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What is peka and how is it made?

Peka: Croatia's traditional braising vessel and culinary delicacy

An excursion into Croatian cuisine
Peka is a term used in Croatia to describe both a traditional stewing vessel and the dishes prepared in it. This ancient cooking technique is deeply rooted in Croatia and is considered a symbol of Croatian cuisine. Peka dishes are often enjoyed at family gatherings, celebrations and special occasions and reflect the country’s culinary culture and heritage.

What is Peka?

Peka is a bell-shaped braising pot that is typically made of cast iron or clay. It consists of a flat base and a high, dome-shaped lid. This lid is the key to the unique cooking method, as it protects the food from direct heat while ensuring even heat distribution. In the Croatian language, the term “peka” is used for both the cooking utensil and the dishes prepared in it.

The dishes prepared in the peka are varied and range from meat to fish and vegetables. Typical ingredients include lamb, pork, chicken, squid, potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The combination of these ingredients, slowly cooked in their own juices, results in a tender, succulent and intensely flavoured dish.

The production of Peka in Croatia

Making a peka dish requires not only the right cookware, but also a special technique that requires patience and experience. Here are the steps on how to prepare a traditional peka dish in Croatia:

  1. Preparation of the ingredients: Firstly, the ingredients are carefully selected and prepared. Meat and fish are often marinated to add extra flavour. Potatoes and other vegetables are roughly chopped and seasoned with herbs and spices.
  2. Arrangement of the ingredients: The ingredients are arranged in the flat base of the peka stew pot. Typically, the vegetables form the base on which the meat or fish is placed. This arrangement ensures that the flavours mix and intensify during the cooking process.
  3. Cover and cook: The lid of the peka is tightly closed and the braising vessel is placed in the embers of a wood fire. Alternatively, it can be cooked in an oven, although the traditional method is the preferred choice for authentic flavour. The lid is then covered with hot embers to ensure even heat distribution from all sides.
  4. Slow cooking: Peka dishes are cooked slowly at a low temperature, often for several hours. This slow cooking method ensures that the ingredients are tender and juicy, while the flavours blend intensively.
  5. Serve: Once cooked, the peka is carefully removed from the embers or the oven. The lid is opened to release the delicious aroma that has developed during cooking. The dish is served straight from the peka, often accompanied by freshly baked bread and a glass of Croatian wine.

The importance of peka in Croatian culture

Peka is more than just a dish; it is a part of Croatian identity and a symbol of hospitality. In many Croatian families, the preparation of peka is passed down from generation to generation. It is a ritual that brings people together and honours the country’s rich culinary traditions.

In the regions of Dalmatia and Istria, where peka is particularly popular, there are many restaurants that have these traditional dishes on their menus. Visitors can experience authentic Croatian cuisine and savour the variety of peka dishes.

Our summary

Peka is an essential part of Croatian cuisine and culture. The traditional method of preparation and the unique flavours make peka a special culinary experience. Whether you try it in a restaurant in Croatia or cook it at home, a peka dish is always worth travelling for.

Combining tradition, community and exquisite flavour, peka remains one of Croatia’s most treasured culinary treasures.