Pust is approaching, starting in Ptuj this weekend and around the country in the weeks ahead. It’s a time of costumes, naughtiness and feasting, with krofi a key item in the latter. Krofi are jam (or jelly) doughnuts (or donuts), and you’ll learn how to make them in today’s recipe. However, if you’d rather buy one readymade then know that in Ljubljana “the best” are said to come from Hotel Slon, on Slovenska and Čopova. The next best, in our opinion, are those from Rašica and Trubar, in Črnuče and Trubarjeva cesta, respectively. But here’s how to make your own, which you can of course adjust to better suit your taste, making it the best for you.
Sift the flour and place it in a mixing container. Make a dimple in the middle and pour warm milk in it. Crumble yeast into the milk then wait for it to rise.
Into the side of the mixing pot add egg yolks, oil, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, lemon jest, lemon juice and rum. Mix until the dough is smooth. You can beat it with a wooden spoon until it starts coming off the side of the container.
The dough needs to be soft, at least compared to the dough for potica.
We then divide the dough into 10 pieces of same size, 70-80 g each, and shape them into balls. We place the balls on floured cloth and cover them for 10 minutes to rise, then turn them around and cover for another 10 minutes. If the dough is rising slowly then be patients and wait a bit longer, so the doughnuts won’t sunk too deep in the oil when frying.
Preheat the frying oil to 170°C. To test whether it’s hot enough, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, and if bubbles form around it then you’re ready to fry.
Place your doughnuts into the hot oil and fry on each side for two or three minutes. Take them out and place them on a rack or a piece of paper to drain. Meanwhile fill a large syringe with apricot jam and inject it into the still warm donuts.
Wait till cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
As a child I remember how occasionally my gourmet grandpa showed up at our house with a couple of sweet blood sausages called mulce, wrapped in a newspaper. We would put them in the oven and in an hour or so one of the best desserts I can remember was ready. Their skin was crispy and on the inside there was this crumbly but still consistent chocolaty filling with all the best stuff one can find in the potica-like dishes of Gorica.
Over time I have met some people who have claimed to have eaten mulce but did not like their overwhelming blood content. I had no idea what they were talking about as with all the nuts, raisins and chocolate, blood really couldn’t do much more than provide some consistency to the mixture.
Apparently even Slovenian ethnographers do not seem to be aware of the Gorica version of the dish, but rather associate it with the impoverished countryside recipes of Karst and Brda, where they could simply be called black pudding.
Last year my grandma informed me that she had found my now long gone grandpa’s mulce recipe, that she had kept in a very safe place. Being a historian he probably typed it himself, but when exactly these investigations took place remains unclear. He grew up under Italian fascism in Kanal and after the war his family moved to Gorica, the source of the recipe he not only preserved but upgraded a little through the practice he continued by visiting the farms around Idrija, where he later worked and died.
This is what he typed:
Ms. Smuk-Scarrel; butcher in Gorica. These blood sausages were made by Ms. Vuk, who went from butcher to butcher where she manufactured them for money. She was using filling for gubanica (a form of potica) of Gorica. This way we get Mulca of Gorica, which is an exquisite dish. Other sweet blood sausages, which are made in Karst and Brda are rarely good.
Mix the ingredients well while dry.
Then add boiling milk (and wait so that the mixture bloats – a couple of minutes), then raisins, pine nuts and candied peels – pour over half a litre of lard (not too hot). Make a mixture of a thickness that would allow it pass through the sausage funnel. Sausages need to cook in boiling water for about 15 minutes. The cow intestines for sausages are best.
Change of recipe: butcher Gigetta from Old Gorica. Instead of flour we use crumbled dry bread. A little of breadcrumbs, milk and bread to make a thick mixture. Everything else like before. Mulce are easier to make according to this recipe.
Additional instructions: rather less fragrances and can add some chocolate or cacao.
Potica in its classic form is not the fastest dish to make. Nevertheless, during the holidays we came across a very delicious potica (as seen in the picture above) with lots of filling and a promise that it was easy and relatively fast to make.
We subsequently obtained the following recipe:
Prepare the dough first so that it can rest while you’re preparing the filling.
It’s good if all dough ingredients are of the same temperature, and it’s better if they are warm than cold.
Crumble and dissolve the yeast in a jar of milk and stir in a pinch of sugar and a spoon of flour. Leave in a warm place for about an hour.
Place the flour into a larger container where the dough is about to be made, add salt and form a well in the middle of the pile of flour. Pour the yeast mixture in the middle of the well, add the egg yolks and stir them into the mixture while already mixing in the flour from the walls of the well, until soft ball of dough is formed.
The dough should be quite soft, so it’s is better to bake two small poticas than a big one. For two small potica’s (the baking trays that were used were 10x30 cm size at the top), divide the dough into half and let it rest for about half an hour.
Mix all the ingredients into the filling. It shouldn’t be too dry to spread on the top of the dough once ready.
Roll the dough on a floured cloth, spread the filling across and roll. Spread butter and bread crumbs on the inside of the baking tray so that potica won’t stick to it. Put potica into the baking tray and bake at 150 degrees Celsius for about an hour and a half.
Cool the potica down before cutting it.
Pot fried potatoes (slo: pražen/tenstan/renstan/restan krompir) is one of those Slovenian side dishes that went from a Sunday staple to almost forgotten since the introduction of various dietary wisdoms entered the cuisine, especially the one suggesting that high caloric meals based on fats and carbohydrates won’t do much for people’s cholesterol levels.
It was only a matter of time, however, before getting rid of once seen as unhealthy lunches actually brought an even worse feeding habit, the result of a lack of time and therefore cooking, and its replacement with ultra-processed snacks with additives that make them last as long as the plastic wraps they’re sold in.
So old school grandma style meals are slowly coming back again, at least for those of us with childhood memories of how Slovenes once used to eat.
The basic ingredients of pot fried potatoes are a pot of boiled potatoes, onions, lard/oil and salt. The “correct” procedure, however differs from region to region, which is also reflected in the local naming of pot fried potatoes, especially with regard to the central Slovenian term “tenstan krompir” and Styrian “restan krompir”.
That there is a difference in preparation technique becomes apparent if we look into the etymology of both adjectives; “restan” comes from German word rösten (to roast), while “tenstan” must originate in German word dünsten, that is, to stew.
Our recipe today will be based on an old recipe for “tenstan krompir”, that is pot fried potatoes that are much mushier in texture, as a bit of stewing is involved in the preparation process. The whole procedure (that involves a preparation of a traditional potato salad as well) has been captured in a fun video below that also made us reconsider the equipment and design of our kitchen.
beef stew if available
We wash the whole unpeeled potatoes and boil them for about an hour, covered, until they soften up and half of the water disappears. Make sure they don’t burn.
Cool down the potatoes, then peel and slice them as in the video above.
Slice the onion and place it on cold oil in a pan. Heat it up and stir fry onions till soft and yellow. Then push the onions on one side, add the sliced potatoes to the other, move the onions to the top of the potatoes and press down with a spatula. This is how we are making “restan krompir”.
Now since Sunday lunch must also include a beef soup, we pour some of that soup into our “restan krompir”, which will turn it into “tenstan krompir” and after a minute or so, the pot fried potatoes are ready to be eaten.
Serve with any kind of meat, but most probably with beef from the soup. As a child I liked it with some mustard.
Barley, one of the oldest cultivars in the world, has been known in Eurasia for about 10,000 years. Its variety of uses should therefore not be surprising. Barley has been used for food and livestock feed and is a key ingredient in the production of various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as beer and whiskey, and serves as a substitute for coffee.
Barley is also the main ingredient of a popular Central and Eastern European dish that bares the Slovenian name ričet. The word ričet is derived from a Styrian German word ritschert, which is probably a combination of two German words: rutschen, (to slip, slide), and rutschig, (slippery). Sometimes ričet is also called ješprenj, which is a Slovenian word for dehulled barley. Hulled barley, on the other hand, is called ječmen in Slovenian.
Ričet is considered a winter dish although fans eat it throughout the year. This “spoon dish” (jed na žlico), however, has not only been characteristic of the rural environment but was also served in the dining rooms of the bourgeoisie.
The dish has also been associated with the mountaineering culture of the Slovenes, popularised by the end of the 19th century; hikers would call themselves ričetarji, after the fact that they would hang out together in mountain huts over plates of ričet.
To put it simple, ričet is a thick soup that consists of dehulled barley (also pot barley), seasonal vegetables and, almost mandatory, some cured pork. It is believed that ričet isn’t worth its name unless “a pig steps in it”.
Although the vegetables used can be adjusted, ričet will be recognisable as such if it contains some orange carrot, some yellow carrot or kohlrabi, some brown beans, green fresh parsley and some potato for colour. For our ričet we used the following ingredients:
Usually people soak barley before cooking it, but if you want your ričet done fast and without much mess you can just use it dry. It should be cooked in about an hour even if not soaked.
Some people will cook the ribs separately, perhaps to extract some salts and flavours before it’s added to ričet. Cured smoked pork is in fact quite strongly flavoured and shouldn’t be used in the same amounts as ordinary meat - just a couple of chunks per serving. Yes, we put a whole rib on the plate for the photoshoot, to make it look good, but it was taken out afterwards and cut into slices before a few went back on the plate.
Barley will also take a lot of water, much more than rice, so prepare to add some liquid while the ingredients cook.
Here’s how we did it.
Chop the onions and stir fry in the olive oil till glassy. Add chopped garlic and stir fry till its aroma rises. Add sliced leek and stir some more. Add pork chops, pot barley and water/stock so that everything is more or less submerged.
At this point you can already add some herbs: lovage, summer savory, celery leaves and bay leaves. Save parsley for the end.
While waiting for the soup to start boiling, dice carrots and other raw vegetables, add them to the soup and cover. Let it simmer till the barley is more or less soft, then add canned beans and passata and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Make sure you wash the beans before adding them.
Take the meat out so that it can be sliced and added to the soup according to everyone’s preferences.
Ričet can be even better the next day. It might thicken up even more by then.
Prekmurska gibanica originates from the Mura river region (Prekmurje literally means “across the Mura river (region)”) and is considered one of Slovenia's most recognisable culinary specialties.
The nutritious desert that is composed of two types of dough and four fillings was in the past reserved for special occasions only, as it wasn't cheap to make: a layer of shortbread at the bottom and four fillings in the prescribed order (poppy seeds; cottage cheese; walnuts; apples), each separated with a thin layer of filo (strudel) pastry.
In 2010 Prekmurska gibanica was awarded the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed Certificate, which is used to protect a recipe, ingredients or a method of preparation, while production is not geographically limited. This means one can produce (and sell) prekmurska gibanica anywhere in the world as long as the correct recipe is observed.
If we'll be making gibanica in a cake tin, we'll have to cut it into 16 cake pieces (the rules say so). Gibanica baked in rectangular pan will be cut into cubes. For a 40x35cm rectangular baking dish or a round pan of 30 to 35cm in diameter, we will need the following amount of ingredients.
short pastry for the base
filo (strudel) pastry (9 sheets)
Poppy seed filling
30dag finely ground poppy seeds
10 dag granulated sugar
1 vanilla sugar (optional)
Cottage cheese filling
1.2kg full-fat cottage cheese
10 dag granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 sachets of vanilla sugar (optional)
30dag ground walnuts
10dag granulated sugar
1 vanilla sugar (optional9
1.5 kg apples (sour variety, grind)
12 dag of granulated sugar,
pinch of cinnamon
2 sachets of vanilla sugar
8 dl of fresh cream mixed with 3 eggs for the cream topping
25 dag of melted butter for the fatty topping
Once we’ve got all the fillings, pastry and toppings ready, we begin building gibanica by placing short bread pastry to the bottom of the baking tray. This part is called the foot or podplat in Slovenian. On the top of the short bread pastry we put one layer of filo pastry and half of the poppy seed filling on the top of that. The poppy seeds are then topped with some fatty and cream topping, before covered with another layer of filo pastry and the cottage cheese filling. The third filling is then walnuts, followed by apples. Each filling is covered with both toppings before a layer of filo pastry is placed on the top of those. The procedure with the fillings is then repeated in the same order once more and completes with a layer of filo pastry and cream and/or fatty topping.
Before gibanica is placed into a preheated oven for about an hour and a half, we prick it with a toothpick to prevent bubbles from forming.
Once baked, we leave it rest for at least four hours so that it won’t fall apart when sliced.
August 13, 2019
Although the coconut slices (slo: kokosove kocke or čupavci) are believed – not by New Zealanders though - to be an invention of Australia’s Lord Lamington, they were accepted by Slovenian housewives some time ago and have since become an integral part of any celebratory table. It is therefore important for every woman living in the Slovenian countryside to learn how to bake some of these and avoid the disgrace when a baking emergency strikes. They are also easy to make and kids prefer them to potica.
To explain as quickly as possible what these cakes are all about, we could just follow the Australian invention story, which goes that the Lord had unexpected guests once, so he took slices of old sponge cake, dipped them in chocolate, rolled them in ground coconut so that they wouldn’t stick to one’s fingers and served them to his guests. Basically that’s what coconut cubes are, only that they are made with fresh rather than stale sponge cake these days.
Mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar, milk and butter into a smooth mixture, then mix in sifted flour with baking powder.
Prepare a baking tray with baking paper and pour the mixture in, then place into a preheated oven (175 degrees Celsius) for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in milk and butter and cool down to body temperature. You might be sticking your fingers in it, so it shouldn’t be too hot. If it thickens too fast, add more milk.
Dice the cake. Note that final cubes will be much bigger than the pieces you cut when covered in chocolate and coconut. The goal is to get the right size of slices which will not break while soaking in the chocolate, but will also not be too big for someone to finish.
Soak the cubes in chocolate, then cover them in grated coconut. When the cubes are done, put them in the fridge for several hours so that they firm up.
August 2, 2019
Bruschetta is an Italian word for grilled bread rubbed with fresh garlic and topped with whatever you want. In our case, the favoured topping is going to consist of sliced porcini fried in butter. As you can already suspect, this week’s recipe is more of an idea than a recipe itself.
What we’ll need is one or two fresh porcinis, some bread, butter, a clove of garlic and salt.
We put our bread into a preheated oven for 4 minutes or toaster if we have nothing else that day to bake and want to save energy. Bread should be hard enough for garlic to be rubbed on the top of it. We should peel the garlic clove first and cut it in half.
We then melt the butter in a pan, slice porcini and fry them on each side till they get some brownish colour. Add salt to taste while frying. When the porcini are done we place them on the top of our bruschetta. Serve while still warm.
July 20, 2019
While some recipes require great technical skills, there are others that just require high-quality ingredients and minimal processing.
Fresh porcini (jurčki) are one of those ingredients that should be treated with some respect, and similar to truffles not to be destroyed with over-processing.
Mushrooms are not the easiest food to digest, which is why you should avoid eating them in the evening. Also, they are great with eggs, the main international breakfast ingredient.
Ingredients (one person):
Scramble eggs in a bowl and add salt and pepper.
Stir fry chopped onion on olive oil till it loosens up, stir in garlic just so that it releases the fragrance, then add mushrooms. Stir fry and add a little water (or white wine) and simmer for about 10 min till all the liquid evaporates. The mushrooms should be slightly soggy, not white and a bit smaller once are cooked. Add the eggs into the pan and stir till they are done. Put on a plate, sprinkle parsley on top and serve immediately with a slice of bread.
July 16, 2019
With heat in the air and markets full of vegetables, an idea or two on healthy vegetable meals is always welcome, even for those who cannot get through the week without a steak.
What every sandwich must include is a spread, some umami taste and salad. In case you haven’t been following the taste science in the last few decades, apparently people can taste much more than just the four flavours we used to learn in school: sweet, sour salty and bitter. The fifth flavour is umami or savoury, the flavour of “cooked meat”, a sensation also triggered by glutamate- flavour enhancers found in Pringles and common in East Asian cuisine. It has been established that in combination with umami, much less salt is needed to achieve a certain desired effect of saltiness.
The vegetables with most of the umami flavour (natural, not added) are mushrooms, in particular, shiitake. We had no mushrooms, unfortunately, so we took a courgette. To make it up for all the missing umami, we used more salt and olive oil and placed all our bets on the spread instead.
A lover of Sichuan cuisine might have noticed not just the excessive use of hot peppers but the sweet savoury sensation of deep stir friend red peppers as well. We might conclude that the idea found its way to Europe in the form of goulash and satarash from Asia, if we didn’t know it actually came from the new world in the “Columbian Exchange” much later on.
Red peppers in a combination with walnuts became the basis for a famous Levantine dip known as Muhammara, which is what we chose for our spread.
So, let’s get to work.
Red pepper walnut spread:
The red pepper variety that is normally used in the dip we are making is bell peppers, which are then peeled after roasting. I don’t know where or why this preference came about, as pimentos (red peppers with a pointy tip) are so much better for roasting and also have a much thinner skin, which doesn’t need to be peeled at all.
The process is simple: Blend the roasted peppers with all the ingredients listed above. If the mixture is too dry and doesn’t blend smoothly, add more olive oil, or add walnuts in several stages. Taste while making it to decide whether more salt, lemon juice or spice is needed.
Once the peppers are done, you can replace them with other vegetables and make use of already hot oven. Alternatively, vegetables can be roasted in a pan or barbequed.
Now you can spread the red pepper dip on your bread or use it as a dip.
We made a sandwich first.
Then we added a bit of a dip on the top of it for every bite we made