Peka, which means “under the lid” or “under the bell”, is a traditional Croatian way of preparing food. Peka is made with lamb, veal, or chicken or my personal favorite, octopus. Variations of Peka also include potatoes, carrots and onions. All the ingredients for Peka are placed in a round pot and covered with an iron lid. This lid is then covered with embers from the fireplace in which it sits.
While visiting friends on the island of Hvar in Croatia back in 2006, I had my first experience with Peka at a restaurant called Konoba Humac. That summer we were truly blessed by being invited to share in the Konoba Humac experience.
According to the blog called Go Hvar: Ramblings about a Far Island:
You might think that Humac is a deserted village, but appearances are misleading. This is a seasonal village, where people from Vrisnik could be close to additional fields and grazing. Most of the houses now look fairly run-down, if not actually derelict, but here and there you can see signs of recent activity
Konoba Humac sits between the port city of Jelsa and the small village of Vela Stiniva located just outside Zastražišće (where we were staying). We arrived early to we could enjoy the view at sunset and roam around this so called “deserted village”.
Visit-Hvar.com describes it as:
A unique example of well preserved rural architecture, some 7 km from Jelsa, formerly a pastoral village, Humac originated in the 17th century. At the height of 350 m above sea level, you have a magnificent panoramic view of all the surrounding places, coves, the Island of Brač and Makarska’s coast. The charm of this village lies in its harmonious stone houses, courtyards, balconies, narrow streets and nature which all give an inspiring sight. The church of Sv. Ivan and Pavao (St John and Paul) in Humac is of a recent date. If you visit this charming place you will be able to enjoy the offer of the ambiance restaurant which is open during the summer months.
The restaurant itself is an old 19th century house with ancient stone walls and an amazing view of the bay of Jelsa and the surrounding hillside. When we were there in 2006 the restaurant didn’t even have electricity and only ran a generator for the refrigerator. Being a big group, we opted to sit outside and take advantage of the stunning view.
Since Peka preparation takes at least 2 – 3 hours, you must make reservations at least 6 hours in advance and inform the restaurant that you will be having Peka.
The end result is an aromatic, flavorful dish that melts in your mouth. While the process itself may seem simple, it is actually a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation, gaining complexity as it goes. Practice makes perfect getting the precise amounts of seasonings to coordinate with the timing of the other ingredients. The goal is for all the flavors to blend together and finish cooking at the same time.
The Konoba Humac experience is like no other.
In an earlier post, Mike said that the octopus at Saint Martha was his new favorite. It was this Peka, from 9 long years ago, that got bumped down to second place. As for Sharyn, she has never met an octopus she didn’t l like. And here we are 9 years later still talking about it.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get the exact recipe from Konoba Humac, but I was able to locate a few from Croatia-Expert.com
If preparing Peka is too much, but you are still in the mood for octopus, here are a few grilled octopus recipes that should tide you over until your next visit to Hvar. And when you get there, remember Konoba Humac is a MUST.
Grilled Octopus with Fagioli Marinati and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette courtesy of Mario Batali. According to The Wine Enthusiast, this dish would pair very nicely with a Pigato from Riviera Ligure di Ponente.
Or an amazing looking Grilled Octopus from SplendidTable.org.
But I will leave you with some close-ups of Octopus Peka from Konoba Humac. Try not to drool!