There is no particular single, uniform, distinct Slovenian cuisine. In the opinion of some scholars, 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 (Slovenia Food). Slovenia is a borderland country. It borders on four states with established and distinct national cuisines, namely Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. Slovenian cuisine is divided into town, farmhouse, cottage, castle, parsonage and Monaste Slovenian cuisine. The first Slovenian cookbook was published in the 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.
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. A typical dish is “Aleluja” (Hallelujah), soup made from turnip peels and a well-known dish during fasting. The most common meat soups are beef and chicken soup. Meat-based soups are served only on Sundays and feast days; more frequently in a more prosperous country or city households. Slovenians are familiar with all kinds of meat, but it is generally served only on Sundays and feast days. The 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 goat meat. 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, the crab was a source of income and often on the menu in Dolenjska and Notranjska.
Regret or Dandelion is Slovenian wild lettuce, which has been gathered in the fields for centuries. Even today regret and potato salad are highly valued. Since it can be picked only for a short time in early spring, much is made of it. Families go on regret picking expeditions and pick enough for a whole week.
Mushrooms have always been popular, and Slovenians liked picking and eating them. There are many varieties. Honey was 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.
Some Slovenian Food Recipes
Golaz or Goulash:
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds beef stew meat
- 1 can beef broth
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups cooked egg noodles
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and cook until sides are browned.
- Add beef broth, onion, tomato paste or ketchup, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- In a bowl, mix the water and flour, stirring to remove lumps. Stir the flour mixture into the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 to 1½ hours, or until meat is tender; stir occasionally.
- Serve over hot noodles.
Bread and potatoes are the staple foods of Slovenia. Potica is the most common type of pastry—a nut roll wrapped around a variety of fillings, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, or raisins. Potatoes are served boiled, sautéed, deep-fried, or roasted. They are used in such dishes as fruit dumplings, soups, and stews, such as jota which is a hearty meat and vegetable stew. Mushrooms are a large part of Slovene cuisine, and picking wild mushrooms has become a popular occupation. In fact, the government had to pass a law limiting the number of mushrooms picked to keep some species from becoming extinct.
Baked Mushrooms with Cheese
- 1 8-ounce container of mushrooms
- ¼ pound Muenster cheese, sliced
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Wash the mushroom caps under running water, and remove the stems. Dry with paper towels.
- Cut the cheese into squares to fit between two mushroom caps.
- Make a “sandwich” of two mushroom caps with one square of sliced cheese between them.
- Secure with a toothpick, and place the mushrooms into greased pie plate or baking dish.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- 2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat.
- Slowly add the potato slices and fry until golden brown. Be careful of the hot oil, as it may sizzle and spurt when the potatoes are added.
- Remove potato slices and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with Klobasa and Kiddo Zelje or Sausage and Sauerkraut for a complete Slovene meal.
- 1¾ cup sauerkraut, drained
- ¾ cup canned red kidney beans, drained
- 1½ cups potato, cut into chunks
- 1½ cups ham or pork
- 4 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ¼ cup shortening
- 2 teaspoons flour
- ¾ cup sour cream
- Fill a large pot with water, and bring to a boil. Add the sauerkraut, beans, potatoes, and meat. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the garlic and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a frying pan, melt the shortening over medium heat. Sauté the onions, about 3 minutes.
- Add the flour and cook about 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the onion and flour mixture to the stew. Stir and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.
- Just before serving, add the sour cream and stir. Heat over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.
Pork is the main meat eaten by a majority of Slovenes. Koline, the time in winter when pigs are slaughtered and a variety of pork products are prepared, is a major undertaking for Slovene farmers. Blood or black pudding is the name of a type of sausage made from a mixture of blood, intestines, millet which is a type of grain, buckwheat porridge, and seasonings. Traditionally, neighbors exchanged this sausage with each other, since each farm family had its own unique recipe.
Other pork dishes are Zelodec or filled pork stomach, air-dried pork leg called Prsut, and Klobasa or sausage. Slovenian Kranjske Klobasa has a distinctive flavor that comes from its seasoning of rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Klobasa and Kisod Zelje or sausage with sauerkraut makes for a filling lunch or dinner.
Klobasa and Kiddo Zelje (Sausage and Sauerkraut)
- 4 large Kobasa (sausage links)
- 2 cans sauerkraut
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook until browned on all sides. Remove and drain on paper towel.
- Add the sauerkraut and garlic to the frying pan and cook over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the sausage and cover. Cook until sausage is thoroughly heated and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Although meat and starchy foods prevail in Slovene cooking, vegetables, especially cabbage, are used in various ways. Common cabbage dishes are sauerkraut, sweet-and-sour cabbage, and raw cabbage salad. A salad of cucumbers, sliced onions, vinegar, and oil may accompany a meal. Dandelion salad is popular as well. Dandelion shoots are considered a springtime delicacy.
- 1½ pounds dandelion shoots or leaves (any flat-leaved lettuce may be substituted)
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled
- 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Several hours before serving the salad (or even the day before), prepare potatoes. Cut the potatoes into quarters and put them into a saucepan. Cover with water, heat the water to boil and simmer the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes). Drain and cool.
- To prepare the salad: Place the dandelion shoots or leaves, potatoes, egg, and garlic in a mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing: Mix the vinegar, oil, and salt. Pour over the dandelion mixture and toss.
The majority of Slovenes are Roman Catholic Christian. Christmas is a widely celebrated but simple affair in Slovenia, where a family’s main focus is spending time together. The gifts that are exchanged are usually food, with candy treats for children. The Christmas dinner table is filled with traditional foods, such as pork or turkey, along with delicacies, such as smoked meats. Potica (nut bread), Salkeld (raisin cake), and other freshly baked goods may be eaten as well. Other religious holidays, such as Easter and All Saints Day, are also celebrated.
- 2 Tablespoons yeast
- 1½ cups milk, room temperature
- 3½ cups flour
- ½ cup, plus 1 cup sugar
- 7 Tablespoons (about 1 stick) butter, room temperature
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 4 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2½ cups ground walnuts
- 4 egg whites, beaten
- Separate the eggs, keeping the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.
- In another mixing bowl, combine the yeast with the milk.
- Add ½ cup of the sugar, salt, and flour and mix to form a dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place, about 30 minutes.
- Prepare the filling by creaming the butter, 1 cup sugar, and egg yolks together.
- Add the cinnamon, cream, and ground walnuts.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough. to form a large rectangle. Spread the filling in the center of the dough.
- Roll up the dough, jelly-roll fashion, and place, seam side down, onto a cookie sheet. Using a clean pastry brush, brush the pastry with egg white.
- Bake for 1 to 1½ hours, or until golden brown.
Slovenian Almond Bars
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ cup almonds, ground
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter or margarine, room temperature
- 4 egg whites
- 4 squares chocolate bar, grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Separate 4 eggs, discarding the yolks but keeping the whites in a bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar, butter or margarine, egg whites, and chocolate. Mix well.
- Spread the mixture evenly into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan.
- Brush the top with the beaten egg.
- Bake for about 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature and cut into squares.
Besides religious holidays, Slovenes observe seasonal celebrations with parades, carnivals, and masquerade balls. St. Martin’s Day is in November, celebrating the day when grape juice officially becomes new wine. Along with drinking wine, dishes such as roast goose, sweet and sour cabbage, and Mlinci may be eaten. Mlinci is thin, flat dough that has been baked, broken up, covered with boiling water, drained, then roasted with meat, usually goose. Gibanica —a layer cake with cottage cheese, walnuts, poppy seeds, and apples—may be eaten as well.
Slovenes typically eat three meals each day, with lunch being the most important. Zajrtk or breakfast is usually kava or coffee or tea and rolls with butter and jam. Zemlja, a type of hard roll, is common. Salami, cheese, and soft-boiled or fried eggs may be served as well. Some Slovenes skip breakfast and just drink strong coffee. Children may drink hot chocolate is the best Slovenian drinks.
Around 10 a.m. most Slovenes take a morning break and have a substantial snack. People who are working might buy a hot dog with red pepper relish, a ham sandwich, or other snacks from a street vendor. They also might stop at a cafeteria-style restaurant for bean stew or soup. Those whose schedule is more leisurely might pause at a pastry shop for some type of sweet pastry. Sok or fruit juice, coffee, or tea are few of the most common beverages.
Lunch served anytime from 12 noon to 3 p.m., usually, starts with Slovenian soup. The menu is likely to include a meat dish; a starch such as potatoes, dumplings, or pasta; vegetables; and a salad like such as Fancoska Slate or cubed potatoes and vegetables with mayonnaise. Sometimes, a salad bowl is shared by whoever is close. Serving bowls set on the table may be without serving utensils, so diners help themselves with their own fork or spoon. Bread almost always accompanies both lunch and dinner. When a meal is taken at a restaurant, the waitress expects the diners to report the number of slices of bread they consumed during their meal. To drink at lunch or dinner, there is usually wine or beer. Non-alcoholic drinks, such as fruit juices, and Milanovic, a drink made with raspberry syrup may be served. Young Slovenes especially like popular carbonated drinks.
Dinner dishes are similar to lunch dishes but are generally lighter. Salads and yogurt, accompanied by leftovers from lunch, are typical. When invited to dinner, Slovenes consider it courteous to bring small gifts. Flowers and wine are usually given to the host, and candy is offered to children. It is considered rude to refuse any food that is offered.
Eating at restaurants is considered expensive by the Slovenes, and therefore is typically only done on special occasions or for celebrations; however, many Slovenes frequently enjoy a meal at a Gostilna or local pub, where traditional foods and pastries are served. The traditional Sunday lunch in a Ggostilna may include beef or chicken soup with homemade noodles, pork or veal roast, sautéed or roasted potatoes, sala, and potica or strudel for dessert. Young Slovenes may go out for pizza and enjoy eating at fast food places.
Despite having to import many food products, almost all Slovenes receive adequate nutrition in their diets. The government provides a system of family allowances and benefits to those in need. The constitution provides for special protection against economic, social, physical, or mental mistreatment or abuse of Slovene children.