Over the past few years, our house renovations have been concentrated on the building itself, first making it habitable, then improving our comfort – mainly on the inside! The outdoor area was left pretty much to itself, beyond clearing away all the debris which actually included a rusty old barbeque.
What a difference! This year we have a wonderful stone-paved courtyard, with a very handsome outdoor cooking space – the Dalmatian komin. The literal translation is hearth, and this is the outside version of the old indoor cooking fire. Ours reminds me somewhat of a small chapel, which I suppose is appropriate as it’s dedicated to the enjoyment of good food!
Our komin has been designed and built for us by an excellent stonemason – Cvjetko Buratović. He’s the latest in a line of skilled craftsmen that have impressed us greatly during our renovation project. It’s wonderful to see that traditional workmanship is alive and kicking here, and the expert blending of the new with the old.
We also now have an outdoor dining area, complete with pretty fairy lights. We used it for the first time last September, when we hosted the Hvar Artist Retreat, and by next summer will be even better, as the paving has been finished also.
Even in winter, the komin does a great job of cooking the food. We feel very much like newbies setting the wood fire, waiting for it to be glowing hot enough. We’ve been spoilt over the years with a gas-fired BBQ! For this new komin we had to shop for a whole new set of ironmongery, with scrapers and shovels for the embers. And there’s a tricky technique using bricks to keep in the heat and support the grill. Such a lot to learn!
Here’s our first solo effort – a couple of fresh fish bought from the fisherman in Jelsa in the morning, and a tray full of chopped veggies. The fish have been slashed, packed with chopped garlic and rosemary, and drizzled with olive oil. Using the tray for veggies is pretty much what we’d do on the BBQ and I think may be a new technique to some of our Dalmatian friends. Comes out really well, though we’ll have to re-think our timing, as there’s no lid on the komin!
Perfectly cooked fish, and slightly al dente vegetables, served with a green salad and a glass of wine. Very tasty!
Our next step is to get ourselves a peka, and master the technique of cooking food slowly by adjusting the hot embers on the rings. Locals will cook meat and potatoes under the peka for several hours, which comes out smelling wonderful, even to a vegetarian! I hear it also tastes really good, too!
Those of you with a house on Hvar and on the lookout for someone with creative ideas for your outdoor area – let us know and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with Cvjetko. We’re thrilled with ours!