In the past, people were limited to use seasonal products from their local area which resulted in traditional recipes being simple and made with lots of imagination and creativity in order to not get bored eating the same thing over and over again.
When someone mentions this dish, my mind automatically flies to the journey of fisherman Paško and Nikola in the novel “Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje” written by Petar Hektorović.
In this travel novel dating back to 1566, the above mentioned author sails the islands of Hvar, Brač and Solta, filling the long hours on the boat with stories, fishing and preparation of simple fish meals. At that time potatoes didn’t exist in Europe and “gregada” consisted solely of fish, onion and oil.
To quote a big gastronomic expert and author Veljko Barbieri:
“Quick-witted and skillful fishermen already started to prepare grilled-roasted fish for our lord Petar, the famous Hvar’s “gregada” that, with the addition of boiled potatoes survived all the way to our days. The feast ended with cheese, bread and Paprenjak cookies, medieval honey-based candy that are still considered a symbol of Hvar’s cuisine, but also a symbol of a journey that will never again happen in our gastronomical history.” (note: free translation)
Petar Hektorovic came from the city of Stari Grad and it makes me believe that it was in that place that “gregada” was first born. Stari Grad is the oldest Croatian city dating back to 4th century B.C.. Petar Hektorovic built his own house as impressive Tvrdalj (castle) with a beautiful pond and a pigeon in 16th century. Today it is a museum. Most of the preserved houses are from 16th century as well.
For all fish lovers it is definitely a mouthwatering dish. And as it is the case with every traditional meal, flavors are balanced to the perfection.
Now I’ll show you how to make perfect Gregada in less then an hour.
To obtain the beautiful delicate flavor I mentioned, it is the best to use the fish “od kamena”. Fish “od kamena” is every white fish that lives in the parts of the sea where the bottom is covered with stones and it is considered to be the fish of the highest quality.
I suggest you combine 4-5 types of white fish, add a shrimp or two and forget about the boring “gregada”. Use fish that is dense in texture what makes it ideal for cooking “gregada”, fish like dentex, sea bass, gilthead, sea-bream or grouper (of course, you can use smaller fish as well). There’s only one rule though: do not mix the fish, only shake the pot a bit while preparing.
All in all, it is a tasty and healthy meal, like most of traditional Dalmatian dishes are, because the base is always cold-pressed olive oil, onion, lemon, garlic, parsley and of course, fish. Once you add potatoes to it, it becomes an excellent meal to serve in social gatherings.
You can serve it with fresh corn bread to mop up the leftover sauce and green crystal salad.
To make the whole experience even richer and get that sense of old Hvar’s dinners, prepare some Paprenjaci cookies to end the feast in a sweeter tone.
Please have a look: http://platesnplanes.com/honeypapper-biscuits-from-island-hvar-hvarski-paprenjaci/
- 1 1/2 kg to 2kg of white fish, best to combine few different types of fish to get a richer flavour (sea bass, red scorpionfish, monkfish, merling,…)
- few prawns
- few crabs
- 5-6 medium large potatoes, cut into slices of 1/2cm thickness (we don’t want the taste of potatoes to prevail over the taste of the fish)
- 5-6 big onions, sliced in rings
- 6 garlic cloves, cut into thin circles
- 100mL of olive oil
- 200mL of white wine
- 1 bunch of parsley, chopped up thinly
- 2 laurel leaves
- Clean the fish and cut into bigger pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and shortly roast the garlic and onions until reaching a yellowish tone.
- Arrange potato slices at the bottom of the pan, pour the water over them and cook for 5 minutes.
- Place pieces of the fish over the potatoes, add prawns and crabs, pour the wine and water over it so the fish gets covered.
- Add parsley, laurel and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Leave it all to boil, then decrease the temperature and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, covered. Check every now and then to make sure fish doesn’t get overcooked.
- When the stew is done, leave it covered for 10 minutes more and then serve it warm.