Our first trip to Croatia saw the discovery of this incredible dish. It was the start of summer and the weather was just starting to warm up. We had flown into Venice, and after spending a few days exploring the canals and relaxing in the architectural beauty, we made our way by mini-van to Croatia.
We spent the better part of a day winding through the hills and deliciously green landscapes of Italy and Slovenia. Traveling through Trieste, Šalara and Pula, completing our journey in a gorgeous little town called Opatija, where we were meeting up with our family for a reunion.
Our family, who have clearly influenced my love of flavour and food, all came together for the first time in nearly 25 years. Upon seeing each other, we hugged, kissed and quickly started discussing where we would find the best food for dinner!
We all made our way into town and found a beautiful restaurant on the waterfront. The family quickly ordered what seemed like everything on the menu and we began feasting together. It was at this moment, in the content nature of family and food and the relaxed atmosphere of holidays that I set my gaze across the table and noticed a little (and probably under appreciated) staple that appeared as a side for every dish.
Now, when I say every dish, I really mean ‘every’ dish. We had all ordered different items, fish, meat, pasta, soup, risotto, and this little accompaniment sat proudly next door (or in a side bowl) to everything.
The accompaniment that I speak of, which seems to be a specialty of the region we were in, consisted of the creamiest, silkiest pieces of potato, nestled amongst the iron richness of chard, all tied together in an intensely savoury, with just a hint of sweetness, saucy glaze.
This little side dish quickly became the hero of my meal times and inspired my cooking creations in the weeks to follow. A little tweak here and a substitute there, I soon recreated this recipe as it stands proudly in my memory.
I hope you enjoy it and that this simple yet delicious accompaniment can become the unspoken hero of your meal times too.
DALMATIAN CHARD & POTATOES
2 onions, diced
1 tbsp butter/nuttelex
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 large bunches of chard, cleaned and shredded
½ litre vegetable stock or ½ litre water mixed with ‘Vegeta Natur’ stock powder
1. Finely dice onion and place in a frying pan with butter and oil on a low heat on the stovetop.
2. While onion is starting to sweat off, dice potatoes into 1cm cubes and add to the onions.
3. Using a garlic press, crush two cloves of garlic into the potatoes and onions. Stir until all combined and coated in the oil and butter. Keep simmering on a low heat, stirring occasionally for around 5 – 10 minutes.
4. While the potato and onion mixture simmer away, take the chard (or any leafy green such as kale or silverbeet) and give it a thorough wash, ensuring all sand and soil is removed from the leaves. Take the cleaned leaves and remove the stalks and fibrous centres. An easy way to do this is to place your index and middle finger either side of the stalk and firmly rub them down the centre, releasing the leafy green leaves from the stalks.
5. Once you have removed the stalks, take the green leaves and roll them up together until they form a tight roll. Take a sharp knife and shred the leaves.
6. Take the shredded chard leaves and place on top of the cooking potatoes and onion (this process may take a couple of goes, as the chard takes up a lot of space, but quickly decreased in size as it cooks.
At this point in time, the potatoes and onions may be getting a little dry, you can add ½ cup of stock at this point in time to help the chard start to collapse.
7. Once all the chard has wilted into the potatoes and onions, add enough stock to almost cover the mixture. Dependent on how much water is in the chard and how large the bunches are, this can vary. Once you have added the stock, give the mixture a stir and let cook on medium heat until most of the liquid has cooked down and evaporated, leaving the potatoes silky and smooth and a slight glossy sauce to the dish. This can take anywhere up to 20 minutes or sometimes longer, again depending on how much stock and how large the bunches of chard were.
8. Season to taste and serve hot.