Thursday 27 March 2014

It’s asparagus season!

You know it’s really spring in Istria when the wild asparagus appears.

One month ago a neighbour told me he was going to pick asparagus. “Is it already asparagus season?” I asked, surprised, since the weather was still cool and not very spring-like. He replied that he had already found a few spears of wild asparagus in the woods.

Wild asparagus is a delicacy here. The stalks are much thinner than the kind you find in supermarkets, and the taste is a lot sharper. They’re delicious – and full of vitamins and antioxidants, like all plant foods.

A few days later, I saw bunches of wild asparagus for sale at the Pazin market and couldn’t resist buying some. I asked the woman selling them where she had picked them, since they were still hard to find in this area. They came from the Istrian coast.

As soon as I got home I chopped them up and cooked them for lunch but I was a little disappointed. Some parts were too hard and fibrous, and they didn’t seem to have as strong a taste as the wild asparagus I had eaten before.

“They probably have too much water because of all the rain,” my aunt speculated – hence the less-pronounced flavour. And the hard parts? I was doing it all wrong. She told me how to prepare wild asparagus: “You don’t cut asparagus – you have to snap the heads off and then keep snapping off small pieces until they don’t ‘snap’ anymore. Then keep the hard, rubbery pieces to make soup.” She also told me not to cook them for too long – to preserve as much flavour and vitamins as possible. Also, it’s best to cook them as soon as possible by blanching them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. They can then be frozen.

Now that the weather has finally warmed up and the days are sunny, wild asparagus is much easier to find. My father showed me what the plant looks like and I was thrilled to spot my first asparagus spears poking out of the ground. Wearing gloves is a good idea because the asparagus plant is prickly. The dark purple or deep green asparagus spears grow underneath or near the long prickly branches of the plant, and sometimes right next to it. Another variety of wild asparagus called bljušt (didn’t find the English name) is also abundant at this time of year. Very similar to asparagus, the tops are usually bent and the stalks a dark purple colour.

The forest where I found my asparagus
The next time I cooked asparagus I got it right, and I prepared the asparagus I had picked myself. This time I was not disappointed: they had that distinctive strong flavour – and there were no rubbery bits! Popular ways to eat wild asparagus and bljušt are scrambled with eggs, in risotto or with pasta. Then of course the rubbery bits are used to make a delicious soup. Wild asparagus is also delicious with a little bit of Istrian olive oil. I also love eating the thin young shoots raw, immediately after picking them!

How do you like to eat asparagus? Do you have a favourite recipe? If so, please share it here!

Friday 21 March 2014

1st day of Spring

Just when the rainy winter days seemed like they would never end, Spring is finally here. After a damp – but relatively mild – winter, the Bura finally arrived and blew away the rain clouds, bringing clear skies and sunny weather.

There’s nothing like those first heady days of Spring and the invigorating feeling of the sun’s warmth. All of a sudden the first flowers started pushing through the earth and new buds appeared on the trees. The sunny weather has brought everyone out to their fields where they’re busy tilling the earth and preparing it for planting. The days grow longer with each day and we finally have over 12 hours of sunshine each day and no longer wake up in the dark.

Welcome Spring!

Buds of the Chestnut tree

Flowers of the Rosemary bush

Daffodils - the first flowers of Spring

Tuesday 11 March 2014

French words used in Croatian

Since moving to Croatia, I’ve been trying to increase my Croatian vocabulary. I have never studied Croatian, so it is not a language I master.

Because of my circumstances, I speak three languages on a daily basis: French with my Belgian husband, English with my father and Croatian with everyone else. (And sometimes a few words of Kannada to the South Indian cat!)

To be more accurate, I speak mostly the Istrian dialect because that’s the language which is spoken around here, and the one we had spoken at home in Canada during my childhood. So proper, formal Croatian is like a foreign language to me.

By keeping my eyes and ears open, I have come across many French words which are used in contemporary Croatian. Since I’m a language buff, I’ve come up with a list of the words I’ve heard or read which come from French. Of course these words are not spelled the French way, but have been transliterated using the Croatian alphabet. Since Croatian is a phonetic language, words are written exactly as they’re pronounced, with each letter pronounced and no silent letters.

Of course, the fact that Croatian is peppered with some French vocabulary does not mean that Croatian is similar to French, or that French is understood here. Pas du tout! Croatian is a Slavic language, while French is one of the 'Romance' or Latin languages. Are these French words the legacy of Napolean’s short rule over parts of Croatia? Not sure. But most languages have borrowed words here and there from many different languages.

I’m including my list below. It’s not exhaustive, so if you know of others, feel free to let me know!

Croatian word - French word - Meaning
AmbalažaEmballage – Packaging
TrikotažaTricotage – Knitting
EtažaEtage – Floor / Storey
Ormar Armoire –  Cupboard
PlafonPlafond – Ceiling
TerenTerrain – Terrain / Ground / Field
EkranEcran – Screen
Šansona Chanson – Song
Šansa Chance                  
EkipaEquipe – Team
FotiljaFauteuil – Armchair
BorduraBordure – Border (decorative)
FeljtonFeuilleton – Newspaper supplement (In contemporary French: soap opera)
Atelje – Atelier – Studio
Degutantan Dégoutant Disgusting
AvionAvion – Airplane
TrotoarTrottoir – Sidewalk / Pavement
Klošar Clochard Tramp / Vagabond
PlažaPlage – Beach
DekolteDécolleté – Cleavage
BalonBallon – Balloon
Garsonjera Garçonière Studio / Bachelor Apartment
DežuranDe jour – On duty
Šofer  – Chauffeur
RešoRéchaud – Hot plate
BombonBonbon – Candy
ŠarmCharme – Charm
ŽetonJeton – Chip / Token
TrefTreffle – Club
KaroCarreau – Diamond
PikPique – Spade
ŽonglerJongleur – Juggler
ŠampinjonChampignon – Mushroom
DebilDébile – Moron
KamionCamion – Truck
LavaboLavabo – Sink
RetrovizorRétroviseur – Rearview mirror
FarPhare – Headlight
TiražTirage – Circulation (of a publication)
DivanDivan – Sofa
PlakarPlacard – Closet
BalkonBalcon – Balcony
BrošBroche – Brooch 
Fotomontaž Photomontage         
ReportažReportage – Documentary / Coverage
Šokantno Choquant – Shocking
TerasaTerasse – Terrace
ŠefChef – Boss
AsamblažAssemblage – Assembly
PejorativPéjoratif – Pejorative
VandalizamVandalisme – Vandalism
RežiserRégisseur – Director / Steward

Stay informed about updates to my blog by signing up for email updates here. You will receive a confirmation message - don't forget to click on the link to confirm your subscription!

Monday 3 March 2014

The Rijeka Carnival

It’s hard to ignore it’s carnival time in Croatia. Stores have been selling dress-up costumes and celebrations and masked parades are taking place in many towns and cities.

It’s carnival time in many parts of Europe, especially in Catholic countries. This time running up to Lent is a time for merry-making before the 40 days preceding Easter which is supposed to be a period of fasting and all things holy and pious.

Yesterday I headed to Rijeka to witness Croatia’s biggest carnival, the Riječki Karneval. Two weeks of festivities were concluded with a grand carnival parade which proved to be a riot of colour and noise.

Here I share a few images I captured which I think communicate the spirit of the carnival celebrations…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...