Croatia: Tick-Tock, Soparnik
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not Christmas; it’s the week of the Eurovision Song Contest. I went over it a bit in my post on Lisbon. My husband and I went to the 2018 contest as part of our honeymoon. When we can’t afford to go – whether because of money or because of global pandemics – we host a Eurovision party for our friends. I always try to have something from a few countries on offer. This year I thought it would be great to have something from the countries of each of my top 3 songs. So first up: Croatian soparnik!
Soparnik is an easy and snackable free-form pie, of sorts. Swiss chard is plentiful in Croatia and it’s the green that is most commonly used. I’ve seen variations made with kale, and I myself chose spinach, so any dark leafy green will work. A simple dough is made and rested, then rolled out in two pieces. The greens are mixed with onions, garlic, and parsley, spread on one sheet of dough, and topped with the second. The pie is baked in a flat sheet on a tray and then cut into diamonds and shared with company. It couldn’t be easier!
Though fresh parsley is preferable, mine hasn’t finished the sprout stage in my garden and so I used dried. This is perfectly fine and imparts all of the flavor, with just a little bit of texture lost from the fresh. Feel free to experiment and add other seasonings as well. This dish is a blank canvas! Just be careful claiming anything as “authentic” soparnik; there are festivals and societies dedicated to the savory treat, and it’s considered an intangible cultural heritage item. Soparnik is a big deal!
The History of Soparnik
As with all good things, people believe that soparnik was considered a poor man’s food. It’s even believed to be related to the ultimate poor man’s food – pizza. Croatia is located near the Italian border which would lend credence to the idea that the two are related. However, it’s on the other side of the peninsula from Naples, pizza’s birthplace. Since Italy wasn’t unified when pizza was believed to have been created, it’s unlikely the flat disc of doughy goodness traveled all the way to Croatia. But that doesn’t make soparnik any less delicious!
Soparnik is native to Dalmatia and its simplicity lends itself to religious festivals. Cooks served it as a fasting food for religious holidays, and it was also simple to prepare to feed large swathes of people for festivals. As a vegetarian dish, soparnik was perfect for Lent as well as anyone who abstained from meat for any reason. That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to it. Balkan food can feel heavy on meat and sausages sometimes, but soparnik is naturally vegetarian and ready to be enjoyed by all!
Croatia at Eurovision
Croatia has joined the Eurovision Song Contest since they debuted in 1993, shortly after declaring independence from Yugoslavia. The Croatian public selected this year’s entry via a public contest. “Tick Tock” by solo female singer Albina is an infectious and upbeat track that showcases the party atmosphere of Balkan pop while remaining slick and universal in its production. As of this writing, Croatia is my second place and I’ll be cheering her on in the first semi-final on Tuesday, May 18th at 3PM EST.
Viewers in the USA can watch Eurovision this year via the free Peacock app from NBC! Simply download and tune in. If you become a Eurovision convert from this blog, trust me when I say that my life’s mission will be complete. Tell me your favorites! I’ll see you back here on Thursday for another Eurovision edition of #GentGoesGlobal!
For the dough
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2/3 cup water
For the filling
- 12 oz frozen spinach* (thawed)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 bunch spring onions (white and green parts, sliced)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley (or more fresh, if available)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- olive oil, red pepper flakes, Parmesan or feta cheese (for serving; optional)
For the dough
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, olive oil, salt, and pepper. A little at a time, add the water and mix until a moist but not sticky dough forms. Depending on the moisture content of your flour this could be from 1/2 cup to a full cup; about 2/3 cup worked perfectly for me.
- Knead the dough a few minutes until smooth and elastic, then leave covered in the bowl to rest for an hour.
For the soparnik
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. In another large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients. When the dough has rested, divide it in two and roll one sheet out into a large, thin circle. Get it as thin as possible without breaking it. Spread the filling evenly over the circle, leaving a small gap before the edge.
- Roll the other piece of dough into a large, thin circle. Cover the filling and bottom layer with it. Roll the ends of the top and bottom layers of dough to seal.
- OPTIONAL: This is how it is traditionally made but don't do this if you're in danger of having the whole thing fall apart. Traditionally, two boards are used to make soparnik. The pie is formed on one board, and then the other is used to safely flip it upside down so that the sealed side of the dough is facing down. Again, if flipping your pie will tear it apart, it's fine to skip this.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, until you can hear the filling bubbling and the top is lightly golden. Cut into diamonds and enjoy!