Easter in Croatia is a holiday of great importance. For Catholics, Easter is in fact the most sacred religious event.
There are many rituals that celebrate the resurrection of Christ. And they don't just take place during the Holy Week or on Easter Day. This whole part of the year consists of various events, each with its own meaning.
Many Easter traditions revolve around what and how we eat. Yes, food nourishes our body. But it is also symbolic of our spiritual passage that happens in springtime.
So, let me guide your through the traditional Croatian Easter menu. We'll start from Shrove Tuesday and finish on Easter Day.
Croatian Easter food
When it comes to Croatian Easter dishes, you need to know an overarching principle. The food takes a fun rollercoaster ride during this month and a half.
It is first fat and filling. Then it dips down into its sparing mode only to rise again in all its bounty.
The entire Easter food cycle begins with Shrove Tuesday. We also know it Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras or in Croatian: poklade or fašnik.
This is the last day before Lent begins and so we need to empty our fridges from all the fatty and rich food. Talk about a great way to pre-empt any food cravings in the following 40 days.
Croatian favourite all-out treat for Shrove Tuesday is fried dough. There are many variations, depending on the region. But the queen of the day is krafna: the Croatian doughnut.
Its close siblings are uštipci, poderane gaće (translates as torn underpants!) or langoši. These are all types of fried dough of various shapes, often plain without any filling.
Eating during Lent
There are two important fasting days connected with Easter practices. These are Ash Wednesday and Holy Friday. But most Croatians will also practice a meatless Friday during the entire time of Lent.
If you get into a conversation with the locals, they might ask you what you had given up during Lent. And this can be more than just food.
Some people forego sweets, especially chocolate. Others take a break from drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. The rule is the following: if it's not a 'vice' you particularly enjoy, you cannot really give it up.
Here are other ideas of what you can give up. How about an unhelpful habit, such as swearing or gossiping? Think of anything that you do but don't like doing and give it up for 40 days.
But let's go back to those meatless days and fasting practices. On those occasions Croatians pick fish.
If you spent some time on the Croatian coast, you know that our seafood is incredibly diverse. There is so much to choose from. But one fish stands out as a typical fasting option. It's the humble sardine – the fish we call our sustenance giver (hraniteljica).
Sardines are seasonal and the earliest you will see them at the fishmongers' is spring. Just in time to become our favourite Lent food.
Traditional Croatian Easter dishes
The best know Croatian Easter recipes are pinca, served with Easter ham and eggs for breakfast. Lunch on Easter Day includes a lamb roast and a traditional dessert, such as potica.
But let's get our festive dishes in order. There is a specific timeline of preparation and eating that needs to be followed.
Croatian Easter breakfast
All the food served for Easter breakfast is made on Holy Saturday. Because on Good Friday we fast and abstain from work. The food is then arranged in baskets and taken to church to be blessed.
Only then can Croatian Easter breakfast begin.
Croatian Easter bread is a type of sweet brioche dough, enriched with eggs and butter. The flavours are subtle but the zing of lemon and orange zest makes it light and refreshing. Most people include raisins, previously soaked in rum or rakija.
You all know that rakija has limitless applications – baking with it is just one.
Pinca shares the table with Croatian Easter ham. And although it's slightly sweet, it pairs surprisingly well with the smoky meat.
If you plan to make Easter ham (or gammon) at home, look for a semi-smoked one. Then you just need to boil (or rather steam) it.
The centrepiece of the Easter breakfast table are pisanice. These are Croatian painted Easter eggs.
The most traditional pisanice get their colour from onion skin. They are boiled and submerged in water with lots of onion peel. The colour you get ranges from terracotta to dark brown. You can use pressed flowers and leaves to create ornaments as well.
Watch my tutorial to learn how to make Croatian Easter eggs.
Croatian Easter lamb
If you think Easter breakfast is a rich enough meal, just wait for our midday feast. The traditional Easter lunch in Croatia includes a slow roast spring lamb. Potatoes on the side are optional. But the spring onions are not.
Lamb roast without spring onions is not a complete meal!
You can roast lamb in the oven and you can choose any cut you prefer. Lamb shoulder is the most succulent but some people also like the leg of lamb. To achieve our traditional style of roasting, use a Dutch oven. Our lamb is always fall-off-the-bone soft and never pink inside.
Many Croatians use this occasion to dust off their fireboxes and prepare the first peka roast of the year.
Lamb peka style is out of this world delicious but you need to have some skill and the tools to prepare it.
Now, if you want to cook all these Croatian Easter dishes, my Croatian Classics cookbook will be a great guide. All the recipes with detailed instructions are in there.
Ultimate cookbook of traditional savory Croatian Dishes
This glossy, full color edition boasts: 100 step-by-step recipes, 386 pages, 700 images & expert cooking tips
Happy Easter – Sretan Uskrs.