An ideal cooking class introduces new culinary techniques and affords insight into the local culture, and it does these things somewhere beautiful. My private cooking class near Dubrovnik, arranged by local company Culinary Croatia, was close to perfect. A driver took us from Dubrovnik to Trsteno, where Katja awaited me at the entrance to the town’s magnificent botanical gardens. Her home was on the far side, and we strolled through the seaview gardens to her outdoor kitchen, complete with a fountainlike stone sink and a grapevine-topped pergola.
Together, we prepared pašticada, a wine vinegar-marinated pork loin (sometimes it’s beef) stuffed with garlic and pancetta, sautéed in olive oil and stewed with tomatoes, carrots, onions and prunes. We also made gnocchi from scratch to accompany it. During the class, we learned that Katja’s family has lived in Trsteno for two centuries. Her father was a better chef than her mother, because as a lightkeeper, he often had to cook for himself. As we chatted and cooked, we sipped Katja’s homemade walnut liqueur, nibbled seawater-cured olives from her olive grove and snacked on sweet, soft cheese from a nearby dairy farm.
The sunny alfresco pašticada lunch, accompanied by a pitcher of bright and refreshing Rukatac (a local white), was pure delight. After a dessert of crêpes with orange marmalade — made with fruit from her own orange trees, of course — we walked back through the fragrant garden to meet our driver and wondered about real estate prices in Trsteno.