Under The Bell (Ispod Čripnje Or Ispod Peke)

Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Under The Bell (Ispod Čripnje Or Ispod Peke)

Croatian cooking is at its very best with what is known as Under the lid. Depending on which part of Croatia you live in, it is a literal translation of what we here in Croatia call ispod čripnje or ispod peke.

Ispod čripnje is essentially food cooked under extreme heat, using a terracotta lid and burning wood embers. Ispod peke is our favorite way of cooking, which along with this grilled fish, requires very few ingredients and an open fire. It is such an important cooking method here in Croatia; we highly recommend trying your hand at it when visiting by taking this food & wine tour + cooking class near Zadar.

How To Make A Peka

What Can You Cook Under Your Bell?

Just like with lots of things with Croatian cooking, you eat what is in season. This means any number of mouthwatering meals can be prepared using this method. Favourites of ours here in the Adriatic are:

No matter what you choose, I have not yet seen any ispod čripnje/peke cooked without a huge serving of potatoes which are also cooked alongside the meat of choice.

Tips From Our Kitchen To Yours

  • Let me warn you upfront that this type of Croatian cooking, whilst simple to prepare is tricky to master. Why? Because it’s all in the timing. Once you have placed your embers on top of your terracotta dome, it’s unlike an oven or pot, where you can peek inside. You’re blind, you can no longer see what you are cooking or if it’s ready.
  • Keep some wood burning on the side in case you need additional embers during the cooking process.
  • To be able to make this dish, you need an outdoor cooking area. In Croatia, most village houses  have an outdoor kitchen known as a crna kuhinja {black kitchen}. But never fear in Australia we set up a make-shift one in the backyard, so you can too.

YouTube video

This video shows you just how fantastic cooking under the lid is, it was prepared by Mislav Šutalo.

How Long Does It Take

I have asked all of those in the know & they all tell me, that the timings simply can’t be explained. Seems to me that it’s more a case of intuition rather than that of a stopwatch. So I say to you, give it a go and just know that practice will make perfect.

If you’re like me and you need to know a rough guide, I timed the last few that were prepped and they took around 45-60 minutes.

How To Make A Peka

Under The Bell Recipe (Ispod čripnje/Peke)

Master Croatian cooking, with the dish known as ispod čripnje or ispod peke. This traditional style of cooking is explained in as easy to understand way.


  • 2 kg Potatoes (4.4 lbs)
  • Vegeta
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Crushed garlic
  • Vegetables - onions, carrots, peppers/paprikas
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf


  • Seafood:  Squid, cuttlefish or octopus.
  • Meat: Veal, chicken, pork or lamb
  • Vegetables - including a vegetarian option
  • Plus: Bread



  1. Start your fire approximately one hour before you wish to start cooking. There are two important things to do here. In a large bowl, mix 2 kg of peeled potatoes, which have been cut into quarters lengthways. Season with Vegeta & good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  2. Ensure you hang the čripnje lid/bell over the fire so it will heat up
  3. Make the fire in the same spot you will place the tray of meat and potatoes. The concrete below needs to be heated up as well
  4. Layer the potatoes, in a wide, yet shallow metal pan
  5. Season your meat with Vegeta, and coat with more EVOO and crushed garlic
  6. Place the meat on top of the potatoes
  7. You can also arrange around the meat, seasonal vegetables, such as onions, carrots, peppers/paprikas cut into quarters
  8. Throw in a few sprigs of rosemary and a bay leaf

Fire it up

  1. Place your metal pan in the cooking area, and cover with the lid/bell
  2. Cover the lid/bell with your wood embers, this will create a seal
  3. Leave it to cook. It's usually at this point a glass of domace rakija {home made brandy} is enjoyed

Have you ever tried this? How did it turn out? Any tips we’re missing to make it even better? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If You Want To Come To Croatia And Try This For Yourself, Here Are A List Of Things To Do?

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Comments (44)

  1. I don’t know the word črpinja, but I’m guessing that with ispod it would be črpinja, not črpinje, as it is ispod peka, not ispod peke. Whatever the grammatical case ending, this is the most fantastic way of preparing delicious meals. Lamb and octopus are my faves. I always prepare the food while someone else prepares the fire and peka.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Morgan. We agree it’s the BEST WAY. We’ve been looking for octopus since we arrived, it’s so hard to find. We have managed to find it once. Are you in the USA or Australia?

      Also, yes the last letter changing peka to peke is a grammatical thing. It’s one of the 7 Croatian cases, genitive. When you use the word ispod, you must change the last letter of the next word. Peka becomes peke and čripnja becomes čripnje – it’s all so very confusing I know. But thanks to my wonderful Croatian language teacher I am learning fast. Thanks again for reading along, and commenting.

      If you have any photos of your Peka, you can load them here, I’d love to see how you do it.

  2. Fantastic post! What a wonderful way of cooking – Thanks for giving me my ‘something new I learned today’ moment :-)

    1. Of course, you could just do an entire tray of veggies. Why not? I’d just say you’d need a little extra EVOO to make sure they do not dry out. Try it and let us know how it goes… with photos!

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