Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Croatian Pizza (with "Kulen" and Vegan Feta Cheese)


I have certainly had such a great time digging around for amazing Croatian-inspired dishes to share with you this month. This particular one might seem a bit odd, I know, since you're all thinking "Pizza comes from Italy right?" - unless of course you're Croatian in which case you are probably thinking "Naša pizza je najbolja pizza na svijetu" (Ok - I used Google Translate for that so if you are Croatian and it doesn't make any sense I sincerely apologise). 

I have two people to thank in the creation of this dish - firstly my awesome and well-travelled friend Amy, who I asked for ideas on Croatian food since she had been to Croatia quite recently. She gave me the usual reply: "lots of seafood". Hmmm. But then she said something which surprised me quite a lot - she said that the pizza she ate in Croatia rivalled the pizza she ate in Italy. After this interesting conversation I jumped on that incredible resource - the internet - and did some reading. Apparently there is some contention among Italian and Croatian people as to whose pizza is superior. I have been to Italy and sampled some sensational pizzas, however, have not (YET) been to Croatia thus cannot provide any opinion. However, as Amy is neither of Italian or Croatian descent/allegiance I trust her opinion and thus thought I would try my hand at a Croatian-inspired pizza. 

The next step is of course..... what do I put on a Croatian pizza? I couldn't find much about this on the net so I was very lucky when I managed to have some great twitter conversations with the other important person in this story (a Croatian person!): Enola (@rhelune). Through these fantastic conversations I gleaned a few key ingredients to a Croatian style pizza. The first of them was "Kulen" - a spicy fermented paprika sausage. Obviously real kulen is out of the question for a vegan (and for an Australian, for that matter - as I am as of yet unaware of any underground market in imported Croatian sausages) but I figured I could make something replicating the flavours of this without too much difficulty. The other is ingredient was cheeses - Enola told me about Kaymak, which is a type of clotted cream. However, I thought I might try my hand at something a bit less heavy and remembered coming across quite a few Croatian recipes on the internet that used feta cheese. So - my challenge with this dish was to invent Vegan Kulen and Vegan Feta Cheese - both of which are featured on my Croatian Pizza below. I invented both from scratch and I'm very happy with how they both turned out - delicious!


Big, big thanks to Amy and Enola and I hope they like what I came up with on their suggestions! If you are Croatian or Italian please feel free to argue passionately about whose pizza is better in the comments section below :)
Ingredients:
Kulen:
3 vegetarian sausages, thinly sliced
1 heaped tablespoon smoky paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp water
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Feta Cheese:
125-150g hard tofu (that means it should NOT be in a punnet and should retain it's shape completely when you squeeze it)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Pizzas:
6 small thin crust pizza bases (I like these because you don't have to cut the pizza up at all - just pick it up and eat it! But you can make this on a larger pizza base of course)
12 tbsp passata (or tomato paste for a richer tomatoey flavour)
Baby spinach
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Olive oil, to drizzle

To Make
1. To make the Kulen: Combine all ingredients in a bowl - mix well and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients so that they can marinate (try to leave for at least 15 minutes - but longer is greater).
2. To make the Feta: Squeeze as much of the water out of the tofu as you can and crumble it into a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt and garlic and mix well. Taste test - it should be nice and salty and sour. If it is not salty enough add more salt, if it is not sour enough add more lemon juice. Set aside for at least 10-15 mins while you prepare your other ingredients.


3. To assemble: Place the pizza bases on a lined baking tray. Spread 2 tbsp passata on each base.
4. Layer the ingredients on: first the baby spinach, then the mushrooms, then the tomato, then the kulen. 
5. Finally, grab a small handful of the feta cheese and sprinkle it in the middle of the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
6. Bake in the oven at about 180 degrees celcius for about 10-15 minutes, or until the crusts are nice and crunchy and the feta cheese is slightly browned on top. This will vary depending on the type of bases you buy and how hot your oven is - so keep an eye on them.

This is what they looked like before baking.

Makes 6 mini pizzas (serves 3).


Check out our other Croatian Recipes:
Poppy Seed and Almond Kolache
Yumuşacık Poğaça
Paprenjaci (Cracked Pepper Biscuits)
Posna Sarma
Makovnjaca (Poppy Seed Strudel)

5 comments:

  1. I never knew there was a Croation style of pizza! Yours looks fabulous! I love how you've made it vegan! My fiance's Grandmother is Croation so I'll have to ask him if his Grandmother ever made any for him.

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  2. Thanks Jennifer! I'd be very interested to hear what she says!

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  3. Wow this one looks very delicious, maybe I will make it some day, thanks for the recipe! :)

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  4. WOW! Your recipes look amazing! I have been searching the internet daily and trying so many different recipes to make cheese substitutes for my 5 year old granddaughter who has been put on a gluten, dairy, sugar & artificial colourings, flavourings and preservative free diet by her Dr. This feta comes really close. I also added just a touch of powdered savoury yeast flakes - it only took me 15 minutes to eat the whole lot lol! Thank you!!!

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    1. Thanks slkgreen, yes I was surprised at how such a simple idea came out tasting exactly like feta cheese. I hope your daughter enjoyed it too! Finding good cheese substitutes is difficult, I am yet to find a satisfying substitute for melty cheeses like mozzarella.

      Thanks for visiting, I hope you enjoy all my other recipes as well!

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