In Croatia the gastro-blog scene is rapidly developing, and you can find blogs that are written in both Croatian and English. The bloggers’ community, made up of people of all callings and age groups, has a fair number of treasures, not just great recipes but people who as well as being foodies are great travel writers, telling many a tale along the way. We first met Ana-Marija when she was still a student who loved nothing more than baking biscuits and cakes. Today she’s a queen of the culinary art. Why not spend a moment with Ana-Marija yourself? She’ll share a few secrets of the Dubrovnik kitchen…
DIYP: “If I had something sweet...” How did you come up with that name?
Ana-Marija: It was a spontaneous thing: the phrase was going round and round in my head so I decided that would be the best name!
DIYP: You grew up in Dubrovnik. Can you tell us about some of your memories of the city as a child? And how do you see Dubrovnik today?
Ana-Marija: Well, I’m not exactly ancient, but the old city has changed a lot since my childhood days. When I was little, the old city was still full of real life. It was a place where local people went for a stroll, to meet their friends, and it was a place where they actually lived. The old city centre was full of shops. You could see people criss-crossing Stradun, hurrying to get somewhere, and behind the green shutters on Stradun there were peoples’ homes, not rental apartments and souvenir shops. Now everything is much more oriented towards tourism and visitors, there are great differences between the pace of life in the summer and in the winter. Within the city walls there is practically no life at all – everyone has moved to other parts of the city.
DIYP: Ana-Marija, when was the first time you tried to make a meal which was your own recipe, and what was it?
Ana-Marija: Believe me, I can’t remember! I didn’t consider it was a moment to remember, that’s probably why I’ve forgotten.
DIYP: What do you like best about your mother’s and your grandmother’s cooking? Are there any traditional dishes you would recommend to people who want a real Dubrovnik gastronomic experience?
Ana-Marija: My mother and grandmother will absolutely not compromise when it comes to ingredients: everything must be fresh and bought from trusted sources. Then it’s easy to turn these tasty ingredients into even more delicious food. Both my mother and grandmother are great cooks, and I love the fact that when I close my eyes I can exactly bring to mind the flavours and aromas of their food. Anyone who wants to sample real Dubrovnik cuisine mustn’t miss zelena menestra (cabbage greens stewed with smoked meats) in winter; in spring there’s asparagus with boiled eggs; in summer barbecued fish with a little rosemary served with boiled potatoes and chard, and in winter bitter orange marmalade.
DIYP: Is there a traditional Dubrovnik recipe that you’ve published which has turned out particularly well?
Ana-Marija: It’s difficult because they’re all so different, but if I had to choose one it would be buhtle (soft bread rolls with sweet or cheese fillings). I love all kinds of pastry, but these cakes have the real scent of home.
DIYP: Do you have any insiders’ tips for people visiting Dubrovnik?
Ana-Marija: Yes, lots of them! Oliva Gourmet if you love Mediterranean fusion; Proto and Orsan for fish, and the little restaurant Ništa for vegetarians.
DIYP: What’s your favourite place in town for a cup of coffee and a cake?
Ana-Marija: Believe it or not, I don’t drink coffee so I’m not at all qualified to answer that part, but for good cake I can recommend that you seek out the cake shop Sugar and Spice in Ulica sv. Josipa. They have never disappointed me.
DIYP: Finally, can you give us a short and sexy recipe for our readers for this summer?
Ana-Marija: In the right company, even the most ordinary recipe can be sexy, but my suggestion is pancakes with chilled mascarpone cream and caramel – you can’t go wrong.