 dollars.

The island of Hvar is a food lovers delight. The markets & butcher shops are stocked with fresh, seasonal, local produce, and the surrounding lands are covered with rosemary bushes, wild garlic, sage and bay trees. Your recent trip to the docks has provided you with the main ingredients for a traditional Croatian dish known as
Brodet. Fish stew, flavored with tomato, white wine, and garlic with the surprising sweet addition of raisins. This dish can be found everywhere on the islands, where fresh seafood is a staple of everyone's diet, and indeed an important part of life.
Here's how you do it
 You need:

  • 1000g assorted fish and seafood. I prefer to keep the fish whole, removing just the guts. Feel free to use fillets if you are a bit squeamish about the bones or head. You can add mussels, clams, shrimp or any other type of seafood you wish.
  • Olive oil
  • A lemon
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml fish stock or water
  • A handful of raisins
  • 500 g whole fresh tomatoes, finely chopped. You can substitute this for chopped canned tomatoes if you wish.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
Marinate your seafood in lemon juice, black pepper, and garlic and set it aside for an hour or so.
Next, heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion & garlic for a few minutes, until soft.
Place the fish in the pot and fry quickly on both sides.
It is important to make sure you don't stir the pot at this point, as it will break up the fish too much. Just shake the whole pot gently if you are worried about the fish sticking.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, raisins, white wine and stock or water to just cover the fish.
Cook open for around half an hour on a medium heat.
Add water if it seems to dry, at this point, it's up to you how you want the stew to turn out.
Add any remaining seafood such as shrimp or mussels and cook for 5 more minutes.Don't cook shellfish too long or they will become rubbery!
Add the chopped parsley and a spoon or two of sugar. The sugar will help to mask the acidity of the tomatoes.
Serve the stew with polenta, and garnish with more chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon and some fresh cracked black pepper.
Don't be afraid to experiment a bit. Like most dishes, Brodet is most certainly open to interpretation. In some regions potatoes are added to make the meal a bit more filling. Some people hate raisins. It's up to you.

As for Croatia? I can't recommend it enough. The friendly and hospitable people, the incredible cuisine and the laid back pace of life all combine to make this often overlooked Arcadia into one of the most memorable places you'll ever go.

Dobar tek    

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