Greblica – From Miner's Lunch to Cultural Heritage

The culinary tradition of Croatia is rich and diverse, as it can be seen from very interesting dishes found on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Croatia. Yet, when you take a closer look, you notice that Zagreb and its surroundings are represented with one item only.

It's a savoury pie called Rudarska greblica, coming from a village near the town of Samobor. In 2017, it finally received the protected geographical indication, a big step up in the promotion and of this dish. Its protection on the EU level should be the next logical move. The story of greblica is fascinating; it is unique and delicious, but unfortunately still very hard to find in Zagreb. The time has come for greblica to claim its well-deserved status as our original street food.

Slika 1. “Once just a modest lunch of local miners, now a great snack with coffee.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia

It all began in a small village called Rude, built around one of the oldest European copper and iron mines. Meat was scarce, and miners needed something filling yet small and practical for lunch – something that can literally fit their pockets. The answer was greblica. Women, who worked in the fields during the day, would prepare this modest savoury pie on a regular basis. It's basically two thin layers of dough with fresh cottage cheese filling in between. The filling is usually enriched with whatever you can find around – chopped walnuts, green onions, leeks, spinach, or some other available seasonal greens. It was baked in wood fired bread oven, and the name comes from the old ash rake tool used in the process, because its shape resembles a slice of greblica. The recipe survived because it was passed on from generation to generation. Nowadays the whole process is standardized and protected, and to make the original Rudarska greblica, you need to hold a certificate.

Slika 2. “Presentation of rudarska greblica at Zagreb’s Dolac Market.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia

Currently, the only certified commercial producer, and the biggest advocate of greblica, is the family-owned Nikl bakery from Rude. The owner Andrejas Nikl, who took over from his dad, often does greblica workshops and the whole family is fully dedicated to the promotion and protection of their local specialty. By the way, grandpa Nikl used to work in the mine, and grandma baked, so greblica really runs in the family. Andrejas is also the current president of the Rudarska greblica association. Being well organized obviously brings results and paves the way for the future. Of course, that doesn't mean that nobody else in Rude bakes greblica anymore. You can try homemade versions from locals at the traditional annual event called Dani Rudarske greblice, or Rudarska greblica Days, taking place since 1985. Usually it happens in summer, but this year it was postponed to early October, and in much smaller scale. It is a really fun day, when the inhabitants of Rude proudly show off their tradition to visitors from Samobor, Zagreb and surroundings.

Slika 3. “It looks simple, but it takes a lot of skills and experience to master the art of preparing greblica.” Image credit: Nikl bakery FB

So now comes the crucial question – where to find greblica? Obviously, there's the Nikl bakery in Rude, but it's not the most convenient location for someone based in Zagreb. In central Samobor they also have a kiosk with their freshly baked goods, including greblica. Occasionally, when you're lucky, their fresh greblica can be found in Špeceraj deli shop, on two locations in downtown Zagreb. If that fails, you can always buy a frozen ready-to-make greblica in Grga Čvarak shop in Vrbani neighbourhood. And then, there's a small pastry shop and café in Središće, Novi Zagreb, conveniently called Greblica. They are not certified, so their product can't hold the name of Rudarska greblica. Nevertheless, it's pretty good, and the closest thing when the original is not around. I certainly hope that a growing popularity and wider availability of this amazing little pie is just around the corner.

Slika 4. “Andrejas Nikl, the guru of greblica, sharing his knowledge at a workshop.” Image credit: Udruga Rudarska greblica FB

Header image credit:Taste of Croatia

Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia