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Slovenia Cuisine


There is no such thing as a single, uniform, distinct Slovenian cuisine. In the opinion of some experts, there are more than 40 distinct cuisines in a country, whose main distinguishing feature is a great variety and diversity of land formation, climate, wind movements, humidity, terrain and history.

In the northeast there is the expanse of the Pannonian plain, in the east, the green and hilly Dolenjska region, in the south the Karst and the Adriatic coastline, in the north-west the Alps, the Barje marshes and the wine producing hills of Štajerska. All these factors influenced the development of the great variety and range represented by Slovenian cooking. To give some examples: crabs are found only in the rivers of Notranjska, pršut (Karst leg ham) can be dried only by the winds of Karst and the coast.

In addition, Slovenia is a borderland country. It borders on four states with established and distinct national cuisines. Slovenian cuisine is divided into town, farmhouse, cottage, castle, parsonage and monaste Slovenian cuisine. The first Slovenian cookbook was published in Slovenian language by Valentin Vodnik in 1799. Many Slovenian dishes are hard to digest. They are often based on the use of animal fat; ocvirki, zaseka, bacon, lard, dripping, mushrooms, pork, flour-based dishes, potatoes, beans, butter, cream and eggs.

Regrad (Dandelion) is Slovenian wild lettuce, which has been gathered in the fields for centuries. Even today, regrad and potato salad is highly valued. Since it can be picked only for a short time in early spring, much is made of it. Families go on regrad picking expeditions, and pick enough for a whole week.

In the Middle Ages people ate acorns and other forest fruits, particularly in times of famine. Chestnuts were valued, and served as basis for many outstanding dishes. Walnuts and hazelnuts are used in cakes and desserts. Wild strawberries, loganberries, blackberries, blueberries were a rich source of vitamins.

Generally speaking, Slovenian food is heavy, meaty and plain. A typical three-course meal starts with a soup (juha), often just beef or chicken broth with egg noodles, and then a meat dish served with potatoes (krompir) and a vinegary fresh salad (solata). Fresh bread (kruh) is often served on the side and is uniformly delicious.

Soups are a relatively recent invention in Slovenian cuisine, but there are over 100. Earlier there were various kinds of porridge, stew and one-pot meals. The most common soups without meat were lean and plain. Typical is the soup made from turnip peel. The most common meat soups are beef and chicken soup. Meat-based soups are served only on Sundays and feast days; more frequently in more prosperous country or city households. Slovenes are familiar with all kinds of meat, but it is generally served only on Sundays and feast days. Pork was popular and common everywhere in Slovenia. Poultry also often featured. There is a wide variety of meats in different parts of Slovenia. In Bela Krajina and Primorska, they eat mutton and goatmeat. On St. Martin's Day people feast on roasted goose, duck, turkey and chicken. In Dolenjska and Notranjska, they eat roasted dormouse, quail and even hedgehog. Until the great crab plague in the 19th century, crab was a source of income and often on the menu in Dolenjska and Notranjska.

Common mains include cutlets (zrezek), sausage (klobasa) and goulash (golaž), all usually prepared from pork, but there is a large choice of fish (ribe) and seafood even further away from the coast. Popular Italian imports include all sorts of pasta (testenine), pizza (pica), ravioli (žlikrofi) and risotto (rižota). A major event in the countryside still today is the slaughtering of a pig from which many various products are made: blood sausage, roasts, stuffed tripe, smoked sausage, salami (salama), ham (šunka) and bacon. Recipes for the preparation of poultry, especially turkey (puran), goose (gos), duck, and capon, have been preserved for many centuries. Chicken (pišcanec) is also common. Squid is fairly common and reasonably priced.

Other unique Slovenian dishes are:

• Kraški pršut, air-dried ham, similar to but not the same as Italian prosciutto;

• štruklji, dumplings which Slovenians prepare in 70 different ways stuffed with sweet fillings, meat or vegetables;

• žganci, a type of polenta;

• žlikrofi, potato dumplings similar to gnocchi, specialty of the Idria region.

Some Slovenian desserts can also be found:

• potica, a type of nut roll for holiday occasions also prepared with the widest variety of fillings;

• gibanica, a very heavy cakelike pastry of poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins, cheese etc, topped with cream.

Mushrooms have always been popular, and Slovenes liked picking and eating them. There are many varieties.

Honey is used to a considerable extent. Medenjaki, which come in different shapes are honey cakes, which are most commonly heart-shaped and are often used as gifts.





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