The gastronomy of Lika gathers anyone eager to experience a breath of Lika’s history after having enjoyed its natural wonders. The preserved nature and special climate of Lika represent an advantage that has an effect on the nutritional value and quality of the ingredients used in the preparation of meals. The diet of the people of Lika in the past depended mostly on food that they had to grow themselves or that they could obtain in their surroundings. This is precisely what our chefs at Lička kuća have been guided by, and in accordance they have designed top menus. That is why Lička kuća is a must-see place for gourmets today. All dishes are innovatively prepared with a step towards the top of modern gastronomy.
Who can resist a fragrant soup? It warms you in winter and soothes you in summer. Soup is always a good choice, and Lika soup is an aromatic dish that you may not have tried before. Lamb and vegetable soup, traditional in these parts, is rich and tasty. This soup can also be the whole meal, since it is served with bits of meat and vegetables, just as people from Lika did in the past. Life in these parts meant hard work, which is why people needed food which would give them the strength to withstand such labor. Food has always been simple here, and flavors have always been full, brought out by the local food preparation practices.
Perfect for an appetizer or a snack as an introduction to your gastronomic fairy tale. The Lika Plate contains the flavors of Lika – homemade smoked bacon, dry smoked sausage, cracklings, smoked loin, škripavac cheese, smoked cheese with paprika, Basa cheese and pickled vegetables. It really is as simple as it says – thin slices of dried meat and cheese is everything you need as an introduction to an irresistible gastronomic story. Meat dried using smoke and cold, fresh air in Lika has a special flavor. Winters here are colder and longer, the air is clearer here and there is no one who is unhappy when they see this plate on the table!
The trout is a fish of extraordinary appearance and flavor. This fish prefers only clean and cold water, which is written in its core. The rivers in Lika are fast and clean, which is why they are rich in this fish. In the Plitvice Lakes National Park itself, you may see them in one of their natural habitats, but do not worry, as fishing and similar activities are strictly prohibited in the Park. The trout is prepared in various ways in Lika. It may be lightly salted and grilled in order to fully preserve its flavor, or prepared as Trout a la Meunière, coated with cornmeal before baking. Trout a la Meunière is called pastrva na mlinarski (“miller-style trout”) in Lika, since in the past, the fishes fed on flour that would fall into the water from the mills. Its delicious white meat, which can satisfy even the biggest hungers, is all you need.
Flavors of Lika cheese
Cheese is popular everywhere. Whether as an appetizer, main course or dessert, it will find its place on the table. The Lika škripavac cheese is a soft, fatty cheese, with a milky, sweet and moderately salty flavor. Its production method is passed down from generation to generation, and its squeakiness, for which it was named (“škripavac” translates roughly to “squeaky cheese”), occurs due to the high content of fat and protein in milk, which is a consequence of the specific diet of the cows in this area. The Lika škripavac cheese especially delights every palate, and its taste is incredible precisely because it is made immediately after milking. Clean air and excellent grazing are the basis of quality cheese, of which there are various type in this region, and which are presented here. So simple, and yet so satisfying. The flavors rise and complement each other – cheese on which you drop a few drops of golden honey will transport you to the corners of Lika, where honeybees carry their honey to their hives, and contented cows graze freely beside them.
How can you visit the Plitvice Lakes and pass through Lika without trying the lamb at the Lička kuća restaurant? Fresh lamb meat from Lika comes from an indigenous sheep breed raised in Lika, Croatia.
They are fed with sheep milk, cereal crops and meadow hay, and during the summer, they go out to open pastures. The taste of their meat leave no one indifferent. After your tour of the Park, we highly recommend lunch in our traditional restaurant, the Lička kuća. If you love lamb, in the Lička kuća you may try lamb specialties such as lamb envelopes, where lamb, potatoes, vegetables, herbs and Lika plum brandy (šljivovica) are prepared together and baked in baking paper. Lamb and barley orzotto is a gastronomic experience which you will remember and which will not disappoint even the most demanding gourmets. Since time immemorial, barley has been a grain that gives you strength and warms you, and it is very healthy. It is an ingredient which has always endured the strong cold in Lika. However, this ancient, beneficial grain has been forgotten by many, which is why, with every right, barley is the crown of many dishes on the Lička kuća menu. If you wish to taste a combination of the modern and the traditional, try the lamb patty or lamb cutlet with herb crust.
“In the past, we mainly prepared our famous lamb on a spit, but now our guests enjoy the new menus, they want to try the same lamb in different ways, with more sauce and various spices, which delights them,” says Dario Špehar, also a two-time winner of the Croatian cooking cup.
Once a dish for the poor, today it is a true gastronomic treat! The kalja is an old peasant dish that was very often prepared in Lika. The dish was mostly prepared during the cold winter months, and any available vegetables were added to the lamb meat. Today, the Lika kalja is usually prepared with veal or lamb and cabbage, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Everything is stewed together until the meat softens, and the combination of rich flavors is truly incredible. Therefore, if you wish to try the old delicacies of our ancestors, or simply warm up after a winter walk, order the Lika kalja!
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Lika potato halves
A dish without which there is no winter in Lika! Whether you are a potato lover or not, the Lika potato halves will win you over at first glance. Potato halves in the skin, baked with salt and bacon. It may sound simple, but it is so delicious! Anyone passing through Lika will have the opportunity to hear about potato halves as a traditional dish indispensable to all generations. It does not sound remarkable, but when you try them, you will be excited like a small child, because something so simple and so little is needed for happiness. They are an ideal snack if you are not so hungry, for hanging out with friends, or simply as an essential appetizer in your gastronomic adventure.
Surely you remember the smell of warm and fresh homemade bread, without which meals have been unimaginable for millennia. Who can resist the aroma and one of the most beautiful and best fragrances? It is precisely the fragrance you will experience in our Lička kuća, accompanied by the smell of the hearth and the crackling of fire. It is a pleasure to remember. At the Lička kuća, our top bakers knead dough and bake homemade bread every day, and we are sure that you will not be disappointed with their skill. Along with all the flavors in our dishes, it adds a special aroma.
Basa is a simple cheese and it represents the region where it is made. For centuries, in the hilly and mountainous regions in Lika, cows were the only type of cattle that was tough enough to survive in this area. The cheese has a delicate, soft texture, and represents a complex relationship between nature and people. Basa is a unique cheese made from cow milk, and its structure resembles a combination of cheese and milk spread. It is also an excellent addition to fried sausages and dried meat products. At our restaurant, the Lička kuća, it is also served with the aforementioned Lika potato halves. True gourmets and cheese lovers will know how to appreciate Basa cheese, precisely because it is prepared by our excellent chefs.
Lika may not be synonymous with cakes, since simple desserts were prepared in those regions. One of such desserts is definitely the strudel. If you try our plum strudel, you cannot go wrong. You will please your taste buds with the sweet-bitter taste of local plums from Lika, in puff pastry, made according to recipes passed down from generation to generation. Our workers used their hardworking hands to turn the plums into a divine jam. It is used for the preparation of various desserts, while the strudel stuffed with plum jam with chunks gives you a special feeling which only grandmas could give.
Sweet always comes last. You will be delighted right away by a wonderful combination of traditional and modern cuisine. We believe you have already tried several versions of the popular cheesecake, but this particular cake will give you magical pleasure. In addition to the main ingredient, Basa cheese, the cake also contains homemade plum jam. Homemade products always have a certain added value, and we have certainly tried our best to present our homemade products in a new, more modern story.
The combination of pristine Lika and excellent gastronomy will take you to the warmth of what was once a house in Lika, while the smells and tastes will take you back to your childhood. Embark on this gastronomic adventure, because the time to enjoy the flavors of the Lika cuisine is always right.
Tomislav Kovačević is General Manager at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and biggest national park in Croatia.
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