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The sweetness of the peppers, the slightly spicy filling, the thick, rich tomato gravy, and a mound of fluffy mashed potatoes – Croatian stuffed peppers are Heaven on a plate!
Punjene paprike, as they are called in Croatia, are total comfort food, and really easy to veganise.
There are many, many things I adore about living a nomadic lifestyle, not least, discovering new foods. I much prefer to be wandering around a food market than sunning myself on a beach, and I would far rather discover local food, made and eaten by local people, than dine at a swanky restaurant.
Not because of any attempt to be pretentiously ‘authentic’, or some notion of ‘keeping it real’ (whatever either of those mean), but because from experience, I have found that there’s often a world of difference between dishes aimed at foreigners, and those enjoyed by locals.
Sometimes this is no bad thing; when we lived in Thailand, for example, there was absolutely no way I could cope with the amount of chilli that most of the Thais were chowing down on, especially in salads such as yum som-o and som tam.
Even small kids at the children’s home I volunteered at completely put me to shame with their ability to eat really hot foods.
Even after living in Thailand for 18 months, and building up an amount of tolerance, I still had to ask for my food to be ‘mai phet’ (not spicy), or ‘phet farang’ (foreigner-spicy – i.e. wimpish). Hence having to learn how to cook Thai food for myself, despite it generally being far cheaper to eat out!
While it’s understandable in places where the culinary tradition relies heavily on chilli (yes, Thailand, I’m looking at you), unfortunately, in the West, all too often I’ve found that restaurants in tourist locations offer ‘toned down’ (read; bland) versions of local foods – either as a one-size-fits-all, in the belief that it will be better suited to the ‘average’ palate of their foreign customers, or ‘tarted up’ versions because the originals might not visually reflect the image (and often hefty price tag) of the eatery.
Whenever possible, I try to avoid anywhere which boasts a ‘tourist’ menu but there have been occasions where I’ve been caught out, and have unwittingly been subjected to dull and uninteresting food, and even in one time in Slovenia, soup which came from a packet.
It’s a shame because I don’t feel that these types of establishments accurately reflect, nor do justice to, what are often truly wonderful local cuisines. A bowl of bean and barley stew, for example, may not look as pretty as cheese lollipops, nor have the dubious novelty value of something served on a shovel in a London gastropub, but it’s good, honest food. It’s cheap, it’s nutritious, it’s filling. And most importantly, it’s delicious too.
Surely these things are what’s important?
Stuffed peppers come into the same category of food as jota in Slovenia, hotpot in the UK, dal fry in India, or even Tuscan bean soup in Italy – all examples of cucina povera at its finest.
Croatian stuffed peppers do not need jazzing up in order to make them delicious, and veganising notwithstanding, they certainly don’t need to be adapted to suit the tastes of tourists (restaurant owners take note – foreigners like to try local foods… the kind eaten by local people).
Served with a wodge (yes, that’s a word – shush now) of fluffy, creamy mashed potato, with some of the cooking sauce slathered over the top, they are perfect as they are.
Having said that, I have to admit to being a tad partial to occasionally topping my stuffed peppers with some vegan mozzarella or cheddar, plus a slice of tomato, and placing them under a hot grill (broiler) for a few minutes to bubble and brown.
Croatian Stuffed Peppers
- nutritious (Vitamin A 164%, Vitamin C 304%, Calcium 9%, Iron 26% RDV)
- packed with protein and fibre
- easily adaptable
I urge you try these stuffed peppers for yourself, I’m sure you’ll love them.
Have you ever had Croatian stuffed peppers before?