Dika Marjanović Radica is a household name in Dalmatia. If you’re not sure about a dish, go check with Dika – the 450-page volume is bound to have some information on what you’re looking for. I cherish my copy: it is a 1977 hardcover edition which my grandma gave me about ten years ago. At the time, I was more curious about foreign cuisines and beautifully photographed cookbooks were a must. I still love a stunning food photo, but Dika has found her way to my heart too. Having so many cookbooks on my shelves, I knew I had to set myself some sort of task in order to make Dika a more frequent guide&companion of mine. So, I think I’ll try and make a series of Cooking-with-Dika posts – typical Dalmatian food is always welcome on our lunch table and I hope you’ll find some inspiration too (I don’t think there is a translation into English – someone correct me if I’m wrong, please).
But before I go on to the recipe itself, one more thing. As I started typing this post, I realized that, even though we call Dika by her first name in our home, I actually had no clue who the lady actually was so I talked to Google about this issue and now I’m fine.
Dika Marjanović Radica was born in Split, in the Veli Varoš neighborhood and was a teacher of home economics in Split, Sinj and many other towns and villages along the coast and on the islands. While teaching, she also dilligently collected traditional recipes in order to save them for the generations to come. The result of this life-long work was the publication of two cookbooks: Dalmatinska kuhinja (Dalmatian Cuisine, 1939) and Praktična kuharica (A Practical Cookbook, 1944). The first one would eventually become the Dalmatian cooking Bible and it is the one I’ll be cooking from. It is interesting to note that each of the recipes mentioned in that ambitious voule was tries and tested by Dika herself – which was no small feat.
I won’t be trying anything nearly as ambitious as the Julie and Julia project, but I will be trying out some of her recipes from time to time so if you’d like to follow along and make sure you don’t miss any of these, you can sign up for the weekly newsletter (no spam, only yummy stuff, don’t worry) – just scroll to the bottom of the post.
And now on to the recipe which was our lunch on a lazy summer day (at least partly lazy because well… toddler). If you buy scaled and gutted sardines at the fish market, you can have lunch on the table in approximately 45 minutes from start to finish (hands-on time about 10 minutes). Alas, this was not the case with my sardines so I had a bit more work to do, but it was totally worth it. I would suggest a simple potato salad (boiled potatoes, fresh onion, a bit of garlic, fresh parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil) to go with this, and of course, let’s not forget bread – you’re supposed to mop up that delicious olive oil left behind with something, aren’t you? Aaaah – and a glass of red too, we mustn’t forget that either. The only change I made to the recipe was the amount of garlic – I quadrupled it. If you’re not such a big fan of the white stuff, feel free to reduce the quantity.
Recipe by Dika Marjanović Radica (Dalmatinska kuhinja, 1977)
Serves two (as a main dish)
- 500 g sardines
- olive oil, approximately 100 ml
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 4 cloves garlic
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Scale and gut the sardines and remove the heads. Arrange them one next to the other in a baking dish and set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle, make a marinade for the fish by combining olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley and garlic.
Pour the marinade over the fish, season generously and bake at 180°C for approximately 45 minutes.
This dish can be served either warm or cold (it keeps well in the fridge for several days).