Whilst holidaying in Split recently I took a culinary tour of the town with a wonderful guide, Tanja.
We met at the Golden Gate which is the north entrance of Diocletian’s Palace in the old town. After our introductions we made our way towards the piazza getting an insiders knowledge on all the wonderful foodie delights that Split has to offer. The piazza, although pretty and traditionally one of the main meeting points for friends and potential suitors many moons ago, is now rather touristy. All the restaurants and bars lining the sides are now solely catering for tourists. I try to avoid these kinds of places like the plague so we moved on through the winding streets.
The purpose of this culinary tour is to find locally caught and grown produce and take it back to Diocletian’s Wine House. A rather nice restaurant in the heart of the old palace walls, where the chef will make you a three course meal out of your purchases for your lunch.
Once through the maze of the narrow streets we somehow find ourselves at the fish market. A hustling and bustling type of place full of ladies and gentlemen selling their wares fresh off the boats. I was in awe at the fish and shellfish presented at the stalls to buy. Little tiny prawns to lobsters to conger eel and everything in between.
Whilst walking to the fish market Tanja had been talking about all the dishes that are local to this particular region. She explained what particular fish were good for what dishes so I plumped for a big handful of tiny whole prawns for my starter that were to be cooked in a bazarra style. A local dish that is perfect for little Adriatic prawns.
After the prawns we carried on through the various stalls taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the market. Chatting more about the fish available I said I would be interested in buying a whole fish that could be grilled simply with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. She recommended one of her favourite fish for this – Dentex. It looks a little like a sea bass but has the texture of plaice. One fresh Dentex fish was purchased and then it was time to head off to the Green Market. A fruit and vegetable market predominantly with a fine heritage for having wonderful local produce. Lots of old ladies (and not so old!) selling their home grown wares. There was so much to choose from but I plumped for some courgettes and tomatoes. I figured a delicious fresh and fragrant tomato salad was just what I fancied alongside my fish as well as some chargrilled courgettes. Everything was so fresh and I am guessing it was picked from the bushes that morning. Dessert came next and I settled for some ripe peaches. Perfectly ripe peaches are so difficult to get in Britain so it was a real treat to find some delicious big, juicy ones.
I found both of the markets an absolute joy to visit and loved the hustle and bustle with the locals and the traders. It was fabulous to feel part of it all.
From the market we walked back through the winding streets taking in some of the knowledge that Tanja had to impart on the history of Split and how it became what it is today. Her knowledge was impeccable and all very interesting to me. I love learning about the history and culture of the places I visit.
Before I new it I was at the restaurant and talking to the chef about what I had purchased. We discussed the ideas for the dishes I wanted him to create from the bags of goodies I presented him with. Like I said earlier I had small prawns ready to be cooked in the bazarra style. Plenty of garlic, white wine and olive oil (sometimes with tomatoes too but not in this case) all cooked up to make a sauce that the prawns are cooked in. The prawns secrete their juices into the sauce for extra flavour. Traditionally served with polenta and extremely messy to eat. The prawns are whole so you have to dissect each and every one which is great fun! As my prawn bazarra was for a starter I had it served with some homemade bread to mop up the lovely juices. Absolutely delicious. Next course was the simply grilled Dentex fish served with the chargrilled courgettes and a tomato salad. The most simple of preparation but maximum flavour. The Dentex fish was a new experience for me but my gosh was it good! The simplicity of the vegetables alongside was a match made in heaven.
Dessert was a wonderfully presented fruit salad using the peaches I had purchased at the Green Market. A raspberry and honey sauce along with some walnuts was lovingly drizzled on the top. I was taken aback by the presentation and will definitely be recreating this dish at home providing I can find some juicy, ripe peaches!
The whole tour lasts for 90 minutes plus the time it takes to cook and eat your goodies!. It costs 150.00 kuna which is about £20.00. Obviously the purchases you make at the market are extra so you can spend as little or as much as you like. I spent about 160.00-170.00 kuna on the whole meal at the market which is about £22.00 with the exchange rates as they are in July 2016. The chef cooks up the food free of charge but you pay for any extras like drinks. I think it is definitely a tour that any foodie would love and I highly recommend doing it if ever you end up in Split. A morning well spent and some of the best food I consumed on my trip!