Until 1960s Slovenia’s agriculture primarily shaped by a tendency toward selfsufficiency, where farmers worked to supply for their own families, rather to sell the crops on the market. In that time food variety was still pretty much geographically determined, which was a heritage of long history and extremes in geography. “According to ethnological classification, there were traditionally four major types of food culture in Slovenia. ”
Pannonian type in northeast of the country was shaped mostly by usage of wheat and buckwheat, of which many different types of pasta, leavened pies and breads were made. Sour cream, cottage cheese were important flavouring agents and paprika powder and poppy seeds common spices. Significant was use of excellent pumpkin oil, a speciality of the region. Northern or Alpine type Slovenian cuisine was characterized by a harsh climate and except for corn, buckwheat and maybe cabbage the conditions were not suitable for agriculture but animal husbandry flourished due to many grounds suitable for pasture. Food of this area relied heavily on dairy products such as milk, sour milk, curd and cheese often eaten with corn or buckwheat spoon dumplings žganci. For central Slovenian cuisine usage of root vegetables, especially potatoes and turnips was common. “Buckwheat and millet porridge [kaša], boiled in water or milk, was prepared frequently, as were cabbage and turnips. ” In the west of the country poor karstic soil influenced the cookery, which is in many regards similar to that of neighbouring Mediterranean countries. Certain foods such as tomatoes, courgettes, chicory, figs, persimmons, beans, corn and olive oil were much loved. “Among the most frequently consumed foods, usually included in most meals, were polenta, which substitutes for bread; thick vegetable soups called minestrone; vegetable and meat sauces.
A lot has changed, however, since 1960s when growing mobility of the rural population and the rising of living standard brought higher amount of consumer freedom. “At present, Slovenes’ food culture mainly consist of bread and farinaceous products, potatoes, meat and meat products, and dairy products. ” Salad made of various types of lettuce is eaten often, though other vegetables, fruit and pulses are less important. However, the latter particularly “broad beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas and green peas ” played a crucial role in much of the countries cuisine through history. Also “the once widely popular porridge and žganci, which in the past represented the basic Slovene dishes and were prepared from buckwheat, millet and cornmeal, are now seldom consumed. ” Spices were already used in the territory in the Roman times and the affluent families used a wide variety all the way through middle ages into modernity. Most people, however, relied on domestic herbs to season dishes such as yarrow, basil, parsley, caraway, marjoram, chives, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, chervil, poppy seeds, etc.
Buckwheat zganci spoon dumplings and pickled turnips
For the zganci:
- 400g buckwheat flour
- 1 large onion or ¼ cabbage head finely chopped + 1 heaped tsp asafoetida
- ½ dcl sunflower or canola oil
For the turnips:
- 500g pickled turnips without pickling liquid (reserved)
- 1 heaped table spoon of all-purpose flour
- 1 garlic clove chopped or 1 tsp asafoetida
- 1 table spoon tomato puree
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp ground caraway seed
- 2 table spoon vegetable oil (sunflower or canola)
In a medium sized pot bring water to a rolling boil. Exact amount of water is not important as long as you use enough – 2/3 of the pot is ideal. Add a little less salt as you would with cooking pasta. Lower the heat so that the water is not bubbling and sprinkle the buckwheat flour on top. Do not stir and cook covered for 15 minutes on very low heat. After 15 minutes make a hole in the middle of the flour and steam the mixture for another 15 minutes on low heat. Meanwhile make the topping by frying the onion or cabbage in oil with a pinch of salt until golden brown. If using asafoetida add at the end for a few seconds. After half an hour drain the buckwheat flour with the help of the lid but reserve the liquid. Stirring vigorously return just enough cooking liquid back to the steamed flour so that it gets wet. That is best done few table spoons at a time. When there is no dry flour left use two spoons to form the zganci by making small dumplings: scoop a dollop of the mixture with one spoon and separate it in little pieces with another in a serving bowl. Pour hot topping over the zganci. For the accompanying turnips heat vegetable oil in a pan and make a blonde roux with flour. Add garlic or asafoetida, paprika and tomato puree and quickly stir. Next follow by turnips and some of the pickling liquid (adjust the amount to desired sourness), ground caraway seeds and a bay leaf. Cook for at least 45 minutes or until turnips have soften a bit (they should still have a little bite). Season to taste. The consistency should resemble a thin sauce. Serve with zganci.
Bobiči Bean and corn minestrone
- 4 medium potatoes cut in 1 cm cubes
- 1 large bay leaf
- 200g dried brown beans soaked overnight
- 2 medium carrots cut in 1 cm cubes
- 200g sweet corn (frozen or canned works well also)
- 1 small onion and 1 garlic clove or 1 heaped tsp asafoetida
- ½ celery stalk
- 4 fresh summer tomatoes or 300g canned tomato chunks
- Handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped
- 2 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
Cook the beans with a bay leaf in a separate pot until fork tender. In another medium sized pot sauté the onions and garlic until translucent or asafoetida for just a few seconds with 1 table spoon of olive oil. Add the vegetables: carrots, celery, potatoes and corn. Season and cook until tender, then add the beans with cooking liquid and tomatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes, finish with fresh parsley, remaining olive oil and adjust the seasoning. Serve with bread.
Granadirmarš – Macaroni and potatoes
- 400g floury potatoes
- 300g macaroni
- 1 large onion minced or ¼ white cabbage minced and 3 tsp asafoetida
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt and black pepper
Cook the potatoes whole with skin on in salted water until fork tender. Peel and dice. Cook the macaroni as per package instruction. Meanwhile heat up oil in a large pot and sauté the onion or cabbage until golden brown. If using asafoetida add when the cabbage is already nice and crispy. Add the potatoes and macaroni. Turn heat to low and let roast for 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally. A thick brown crust should form on the bottom of the pot, however be careful not to burn it. Turn off the heat and let it sit covered for 15 minutes so that the crust softens. Scrape it with a spatula and stir. Season to taste. Serve hot along with green salad.
Štruklji – boiled rolls
- 200 g all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ dcl lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 600 g cottage cheese or vegan cream cheese or 550g crumbled soft tofu and 50 g soy yoghurt
- 5 tbsp sour cream or soy yoghurt
- 2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
Make the dough by kneading all the ingredients together. Dough should be soft and elastic. Let it rest covered for 30 minutes. Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together. Oil the working surface and stretch the dough with your hands to 3 mm thickness. You can also use a rolling pin if needed. Spread the filling on two thirds of the dough and smear the last third with butter or oil. Start rolling where the filling is. Place the roll onto the kitchen cloth or a similar cotton cloth. Cover tightly and thigh both ends and in the middle with a rope. Cook in boiling salted water for 20 minutes. Then take it out of the pot and let it rest in the cloth for a few minutes. Meanwhile prepare the topping by frying the breadcrumbs in fat until golden brown. Cut the Štrukelj into individual portions and top each with toasted breadcrumbs. Serve hot.
Potica – nut roll
- 600 f all-purpose flour
- 40 g fresh yeast
- 100 g soft tofu blended
- Pinch of turmeric
- 50 g butter or vegetable oil
- 50 g sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-3 dcl milk of your choice warm
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 vanilla sugars or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 400 g ground walnuts
- 200 g sugar
- 2 dcl milk of your choice
- 40 g butter or refined coconut oil
- 2-3 tbsp corn starch
- 50 g raisins (optional)
First make the dough. Dissolve the yeast with a table spoon of sugar and flour in half of warm milk. Leave aside until it becomes foamy. In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar and then add milk or if using vegetable oil combine together with remaining milk and whisk until sugar dissolves. Add the blended tofu and a pinch of turmeric, salt and lemon zest. Mix together yeast mixture, milk and fat mixture and flour and make a dough. Knead until it is no longer sticky. Set aside covered in a warm place until it doubles in size.
To make the filling bring milk sugar and butter or refined coconut oil to simmer. Pour over the walnuts, mix and let it cool. Then mix in sifted corn starch and raisins. The filling should be easy to spread.
Next roll the dough on a floured surface to 1 centimetre thickness in a rectangular shape. Spread the filling over the dough and roll into a log. Put in a greased and breadcrumb coated baking tray and let it rise for the second time. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Give the cake a nice milk wash with some dissolved sugar and bake for an hour to an hour and 30 minutes. Take out of the tray and transfer to a cooling rack immediately so that the crust does not become soggy. Let it cool completely before serving.