Secret Kitchen menu, 21st April 2012

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smIstrianblacktruffles0002.jpgan Istrian dinner

Istrian pršut & cheese
Malvazija & Teran wines

Maneštra with elderberry vinegar

Tagliatelle with black truffles

Grilled veal chops, garlicky sausages and lardy potatoes
with ajvar, wild garlic mustard and green salad

Honey & propolis pannacotta with pollen,
hazelnuts & a fig

Mistletoe rakija and coffee
About tonight’s menu

We are fresh off the ferry from a road trip to Istria, the peninsula at the northwest of Croatia.  The food there is excellent, so we've put lots of it in tonight's dinner.  

Most meals start with slices of cheese and pršut, which is like Italian prosciutto, but according to most Croatians, far superior.  The famous wines of the region are made with Malvasia (white) and Teran (red) grapes, the latter being unique to the area.  

Maneštra is a hearty soup based on dried beans, potatoes and some form of preserved pig such as a pršut bone, smoked ribs, the tail or other prized part.  I've used prosciutto scraps and smoked bones from our friends Ben & Stefan in Slovenia. Inspiration for the elderberry vinegar drizzle came from the Toklarija restaurant.

The pasta owes its yellow hue to Ben's free-range hens' eggs, full of beta-carotenes from the greenery they eat.  The truffles were found by our host in Istria, Ivica Tikel, who runs a fantastic agroturizam with his sister and brother, who, incidentally, made the Malvazija.  Truffles are not actually cheap in Istria - it takes years to train a dog to find them - but the woods are full of them, so you just need the right friends...  

Grilled or oven-roasted meats are fantastic in Istria, not least because the animals are usually from the cook's own farm.  Like much Istrian food, things are kept simple, letting the high quality ingredients shine through.  We made the sausages with plenty of garlic and rosemary, and the potatoes with plenty of lard, in true Istrian farm style.

Dessert features a range of products we bought from a beekeeper whose honey rakija had us reeling at 10 in the morning.  The mistletoe rakija is Ivica's own, a kind gift typical of Istrian hospitality.  Don't worry, it's made with the leaves not the berries.

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