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Middle European Menus and Traditions for the Holidays

Updated on December 13, 2012

Christmas Eve

Here in Dalmatia, we make Bakalar on Christmas Eve. It is the only thing you will find served at the hotel or in a restaurant.

Bakalar is better known as dried codfish in English. It does tend to smell, even if it is a Middle and Eastern European specialty. The whole idea is to soak it in water for about four days until the fish begins to hydrate again.

Once it becomes softer, the fish needs to be cleaned of its outer scales ("luster") with a knife. The innards may be dark and stringy. Remove them, too, and cut the fish in slices about two fingers thick.

The recipe link is listed below. The bakalar is sauteed in olive oil, cooked in a large bottomed pot with sliced potatoes, bay leaves, lemon rind, salt and pepper and white wine, producing a fantastic aroma and wonderful, hearty winter stew. The recipe is easy to follow, the hardest part is cleaning the fish, and that isn't too hard to do!

Besides Bakalar for lunch, pašrate (pa-shoo-rah-tee) are made as a sweet fried cookie with apple and raisins and/or walnuts. A little rum, lemon rind and orange rind are added to give it a fruity delicious concoction. A little powdered sugar is sprinkled through a sifter for an extra sweet touch. They are mm-mm-good.

Other holiday favorites include Medenjaci, or Honey Spice Cookies. They are a little like gingerbread, but they are definitely Dalmatian. Decorated with vanilla icing (with or without a touch of lemon), they can be fancifully decorated or very simply, depending on the mood of the baker and the eaters' tolerance to sugar. In Croatian gift shops you can see the Medenjak in a heart shape with red colored frosting glaze and tiny white swirly decorations around the edge like lace edging.

childhood wonder
childhood wonder | Source
Baby New Year!
Baby New Year! | Source

A good example of Medenjaci

Below I have added a link of a Christmas video - Christmas Around the World. It lasts five minutes, so if you just want to see the medenjaci, fast forward to 3'4", where the medenjaci begin. There are hearts, horses, a mother, and so on. They are really quite decorative and have become an art specialty. In this light they look a little Russian, but they are really Croatian. As you can see, they may be hung on the Christmas tree as decorative ornaments, and then, eaten!

Christmas lights in Split, Croatia
Christmas lights in Split, Croatia | Source

New Years Eve

This holiday was given more importance than Christmas in the old Yugoslavia. It wasn't a Christmas Bonus, rather a New Year's Bonus, and so on. The food served on New Year's Eve was a little like a smorgasbord, or it could be an elegant sit down dinner. Usually celebrated at home, a late evening meal, drink and socializing are in order before on "Stara Godina" (the Old Year) also known as Silvesterova (St. Silvester's Day, 31 December).

It is not unusual to serve baked or cooked stuffed cabbage rolls with mashed potatoes and wine. The stuffed cabbage is made with marinated cabbages which are already partially conserved. There is a very good hub on this subject, which I submit here:


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    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Mm, sounds good, these traditional combinations really hit the spot - thanks for commenting on my hub on holiday meals in Croatia.

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 6 years ago from Miami, US

      This is very interesting. I like to know a little bit of a story behind a recipe. Ecuadorians eat a similar soup made from dried fish on Easter called fanesca.