For every special guest in Ravni kotari, rooster under the baking lid (peka) is the law. The feathered herald of the morning is the gastronomic highlight of the Odžaković Rural Homestead in Nadin, a place in the Municipality of Polača, not far from Benkovac. We are welcomed by the married couple Marija and Šime - known as Mime - Odžaković, who lead us into a magical world of memories and heritage that take our breath away. An incredible commitment to Dalmatian tradition turned the Odžaković house into an ethno-museum, with objects and costumes from past times. However, it took several trips to Istria and some other parts of Croatia to get the idea of providing rural tourism in Nadin. In the mid-1990s, at the height of the Homeland War, nobody thought of building a future in rural tourism, but the Odžaković family had an interesting and exciting vision.
All this came true very quickly after the war, and the family also built the first swimming pool in Polača Municipality, when the peak of the tourist offer was the classic "cimerfraj" directly in the hinterland of the Biograd riviera. The traditional offer proved to be a sustainable tourist offer, which many later followed in their own households. While you wait for the baking to finish, you can look at the entire small museum where the married couple collected all the dowries of the Nadin region, from folk costumes to household items from the time of our great-grandfathers.
While talking with the hosts, we taste a wide range of local brandies. In Odžaković house, you can taste brandies from the "Grudina" line, namely bitter almond brandy, homemade lemon liqueur, olive liqueur, homemade herb liqueur, homemade marascha cherry liqueur, and homemade fig brandy. We do not known which is better, and our team was brave enough to try all these noble flavours of northern Dalmatia.
All this was just an introduction to the biggest culinary hit in Dalmatia: peka. This almost mythical method of food preparation is firmly connected to the Dalmatian climate, and it is often said that no two pekas are the same. The fiery temperature opens numerous aromas and flavours under the solid surface. That special "inferno" is created by the wood, but the magic of the dish takes place under the baking lid. A rooster was prepared for us, along with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, peppers and just a little spice. Peka is prepared with fire and ash, which fascinates all visitors, especially those who encounter this type of cooking for the first time.
This is particularly true for the many guests from cruisers, and this year Odžaković family will be visited by lucky travelers from as many as 65 cruisers that will stop along the coast of northern Dalmatia. While some will choose the usual attractions of mass tourism, selected guests will still come to Nadin and, like us, will enjoy a wonderful blend of red wine varieties. Merlot, Cabernet, Plavina and Syrah combine to form an excellent offshoot of the Nadin-Polača vineyard, which is increasingly attracting the interest of oenologists, and includes as many as 360 hectares of vineyards.
The local municipalities have done a good job of granting concessions for vineyards, and the Odžaković family has about 2.5 hectares planted with vines, on a terroir that is becoming more and more recognisable among wine lovers. When you add to that the mini-dairy and the cheese made in it, potatoes planted in the garden, handmade pasta, homemade bread and polenta with cabbage, homemade prosciutto, then it's no wonder that at Odžaković you can enjoy primal tastes that romantically remind on times of our grandparents, in accordance with nature and tradition, which is increasingly slipping out of our hands. On special occasions, local prisnac, a traditional cake for larger celebrations, is also made here.
In addition to black cuvee, here you can also enjoy a white wine blend called Vili Blanc, and the wine pride of Ravni kotari, Maraština. If you are still sober from these local liquid champions, you can refresh yourself in the outdoor pool, surrounded by olive trees, which may not be a big surprise today, but with a sense for rural tourism, Mime built the first such pool in the entire municipality. Just be careful not to get hit straight in the forehead, because in the vicinity of the farm house there is also an opportunity for paintball, as well as various walks that delight the city crowd in rich corporations.
The rooster also pampers us with its indescribable flavours, mild texture and preserved natural tastes, together with the rich vegetables that grow behind the house itself. Rooster is a well-known symbol of many countries and cities around the world, and it could quite harmoniously be the symbol of Ravni Kotar. For many, the rooster is a sign of the end of the terrible night darkness and the bright dawn, but many legends speak of the rooster as the main character of many legends. In the Bible, the rooster crows three times to announce Peter's betrayal of Jesus. In Đurđevac, the citizens still proudly call themselves picoks, because the terrible rooster was thrown over the walls to the Turks who were besieging the city, so the invaders thought that the people of Đurđevac had so much food that they could throw it over the wall.
The cunning citizens of this Podravina town knew that perhaps only the last rooster they found in Đurđevac could save them. In Portugal, legend has it that an innocent man was accused of theft and sentenced to death, but a rooster appeared and proved his innocence. Since then, the rooster has become a symbol of justice and loyalty. Interestingly, the rooster is a favourite part of the recipes in these same countries.
Peka gives a wonderful taste because the meat is baked in its own juices, surrounded by vegetables. We enjoyed it like no other, and a visit to this rural household must be on the itinerary of every gastronomic visit to Ravni kotari. At the homestay, you can also stay overnight in comfortable apartments, which is an opportunity to experience beautiful and peaceful mornings and enjoy the sunsets.
Nadin 90, 23420 Benkovac
+385 91 766 05 86, +385 91 535 17 41
Photos by Taste of Adriatic & Agroturizam Odžaković