So many of us are dreaming of travel. Learning about the rich culture, trying different cuisines and exploring the world again.
Though I love the tourist spots, the past year has made me realise what I miss most is going to visit the traditional authentic places to get a real feel of what a place is like.
Have you ever visited Montenegro?
A few years back we stopped at Kotor on a Mediterranean cruise and I still remember the orange trees, mountains, blue waters (and how I wanted to stay longer).
Mountain Bounty has put together a great site on the local culture and cuisines over in mountain regions of Montenegro. The route connects to north of Montenegro and takes you to three national parks, Biogradska Gora, Prokletife and Durmitor.
Waking up to mountain freshness, having hearty rich meals, sipping on fresh brewed tea and just enjoying the zen environment sounds bliss at the moment. The village life puts you in the middle of tradition, nature and adventure.
Montenegrins love to integrate the role of strong women in the rural areas of the country. The skills women have is evident when taking the tour.
Family lands and small huts up on the mountains in Northern Montenegro are known as Montenegrin katun. Working katuns are on the decline which is sad because it seems like such a tight community.
The traditional life in the katuns starts with early mornings milking cattle followed by a hearty breakfast then a long hard day at work. Tasks for women include making cheese, tending to the garden and preparing food. The men cut the grass, construct new huts, maintain the area. You can read moreon katun lifestyle by clicking here.
Enjoying the organic sustainable lifestyle includes renting unique homes and engage in the traditional lifestyle of a Montenegrin family.
In the mountains, their diet consists of strong high-calorie foods which are vital for the physical lifestyle. I cannot wait to try some of the recipes at home to get a flavour of some of the dishes before I can them the authentic way.
The poverty in the mountains also means that they cook with a lot of wild foods, picked from forests. Everything is organic and fresh and the dishes are creatively based on what they can source locally. It is the farm to fork experience. The food is also never monotomous.
They do not use any pesticides because in the. mountains there are no industries or polluters. Just pure clean soil, water and air.
A famous British archaeologist Gardner Wilkinson quoted “the poverty of Montenegro is certainly a great bar to their civilisation; but notwithstanding all that, they are neither mercenary nor selfish; and while I was travelling in the interior of the country, poor people often ran out from their cottages to give me fruit, or whatever they had”. This just shows their humble culture.
Their diet is not all meat-based. They have Lecenile (like spinach) that is grown in kitchen gardens or plots. Nettle and corn are some of their staple foods.
Cornmeal and cereals are is widely available and in recent times buckwheat flour is being used more and more. Pancakes are the most common thing made from it.
Some popular dishes/drinks include
- Cornbread (Kolobotnjica): This is the most important type of bread in the mountains because corn can be grown on higher ground.
- Pies: The famous Koturaca pie is made with wild garlic, nettles and cheese.
- Soups: A hearty meat soup is full of minerals and a real elixir after physical work or illness. Paired with rice this makes a great meal
- Vegetarian dishes: Food needs to be high in calories in the mountains however it is not all made of meat. Mushroom goulash is an example. Mushrooms are an important source of income for them
- Summer drinks: Yardum. This is made with sheep’s milk and whey. It is supposed to be refreshing and nourishing
- Pickled vegetables: Montenegrins are not salad fans. It would normally be a side. What they do have is torshi (pickled vegetables)
- Baked sweets: Cakes were a luxury however they have their own version of sweet treats. The traditions have carried on and many remember them especially because their house rarely smelt of sweet stuff. Sutlijas (rice pudding) is a great delicacy and sometimes substituted for dinner.
- Jams & Spreads: Housewives work quickly in September and October to preserve all the ripended fruit. They pride themselves in their range in their basement over winter. The farmers grow a lot of raspberries.
- Juices and compotes: From rose syrup to black pinecone, all juices are homemade. They made the most of what they had and use what is in season.
- Homemade teas: Cooked on boiling stoves, having tea made with fresh plates using, recipes passed from generations to generations is a part of their culture.
Reading about their cuisine has made me realise, in the UK, we have tried to adapt a lot of what they eat. Buckwheat, pickled vegetables, nettle have all been part of the Montenegro culture for so long and we have just started discovering more dishes with them in the past few years. We want that slow and organic food.
I hope to go on a local gastronomy tour of the Montenegro Mountains to experience the traditional cooking and their rich diverse culture.
A video to showcase villages and katuns in the mountains of Northern Montenegro and their cuisine can be viewed by clicking here.
More about the project and the Gastro Route can be found here.
Disclaimer [AD]: I was invited to Burleighs Gin to experience the Gin School. All photos and opinions are my own.