It were those tiny post-WWII tractors that put an end to Istrian boskarin: traditional plowing that was done by the impressive white and long horned animals was replaced by modern technology, more faster and easier way to get things done in the Istrian countryside. It took some 20 years to revive the traditional Istrian cattle that are today farmed exclusively for the gourmet purpose. Mainly thanks to the Istrian local government that launched several programs to protect the boskarin farming under the AZRRI agency for the rural development of Istria supervision. Boskarin took a long and thorny path from being a working animal in the field used for towing the rocks for house building to the hailed gourmet delicacy in Croatia.
Boskarin meat is back into the gourmet cuisine of the region and the traditional cuisine and recipes are taking on a new note. Farming boskarin is subsidized by AZRRI program, the maturation and production of meat is done in controlled environment, several gourmet products such as boskarin gourmet salami are now on the market and there are restaurants labeled as the best places to serve the original boskarin meat according to the highest standards in gastronomy.
It was the night of reinvented tradition with Chef Robert Peric preparing boskarin and game dishes at the Istria Gourmet Festival in Umag. Head of the AZRRI program Graciano Prekalj explained there were 100 boskarin livestock in the 1990s compared to some 2500 livestock today. “Today there are forty restaurants in Istria, ten in Zagreb and one in Dubrovnik who now serve boskarin as the highest gourmet dish. We can say that the traditional Istrian cattle has been saved from extinction and has found its way to the haute cuisine”, he explained.
Boskarin dishes were paired with one of Istria’s best extra virgin olive oils – Duilio Belic and his wife Bosiljka produce extra virgin olive oils under the Oleum Viride brand name. They also hold an impressive 94 points out of 100 at the Flos Olei guidebook, the world’s leading expert on the best extra virgin olive oil produced each year and compiled by Italian expert Marco Oreggia.
Dried boskarin ham was served in syrah syrup with vegetables and extra virgin oil Buza by Oleum Viride. The syrup was interesting while the fruity and aromatic Buza on top was fantastic. A glass by 2010 Pinot gris by Agrolaguna fit the dish gently. “Buza is the queen of Istrian olive oil – the variety produces such gentle, fruity flavored oil with a touch of artichoke and apple”, explained Belic.
AZRRI launched new boskarin products – the gourmet salami – on the market just recently. Their names – bakin, kaparin and moro – are the names traditionally given to the cattle by Istrian farmers. The salami are just fantastic, full flavored yet gentle and some even with truffles. “These products come in small and exclusive series, 3-4 tons a year and they represent a gourmet delicacy. The cattle is farmed exclusively on the pasture, there are no food additives in their nutrition and the meat is matured in controlled environment before it is released to the restaurants”, said Edmondo Suran of the AZRRI agency.
A very refreshing dish came next – tea made of boskarin tail with goat cheese and chicory raviolon. The tea made out of the mashed soup was perfect and light while the cheese from the Kumparicka goat farm gave the dish a strong note and the Selection Belic olive oil added the touch of grandeur. Selection Belic is the combination of the Italian varieties leccino, frantoio and pendolino with the Istrian varieties crnica of Vodnjan, buza and Istarska bjelica and tastes of fresh olives with a touch of vanilla and chicory. A glass of Malvasia Festigia by Agrolaguna elegantly rounded up the fullness of Istrian flavors.
Definitely the highlight dish of the evening was the basil risotto with deer and Rosulja olive oil, a variety Belic says is yet to become a gourmet star. The deer meat was extremely soft with the balanced taste that fit great together with the creamy risotto with Rosulja olive oil. A glass of Merlot Festigia by Agrolaguna was a decent pair with its full body and deep purple color.
Another version of deer meat was served as deer ossobucco with horsebean. Serving game dishes in Istrian cuisine has also been pushed by the local government program. This deer dish was served with the frantoio olive oil, an Italian variety that was perfect with the deer meat while the Cabernet sauvignon Festigia by Agrolaguna added its berry flavors to the combination in a very good manner.
The evening was wrapped up by a combination of sweet goat skuta and fried rucola served with the Italian prime olive variety Ascolana that Duilio Belic is extremely proud of. So proud that the Italians from Tuscany, where Ascolana variety is largely grown, have started buying the oil from him.