April 17, 2018
Dumplings are one of those dishes that come in many shapes and sizes, where texture is of perhaps even greater importance than the flavour itself. Idrija dumplings, called žlikrofi in Slovenian, are on the smaller side of the world of dumplings, with a small mashed potato ball hiding in a pocket of thinly rolled pasta dough with two “ears” and a dimple on the top. The size should allow you to put a whole žlikrof together with a bit of whatever they were served with in your mouth at once without feeling overloaded.
Žlikrofi are a well-known dish in Slovenia and almost a staple in Idrija, where, in spite of the hard labour involved in making them, they can still be found in almost every restaurant there or in the freezer of each good citizen of the region. They are made by both men and women, and often in a family circle, as the whole process consists of several tasks and therefore it is perfect to be organised into a family assembly line.
In case you think you don’t know anyone from Idrija who could give you some advice on where to get them or how to make them, check that twice, as the people you know might not be from Idrija, but their grandparents could be. Very often such a link is quite enough for membership of the Žlikrof Lodge. We were told, however, that outside Idrija they can also be found in Leclerc and occasionally even in some other supermarkets, as well as in restaurants across Slovenia. The real stuff, however, should certainly be looked for in Idrija.
In case you like challenges or are just curious about how they are made, we broke our back for you this weekend, and it really was quite difficult, especially for the muscles of the lower neck. But we forgot about the pain immediately after they were successfully made, since we got such a good and detailed recipe from our Idrija connection, Tomaž Vencelj, who had just made them a day before, so his memory was still fresh.
For about 100 žlikrofi (and some failed ones):
We can begin with making the filling a day before and leaving it in the fridge overnight. As you can observe in the pictures below, we made way too much of the filling, as we had no idea how much would in fact be needed. The potatoes must be cooked whole, as we are aiming for quite a hard version of mashed potatoes, the kind that would sustain some pressure during the process.
When the potatoes are cooked, peel then and then mash them while still warm. This is not your usual mashed potatoes, so don’t get bothered by them feeling hard and looking dry.
Put the cracklings on the stove until the lard melts and add it to the potatoes.
Chop the chives:
Add marjoram, salt and pepper to taste and mix it all together.
Now you have the filling and you can let it rest and cool a little.
Once cooled and hardened, you can start shaping balls. They should not be bigger than 1.5 cm, or else the dumplings will be too big.
Make them small and of same size: keep one ball for the measure unit throughout the process.
As we cooked too much we figured that the excess filling might come handy as a side dish on some other occasion, or in case our dumplings failed in some way. The most common failure is that they open while boiling in water. Something we do not want to happen, not even to one of them (it would mess up the water), but you never know. It also turned out that we made too many balls, which were just moved to the plan B container (a baking tray) on the left.
Time to make the dough.
Stir the eggs, water, salt and milk into the flour until it forms a consistent, relatively hard lump of dough. Take it out on the table, and start kneading. The longer you knead the smoother the dough becomes.
When it doesn’t stick to your hands, you are getting close to the end.
When the dough is nicely smooth, put it to rest for half an hour. You will need it to be quite smooth in the end in order to roll it as thinly as possible.
This is how smooth it is supposed to look like when cut
Cut it into four pieces, take one quarter, flatten it with your hands a bit first, then roll it with a rolling pin until it's no more than 2 mm thick. Sprinkle some flour on the top (and bottom) of it in case it sticks to the rolling pin. If you have a pasta-rolling machine at hand, use that.
We put the cloth under our dough when rolling in order to protect the surface of the table from the knife once the cutting begins.
Roll it thinly.
Then place the potato balls about 1-2 centimetres from the edge in a straight line – cut some of the dough off if needed.
Leave for one ball space in between the balls.
Then roll the dough up so that potato balls are covered, and press the dough down with your little finger between the balls.
Both hands can be used while doing that, we just needed one to hold the camera.
Roll the semi-covered line of balls into the dough 180 degrees and press the dough in between them down with your little finger again.
Again, both hands can be used while doing this.
Cut the line off with a knife, then separate the dumplings in the same manner.
Now it is time to shape the žlikrofi into the desired shape: take each one of them and place it in front of you so that the edges are perpendicular to the table and the outside rim of the dough is touching the table. Use your fingers to press the rims together (again, do it with both hands, we had to use one to hold the camera). Thereby forming the “ears” of the dumpling, then use one of the fingers to form a dimple on the top of it. The bottom with the edge is supposed to stay flat.
Keep on repeating this process.
Keep your žlikrofi apart from each other or else they will eventually stick together. Also, keep them on a floured surface so that they don't stick to the table or board after a while. Moreover, if your žlikrofi will have to wait a couple of hours or more before they are cooked, cover them with a cloth so that the ears don't get too dry.
To cook them, prepare a big pot with lots of water. Only one portion of žlikrofi can be cooked at a time, which will keep the water temperature up. If you are cooking them fresh, they are basically cooked when they float to the surface. If they have been frozen, it might take slightly longer – best to take one out first and try it.
Hot žlikrof cut in half
Serve them with any kind of meat dish or mushroom sauce or, even better, with Idrija bakalca, a wonderful lamb stew we will make for you in our next recipe of the week.