Lika lamb (Lička janjetina)
© Licka janjetina i rakija

Croatia's best delicacies: Lika lamb

Croatia's best delicacies are protected in Europe

Written by
Marc Rowlands

Croatia has some of its food products protected at both a national and European level, their status designated by their unique place of origin. Lika lamb (Lička janjetina) is one of them.

Set partially within the Dinaric Alps and stretching far into continental Croatia, Lika is a vast area of stunning natural beauty. Its mountainous terrain, deep river gorges and waterfalls are spectacular to witness but limited in their use for farming and agriculture. Aside from the famous Lika potatoes which grow here, another successful facet of the region's food production is the rearing of sheep.

Lamb is not the most common meat in Croatia but, when you find it, it will probably be the best you'll ever try. Elsewhere, chefs' preparation of lamb, particularly a whole joint for roasting, often involves piercing the meat multiple times and stuffing rosemary, shards of garlic and even anchovies into the cracks. This is completely unnecessary with the best Croatian lamb, such as that from Lika or the island of Pag. Such intense flavouring completely overpowers the delicious taste and inviting natural aroma of Croatian lamb. Instead, you need only season Croatian lamb simply, with salt and olive oil.

Mystic Mountain Festival, camping, Lika, Velebit

© Mystic mountain, Velebit, Lika

Lika lamb comes from a specific breed of Curly sheep, raised only in Lika-Senj and Zadar counties. In the summertime, Lika's lambs are put out to pasture in the foothills of the region's mountains where they graze on a multitude of wild herbs and a wide variety of vegetation. This diet contributes to the distinct taste and aroma of Lika lamb. Because of this active, outdoor life, the meat is quite substantial, coming with a firm, yellowish marbling of fat. Its flavour is quite potent even within the young lamb, strong enough that it edges towards the taste of mutton. This makes Lika lamb perfect for both roasting and stewing, as well as the more familiar spit-roasting method of preparation (main image) which is traditional across Croatia.

Click here to find out what European recognition does for Croatian produce and see all of Croatia's best delicacies which are protected

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