Rozata & Discovering Croatian Coast
It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to get out of my tiny pittoresque town for a few days and travel a bit. It’s been a busy year. Successful, but busy. By late July my whole body was aching. Each and every bone, every single muscle in my body was twitching with tension and pain and I found myself yearning for a serious break. Nothing crazy, just a relaxing vacation by the sea. All I needed were some new faces, interesting people and fascinating new places, interrupted by simple hearty food and an occasional glass of wine. That was just about enough to get my batteries charged and make me happy again.
I often regret I haven’t had the chance to get to know my own country well enough. Croatia is small, but beautiful. Each region is almost completely different from all the others, from climate and vegetation to people, customs, language and food. It’s fascinating, really. As Anthony Bourdain puts it in his episode on Croatian coast: “Croatia is the next big thing.” I guess he’s right.
Of all the miraculous places along the Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik is considered to be the absolute jewel – beautiful, precious and as famous as any other diamond in the world. It found its place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and I’ve always wanted to go there to experience its beauty, history and heritage in person. My wish finally came true this summer.
We spent amazing two days traveling along the valley of river Neretva in the far south of Croatia. The scenery around Neretva is so rich and incredibly green, the air fresh and the people welcoming and pleasant. The Annual Boat Marathon on river Neretva is a true spectacle, an event in which the locals take great pride and something they look forward to during the whole year. We were lucky enough to experience the event up close, watching the race from a boat that was following the teams along the way. It was incredible to see the strenght, energy and zeal of those men and women as they were struggling to finish the 23 kilometer route against the strong wind. The marathon traditionally starts in Metković and finishes in Ploče, a notable seaport on the Adriatic coast.
Our next stop was Ston, a small town on the Pelješac Peninsula, about 50 km north-west of Dubrovnik. Ston is also well known for the cultivation of oysters as well as for salt production. The salt pans are located in Mali Ston and they have been used to collect sea salt for centuries now. Mali Ston Bay is also the most renowned Croatian oyster bay where oysters, mussels and other shell fish are farmed. You simply cannot visit Mali Ston and not eat oysters. That would be blasphemous.
So, after a visit to the Ston salt works, we had some oysters, naturally. Actually, we had a beautiful seven course meal fit for the gods. All sorts of sea shells, skampi and beautiful fish, all fresh local ingredients prepared in a simple but incredibly flavorsome way that made us sing with joy. Oh man, I get hungry just thinking about it. I’m not saying anything else now. You’ll read all about it in one of the upcoming posts.
I will say that we finished the meal with two wonderful traditional desserts, though. One of them was Ston Cake, a unique and aromatic local cake made with some pretty unusual ingredients, and the other was Rozata, a beautiful custard originating from Dubrovnik. Rozata is probably one of the most famous Croatian desserts and, although I’ve had it before, this particular one seemed special. What a great feeling it was sitting by the sea and enjoying that silky pudding drowning in little pools of caramel. Priceless.
By the time we left Ston it was already mid afternoon so we hurried towards our final destination. Dubrovnik really is miraculous, it’s everything I expected it to be and more. I was overwhelmed not only by the city itself, but also by the hordes of tourists from all over the world that made it almost impossible to move in a desired direction. Pretty soon I realized that it’s best to move with the crowd, otherwise you’re gone.
We spent three short hours walking through the impressive Walls of Dubrovnik, a series of stone walls that surround the city. This complex structure is amongst the largest and most complete in Europe and it runs almost 2 km around the city. After a short walk through Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main street, and a lovely cup of coffee in one of the crowded coffee shops, it was time to leave.
Three hours are not enough to experience the real beauty and vibe of such a place where history, art, architecture and the intoxicating mediterranean air make you feel like you’ve just come out of the time machine. As we were leaving this magical place, I made a promise to myself that I’m coming back. And when I do, I’m staying for at least five days and eating Rozata every single day.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to make Rozata myself.
6 tablespoons sugar
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rose liqueur (or dark rum)
Preheat the oven to 150°C. In a medium saucepan, heat together milk and 6 tbsp sugar, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and vanilla sugar. Whisk just until the mixture comes together making sure it doesn’t froth. Add lemon zest and rose liqueur and stir to combine. Finally, pour the milk in, mixing slowly to combine. Strain the custard through a sieve and pour into 4 ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish, making sure they don’t touch each other. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish until 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to get any water on the custard.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the custards are almost fully set. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water bath. Let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
To serve, invert the custards onto serving plates. The caramel will pool around the inverted custards. Serve immediately.
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