Peka

Peka

Peka

By
From
Dalmatia
Serves
4

This is a very specific way of cooking, found only in Croatia. Most of the Croatians have a komin – an outdoor, open wood-fired oven with bricks on the bottom and a peka (a cast-iron bell-shaped cover) hanging next to it. A peka is also used to bake a special kind of bread we call brašenica, and seafood can also be baked under a peka – most famously, octopus. We light a fire on the brick bottom and, when the wood or coal is burned and only hot coal is left, we start to cook. If you don’t have all this equipment, you can just use your oven and cover the baking tray with aluminium foil. It will still taste great but won’t have that special smoky flavour of true peka.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
50ml vegetable or olive oil
100g lard
400g waxy potatoes, such as desiree, sebago or nicola, sliced
6 shallots, halved
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 eggplant, thickly sliced
2 capsicums, halved
1 rosemary sprig
1kg meat for roasting, in one piece

Method

  1. Grease a round roasting tin with the oil and lard. Place the vegetables and rosemary in the tin and the meat on top.
  2. If you are using a wood-fired oven, put the roasting tin on the hot bricks in the oven then cover the tin with the metal peka. Cover the peka with the hot coal and ashes from the burnt wood and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Remove the coal and ashes and open the peka to check it. Gently mix the vegetables and turn the meat so everything is evenly cooked and coloured. Cover with the peka and the coal and ashes again and cook for a further 20–30 minutes. It should take about 1½ hours to cook all together. If the meat is still not tender, cook it for a bit longer.

Note

  • If you don’t have a peka or a wood-fired oven, you can cook the meat and the vegetables in a regular oven. Place the meat and all the other ingredients in a heavy baking tin and cover with foil. Bake at 220°C for about 1½ hours. Remove the foil for the last 20 minutes to get a nice golden brown colour on the meat.

    To make octopus peka, replace the meat with the same quantity of octopus. Tenderise the octopus by freezing it for 2–3 days, then defrost it completely and beat it all over with a mallet or rolling pin to break down the muscles. Before roasting, it will need to be boiled for 10 minutes in unseasoned water (the octopus is very salty). The potatoes should be cut into 1 cm slices. Place the vegetables in the tin with the boiled octopus on top and season the vegetables only. Bake at 220°C for 45 minutes.
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