Modern Culinary Trends

Ajdovi struklji (Buckwheat strukelj). Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

 

Slovenia has been re-discovering its cuisine, while absorbing trends and innovations from Europe and around the world. This is especially evident from the diverse regional menus offered by various characteristic restaurants, the gostilne, which are Slovenia’s most identifiable culinary landmark and are typically based on family traditions. 

In fact a 'culinary diagonal' of Slovenia can be drawn from the Mediterranean (Istria, Kras, Brkini, the Vipavska Valley, Brda, Goriško, the Soča Valley) to north-eastern Slovenia (Slovenske Gorice, Prlekija, Prekmurje, Haloze, Kozjansko, Štajerska). In the middle of this diagonal is central Slovenia, with Ljubljana and its surrounding region, where the highest quality of modern gastronomic delights is offered in a number of restaurants.

Starting with the Slovenian Mediterranean, you can enjoy the best (and also the healthiest) meal in the Kras region, which offers delightful vegetable combinations, meat sauces, pasta, and the local prosciutto called kraški pršut, complemented by a selection of fine wines, including Teran. The people of this picturesque landscape also make excellent omelettes, or frtalje, which combine creativity and culinary resourcefulness.

Kraški zašink (cured neck meat). Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

Similar dishes can be found along the margins of the Kras, in Istria and the coastal towns, where they are complemented by savoury combinations of fish and other seafood seasoned with Mediterranean herbs and spices and the delicious Refosco and Malvasia wines, which complete the culinary experience. If you happen to be visiting that part of Slovenia, do not forget to visit the Soča Valley: in Kobarid and the surrounding region alone you will find a bounty of superior food, with a combination of traditional and innovative dishes.

Central Slovenia, with Ljubljana and the surrounding region, offers excellent original dishes such as wheat or buckwheat štruklji (with walnut, tarragon, apple or cottage cheese fillings), and various types of potica, the most famous being the walnut, tarragon, honey or raisin versions.

But if you fancy a taste of poppy-seed potica, you will have to make your way to Prekmurje, a region which is a treasury of flour-based food. This region and its surroundings are home to different types of pogača, gibanica, kvasenica, zlevanka, posolonka, krapci, and also to a myriad of different types of bread, some of which are true masterpieces, braided and decorated with dough embellishments. As everywhere in Slovenia, the traditional custom of slaughtering a pig (koline) has a special significance here. At a koline a large assortment of fresh, semi-cured, and cured meat products are prepared.

If you are visiting Koroška, you must try the mežerle, an excellent warm appetizer made of pig’s lung and other offal. In the Gorenjska region, people still prepare culinary specialties such as ajdovi krapi or masounik. Another excellent dish is buckwheat, bean or mushroom porridge. The most identifiable food is the buckwheat žganci, seasoned with crackling and served with a side dish of sauerkraut or sour turnips.

Bled kremšnita or cream slice using the original recipe from the years after the Second World War. Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

It is only in the Primorska region that various other such foods and pasta-type dishes are more famous (e.g. the njoki or gnocchi). When visiting Bled, do not forget to try the Bled cream cake (kremna rezina). For freshwater fish, the zlatovšica trout is a special delicacy. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as rolled in buckwheat flour and deep-fried. The other freshwater specialty is the Soča trout, which is rolled in corn flour and fried to a nice crisp.

In Ljubljana, the old Gostilna Žabar located on the city outskirts offers the house specialty of fried frogs' legs. In the Dolenjska region, they prepare various kinds of štruklji. Another regional delicacy of Dolenjska is matevž, served as a side dish or a main dish of puréed beans and potatoes.

The region of Bela Krajina is famous for roast lamb and suckling pig, and across Slovenia, they prepare different kinds of soup, stew and tasty casserole (e.g. jota and minestrone soup in the Primorska region, and bograč in Prekmurje). Poultry is relatively well-represented on Slovenian menus. Apart from the popular fried chicken, we should also mention roast duck and goose. The latter have become ritual dishes for the greatest modern-day wine festival of St. Martin’s Day (11 November), when people attend festivities to celebrate the new wine harvest.

Text by Prof Dr Janez Bogataj