Tag Archives: Rukavac

Asparagus Cooking School in Stancija Kovačići

It is a rare treat to pick behind the kitchen’s door in a splendid restaurant. We tend to enjoy fine dining in a peaceful setting of a rural gastronomy point, enjoying the tastes and aromas of culinary heritage, and thanking the chef that has just arrived from kitchen with a quite clean apron. Seldom do we think of the kitchen place and food preparing, those nitty-gritty stuff that makes a cook’s everyday business. But when one enters this realm, one cannot separate creative chaos of a kitchen with cosiness of the dining place.

So did we enter the Stancija Kovačići’s kitchen through the School of Cooking with a topic of Asparagus. We have visited Stancija before, and wrote extensively on superb winter cuisine for which this region of Kvarner is famous. The elegant culinary philosophy of chef Vinko Frlan transforms into imaginative dishes reflecting the traditional meals of the coastal region and its hinterland.

The basis for all cooking in Stancija Kovačići is at the same time simple and very rooted in tradition. All meals are cooked on olive oil, of course that one suitable for easier cooking. For hearty meals, Mr Frlan uses the homemade pork lard. Both were easily accessible in the past in the Northern Adriatic and one cannot imagine meals without it. Extra virgin high quality olive oil, of course, is used only for salads and dipping, a favourite appetizer of Croats. Various herbs and Mediterranean spices are very local too.

Three-course dinner cooking gathered some 12 disciples who focused on Mr Frlan’s expertise and tried to learn from it. Some, including our team, focused more on wine resting on the table nearby, but nevertheless we did experience and learned a lot.

Appetizer was the mullet carpaccio, where we learned how thinly make fish fillets. Mullet is a rather small fish and indeed it needs a careful hand and a very sharp knife. The mullet fillets are places on a plate, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and few drops of lemon and olive oil.

While chef filleted the fish, others picked the tops of asparagus, which were later shortly cooked, cooled, and seasoned. From orange juice and olive oil an emulsion is made, that were added to mullets together with avocado and asparagus. The cook also quickly baked mullet skin (without oil) and added to this beautifully balanced dish with excellent freshness.

Already waiting for us was cooked octopus, to which some bay leaves, pepper and salt was added. Freshly caught, winter and spring octopus are much more cherished in the gastronomy. Cooled octopus is very, very thinly cut, seasoned with parsley and garlic. We also added olive oil and egg’s white. Some breadcrumbs were also put just to have a homogenic burger.

While cooling, good students of Mr Frlan stewed finely cut onion and celery to which asparagus tops were added, and cooked in broth. The final point is baking the octopus’s burgers on light fire. This meal is just perfect, as the fresh, juicy, and mild octopus blends perfectly with the strong flavour of asparagus.

Finishing masterpiece is veal shank a la brodetto with asparagus. The chef used his knowledge to show us how neatly the meat can be separated from strong shank bones. The meat is salted and peppered, then shortly baked on olive oil, and then taken out. On same oil onion, carrots, and fennel are fried.

Then, garlic and meat is added, together with some white wine and rosemary. This shank is then cooked on medium fire for at least hour and half. When done, the sauce is reduced, and asparagus tops are added together with small olives. As a side dish, Mr Frlan chose polenta, to which self-growing Mediterranean herbs are added.

It is indeed excellent (and rare) idea for a chef to invite culinary enthusiast to his kitchen. Easy-going atmosphere, relaxed attitude, a glass of wine and superb cuisine, it is a memory that is going to be cherished by anyone visiting the Stancija Kovačići in Rukavac, just a short drive away from famous Opatija.

Stancija Kovačići
Rukavac 51, 51211, Matulji
+ 385 51 272 106


Asparagus is one of the most appreciated plant varieties growing in the Adriatic, and it is high season now. From mid-March to late April the homes and restaurants of Croatian coast will make omelettes, soups, homemade pastas and risottos, as well as the ingenious combinations with meat and fish.

This wild plant grows in less accessible places, often within thorny bushes, rocks, and macchia, and requires expertise, an eye of a hawk, lots of scratches on hands, and iron will under already hot Adriatic sun. But everything is worth of, as asparagus keeps health and is very balanced both in taste and in nutrition. It brings vitamin E into our organism, known as the fertility vitamin.

Asparagus was a sacred plant to the ancient Egyptians so they would put it, along with the celery, in tombs as a gift for the dead. Asparagus originated in the East, and it was used in China back in 3000 BC as a cough, ulcer and anti-swelling medicine. It was believed to ease the feet pain, and it was used in baths. On French courts it was popular as a diuretic, and it was also used as an aphrodisiac.

Taste of Adriatic team ventures round the Northern Adriatic, where asparagus makes indispensable part of the spring’s cuisine. Click on the stories below for more:

Asparagus delights in the Lovran’s Knezgrad Restaurant

Asparagus Cooking School in Stancija Kovačići

Scent of Spring


Winter Rhapsody in Stancija Kovačići

The search for traditional Liburnian gastronomy in times of carnival led us to a homestead located in the less familiar place Rukavac, near Matulji. A rural estate has found its place among family homes. It was built in 1880s and since then has remained in the same family, who converted the estate into a refined experience of gastronomy pleasures, with quite unique view of Lisina Mountain. It is a gorgeous wood park at a foot of mountain chain Ćićarija, which provides numerous short and long walkways thought it as well as hiking paths.

Former house for labourers in the field, for whom homesteads were intended, heirs to the Ružić and Frlan family now turned it into a holiday home for gastronomads. They enjoy the rich variety of tastes among which are Grobnik cheese and curd, Istrian prosciutto, truffles, all aroma and flavour with the addition of olive oil and seasoning with herbs growing around the restaurant, which the chef and owner, Vinko Frlan, carefully chooses when creates his exquisite meals.

His father still makes excellent brandies based on herbs and fruits in the region. Rukavac herb brandy (rukavačka travarica) is of his making, as he handpicks Mediterranean herbs and makes indeed great brandy. We also tried fig brandy, which has excellent aroma and even better taste. It is great aperitif for imaginative winter menu we have tried in Stancija.

Elaborative start began with smoked beef carpaccio with Grobnik cheese and olives. Slightly smoky carpaccio reminds on the meat freshness and enchants with its red colour, while grated Grobnik cheese is usually salty but also young and without strong taste. It comes from another famous carnival region of Grobnik. Everyone here is connected by bell ringers’ tradition and indeed Mr Frlan is also Halubje bell ringer. The cheese saltiness is additionally eased with extra virgin olive oil from Nino Činić in Krasica near Buje. He cultivates leccino sort; young olive oil with an aroma of mowed grass fits well with black olives and rucola on the carpaccio.

We enjoy homemade bread, small round bites of traditional perfectness, still warm from the oven. Home wine, cabernet blend and Malvasia would go well with all Stancija meals, but more elaborative wine list is available, mostly of Istrian wines.

Main course consisted of crisp pastry, bacon and boškarin sausage, leek, prosciutto and curd. Boškarin is popular name for authentic Istrian beef and its sausage is finely baked; more and more flavours open up when you chew the sausage and enjoy its mild and meaty taste. The sausage lays on basis of crisp pastry and curd, which gives specific milky aroma and balanced essence of leek. On top comes rich and salty prosciutto.

Almost as a surprise comes poached egg inside this dish, and it completely changes the flavour, giving an impression of two dishes inside one. Very balanced combination emerges as arty expressions of winter and carnival traditions of this region between sea and mountains. Sausages are unavoidable feature of carnival food, while its origin gives local authenticity. And everyone knows what kind of combination eggs and bacon give!

Second main course was again pleasure for senses; in a basket made of dough beef Bolognese with mushrooms and béchamel sauce is served. First comes the strong essence of boletus, picked often in neighbouring woodlands. The dish is rich, layered, and meaty, with big chunks of mushrooms.

Dessert of this winterish gastronomic journey is chestnut tiramisu, with caramel and cream dressing, excellent finish for anyone who likes less sweet desserts. In special occasions one can also try rukavački presnac here, which is gastronomic heritage of this place.

In the restaurant of the homestead Kovačići you can always taste homemade pasta and fresh baked bread. These culinary challenges and delights are not hidden away from the guests. Homestead offers many cooking schools, which combines Croatian traditional culinary delicacies in a memorable, interactive and imaginative way. We surely did experience it in the beautiful, cosy and warm dining room.

A complete offer if fulfilled with four spacious double bedrooms and one single bedroom, equipped with all the necessary modern day appliances. Although the rooms do not reflect a traditional style, they are tastefully decorated in accordance with the view from the window. Guests also have access to bikes with which you could explore the whole surrounding area of Matulji, and for those looking for more adrenaline there are mountain bikes, hiking and tennis courts.

Stancija Kovačići
Rukavac 51, 51211, Matulji
+ 385 51 272 106

Photos by Stancija Kovačići and Taste of Adriatic