While most tourists will be familiar with Croatia’s glistening Dalmatian Coast, the European country has enough diversity to offer something for everyone. And where foodies want to be is western Istria, where chef Gordon Ramsay goes on his first-ever visit to Croatia in the fourth episode of Uncharted season three. It’s what the Guardian says could be the “new Tuscany”, thanks to its cobbled streets, olive groves and truffle-filled hills. Istria borders the Adriatic Sea and is shared with Slovenia and Italy, although most of the region lies within Croatia. Back in the 19th century, however, Venice dominated the coastal areas of Istria and it’s clear that this relationship continues to influence the area.
As the episode kicks off, Gordon Ramsay meets with Croatian chef David Skoko, who explains that Croatia is like an untouched version of Italy, where they still live off what is found in the sea and on land.
Fishing in the Adriatic Sea
Sea fishing is a popular tourist activity as well as a way of life for many locals. While mussels and oysters are readily available in Croatia, Gordon is on the hunt for another type of mollusc: cuttlefish. The ink is what gives black risotto its iconic colour and flavour and, while you may associate the dish with Italy, it can also be found all along Croatia’s coastline.
Treasure hunting in the countryside
Another ingredient that Croatia shares with the country across the bay are truffles, which are less expensive than the Italian counterpart. Gordon meets with a local truffle hunter, whose two dogs assist him in finding these hidden treasures – when they’re not being distracted by the treats in his pocket, that is! As a reward for his hard work, the truffle hunter invites him to try creamy gnocchi topped with fresh shavings of truffles before he heads off to try his hand at milking donkeys.
Dairy supply from goats and donkeys
Yes, you read that right! According to Healthline, donkey milk closely resembles human breast milk, and an article on Balkan Insight mentions a donkey farmer who is actually making money during the pandemic due to the health benefits associated with donkey milk. However, its health benefits have been up for debate, and Healthline recommends that you drink only pasteurised donkey milk.
Donkey milk is not the only dairy product to be found in Croatia. The region is well-known for a variety of cheeses made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. As a goat farmer explains to Gordon, the flavour of the cheese varies broadly, based on what plants the animals choose to eat. One thing you can be sure of is that you don’t need to head to Italy or France to enjoy a delicious cheese platter. With its own wines, gorgeous olive groves and range of cheeses, Croatia is a food lover’s paradise.
Want to discover more of what the picturesque Istrian Peninsula has to offer? Be sure to catch Gordon Ramsay’s adventures on Wednesdays at 9pm on National Geographic, DStv channel 181.