September 12th, 2012 | Posted by Monika Topolko in Recipes

A Trip To Ston & Fish Baked In Salt Crust

Sea bass in salt crust

Sea bass baked in salt crust

I always find it particularly hard to write about the places I’ve visited. Traveling is such a personal thing for me. I always get emotionally involved and find it almost impossible to be objective. While I try to avoid the usual cheesy and overemotional rants about how awesome everything was, I also don’t want to sound like a travel guide and bore you to death with factography. So, I figured it’s probably best not to say much and let you get your own impressions of Ston through some of the photos I took along the way.

The Ston saltworks

The Ston saltworks (photo: courtesy of Darko Topolko)

If you’ve read one of my earlier posts on discovering the Croatian coast, you probably remember I mentioned Ston, a small town about 50 km north-west of Dubrovnik, well known for it’s medieval walls that circle the town itself.  Ston is not a posh tourist destination, it has no big resorts or luxury hotels. Instead, it offers a unique history  that reaches back as far as the 14th century,  impressive old architecture and ancient stone houses, good restaurants and beautiful food. Ston is the town of good quality sea salt and world renown oysters. What more could you wish for?

Sea bass in salt crust

Sea bass baked in salt crust

The Ston saltworks are the oldest preserved saltworks in Europe, and possibly in the world. The saltworks are still active today and, more importantly, the production method has not changed at all throughout the centuries. The salt production in Ston has remained faithful to the tradition and uses only healthy ecological methods, which results in the excellent quality of the Ston sea salt. Our host and owner of the saltworks, Mr. Svetan Pejić, told us the story and history of salt production and salt trade in his unique theatrical manner which clearly shows his passion and devotion to the saltworks and their tradition, as well as his belief in the bright future.

The Ston Saltworks

Mr. Pejić, the owner of the Ston saltworks (photo: courtesy of Darko Topolko)

Oysters from Mali Ston Bay

Oysters from Mali Ston Bay

The Dalmatian coast has a very long history of mariculture. Ston, and the area surrounding it, is not an exception. Because of its clean water with the perfect salinity level, Mali Ston Bay is an exceptional environment for oyster and mussel farming. It has, in fact, been well-known for oyster cultivation since the Roman times. The European Flat Oyster (Ostrea edulis) from Mali Ston Bay has made this region world-famous when it was awarded Grand Prix and the Gold Medal in the 1936 World Exposition in London.

Sea bass baked in salt crust

Sea bass baked in salt crust

Ston is not your average seaside resort. It’s quite small and charming but has many unique and unusual things to offer. One of them is an array of great restaurants that serve beautiful and simple sea food paired with seasonal local ingredients and wonderful wines from the Pelješac peninsula. Our host wanted to make sure we experience Ston to the fullest so our next stop was Vila Koruna, a hotel and restaurant owned by Mr. Pejić and his family. When the food started coming I thought I died and went to heaven. Seriously.

Rozata and Ston Cake

Dessert: Rozata and Ston cake

Black risotto

Black risotto

First off, oysters and champagne. Drizzled with a few drops of lemon juice and eaten with your fingers, oysters must be the purest and the most wonderful form of food on Earth. Alongside oysters we we also served sea figs, also known as sea violets or sea eggs. It is a shellfish mainly found in the Mediterranean sea. It is eaten raw and is appreciated for its powerful iodized flavor which is not suitable to all palates, including mine. I guess it’s an acquired taste. Next came creamy mussel soup, beautiful, subtle and silky. Finished off with a pinch of cracked black pepper, it just sings in your mouth.

Fish baked in salt crust

Fish baked in salt crust

Shellfish cooked in white wine and garlic were served next. It is a very traditional way of cooking all sorts of shelfish, skampi and prawns in Dalmatia. The shear simplicity of the sauce elevates the taste of  shells while a distant hum of garlic tones down the acidity of wine and seasons the sauce quite beautifully. What gives this sauce charater are breadcrumbs that are used as a thickening agent in the sauce. This type of sauce is known as buzara in Dalmatia. Next came black risotto followed by green tagliatelle in a creamy skampi sauce. They were both magnificent.

Green tagliatelle with skampi

Green tagliatelle with skampi

Frsh sea bass

Fresh Sea bass

However, the absolute hero of the whole meal was the last course. A spectacular sea bass baked in salt crust served with small and succulent grilled green peppers (the locals call the poveruni) and simple greens dressed with some lemon juice and olive oil. A dish that celebrates the sea with all its natural resources and an incredibly clever way of marrying two of  Ston’s most famous products – good quality sea salt and fresh sea food.

Breaking the salt crust

Breaking the salt crust

Dramatic presentation

Dramatic presentation and serving of the fish

This method of preparing fish is stupidly simple but absolutely brilliant. The salt encloses the fish completely, flavoring it and sealing in the moisture, making the flesh succulent and silky. It also makes a highly dramatic presentation, so keep that in mind the next time you have company over for dinner. I made this dish two times since we got back home and we just can’t get enough of it. The only trick is to use good quality sea salt (I brought some from Ston) and the freshest fish you can find. And that’s about it.

Serving the fish baked in salt crust

Serving the fish baked in salt crust

Sea bass baked in salt crust

Sea bass baked in salt crust

 

Recept na hrvatskom

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Sea Bass Baked in Salt Crust

Serves 2
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Difficulty: Basic

Category: Fish & seafood
Instead of baking and serving one small fish per person, you can bake one large fish and then fillet it. Bear in mind that the ratio of salt and fish should be 2:1. For every 1kg of salt use approximately 100ml water. If baking a larger fish, make sure you adjust the baking time. The rule of thumb is 10 minutes for every 2.5cm (1 inch) of thickness at the fish’s widest part.
Ingredients
2 whole sea bass (250g each), gutted and scaled
2 lemon slices
2 rosemary springs
1 – 1.2 kg coarse sea salt
100 – 120ml water
Directions
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Dry the fish with kitchen paper and stuff the body cavity of each fish with one lemon slice and rosemary sprig. Combine salt and water and mix thoroughly. This will help to form a crust. Place a layer of wet sea salt (about 1/3) in the bottom of a roasting tin large enough to hold the fish comfortably. Lay the fish on top of the salt, then cover with the remaining sea salt. The fish should be completely enclosed by the salt. You can wrap each fish separately in its own crust or lay them next to each other and cover them together.
Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the fish rest for 5 minutes. Break the salt crust with knife. Using a pastry brush, remove the salt crystals from the surface of the fish and from around the fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

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15 Responses

  • Rosa says:

    Amazing pictures and fabulous post! This is a wonderful way of cooking fish. I have never tried it, but I’d love too someday…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • Nevena says:

    Obožavam ribu spremljenu na ovaj način. Prvi put sam je jela u Italiji i beše to ljubav na prvi ukus:)
    Nikad nisam probala ostrige. Ne znam šta da očekujem ali se nadam da ću ih isprobati baš u Malom Stonu.
    Fotke, divne kao uvek:) A od tvog stila pisanja uvek dodatno ogladnim:):)

  • Senka says:

    More je tako darežljivo…divan post

  • acrobatie says:

    Za stonsku sol znam, ali nikad nisam bila u Stonu i nisam je probala. No nevjerovatno je koliko okus soli varira od mjesta do mjesta. Hvala za ovu virtualnu stenju i svaka cast na lijepo odradenom fotografskom dijelu posta! PS Znam da ce zvucati cudno, ali zahvaljujem i na pisanju na engleskom. Na svakodnevnoj bazi, on je u FR eliminiran iz mog zivota (filmovi itd. su sinkronizirani) i vec sam ga pocela zaboravljati. Obzirom da me zanima sto pises, tjeras me da se trudim:)

  • jubistacha says:

    Odličan post, samo ja imam drugačije dojmove vezano uz hranu iz Vile Korune. Naime, baš ovo ljeto smo jeli na par različith mjesta u okolici, pa i tamo. Od svih mjesta, s njihovom hranom smo bili najmanje zadovoljni. Miješana riblja plata, jako loše napravljena (smrznuta riba, previše ulja i to ne maslinovog ;)) Nadam se da smo samo nabasali na lošu večer, iako s ovim iskustvom rado ću te novce potrošiti u jednoj drugoj konobi koja nam se svidjela na prvi zagriz ;)
    Btw: slike su odlične!

  • Jako mi se sviđa kako si podijelila sa nama dojmove iz Stona, odličan post i baš sam ga sa zadovoljstvom već dva puta pročitala , a vratiti ću se i još koji put. Ja iz Vile Korune također nosim lijepe dojmove i dobro pamtim salatu od hobotnice koju sam tamo jela kao jednu od najboljih. Gosp.Pejića i privatno poznajem pa mi je time ovo sve skupa i draže vidjeti i pročitati.
    Posebno oduševljenje su mi fotkice, tvoje fotkice su uvijek za oduševiti se, ali ove su mi baš posebne , uživam !

  • Milkica says:

    Jako, jako bih volela da zivim na obali mora… I to bas da zivim tamo ili da imam vikendicu, a ne da budem turista. Predivan post! Nikad nisam jela ovako spremljenu ribu, ali verujem da je fenomenalno!

  • Petra says:

    Krasan post. Kad samo prije dvije godine na putu u Orebić htjeli stati u Stonu kiša je lijevala kao iz kabla tako da jednostavno nismo uspjeli. Nadam se da će nas put još koji puta najeti do Stona da i osobno isprobamo sve ove divote koje si nabrojala.

  • Charlie says:

    I love cooking with a salt crusting!

    It leaves the food moist and so delicious without overpowering of the salt flavour.

    Great Post!

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie

  • Charlie says:

    Monika:

    Would you have a recipe for the Rozalin liquor that you would be willing to share?

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie

  • Tamara says:

    fantastičan putopis a predivnim fotkama! ja nikako da probam tu ribu u soli, morat ću

  • Tanja says:

    Obožavam putopise, i kad su popraćeni ovako prekrasnim fotografijama, mogu satima da čitam (btw, pročitala sam ovaj post dvaput zaredom :D). Divne impresije!! Za stonsku sol sam čula, za ribu u soli isto, nažalost još nisam probala… Morat ću :-)

  • Maja says:

    Moji favoriti – sve šta ste i vi jelo. Šta ćeš kad nisam izbirljiva, a obožavam crni rižot, špagete, školjke… Ribu pečenu u soli obožavam, često je pečemo ljeti :)
    Slike su fantastične!

  • Mina says:

    Odlican post i recept! Interesuje me da li se ovako ispecena so moze kasnije iskoristiti za nesto drugo?

    • Mina, hvala! Nisam sigurna može li se sol ponovo iskoristiti s obzirom na to da je doista tvrda kao kamen. Mogla bi je razbiti i tako ponovo usitniti ali kvaliteta i salinitet će joj svakako biti slabiji s obzirom na to da je bila pomiješana s vodom.



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