There is an old Slovenian proverb which roughly translates as ‘love comes through the stomach’. Though the country’s cuisine is little known outside of the country, Slovenian’s take great pride in their food and many consider their national cuisine on a par with their more famous neighbours in Italy.
A Cuisine Characterised By Diversity
Perhaps the first thing to note about Slovenian cuisine is its diversity. Traditional Slovenian cooking recognises no single, distinct style and for a country of just 2 million people there is an incredible number of different influences and styles on offer.
Slovenian cuisine is heavily influenced by its regional neighbours. The flavours of Italian, Austrian, Croatian and Hungarian collide here to produce some interesting, novel and often delicious foods.
Light, fluffy pastries and subtly flavoured, fresh pasta dishes demonstrate the influence of Italy, while various takes on the Austrian strudel can be found in most of Ljubljana’s bakeries. Stewy meat dishes usually served with dumplings show that traditional dishes from eastern-European countries such as Hungary and Croatia are hugely popular in Slovenia also.
Slovenia is divided into seven regions, each with its own local delicacies which play a major role in defining the cuisine. Lower calorie options have enjoyed a major boost in popularity in recent years, as diets change alongside people’s lifestyles. The ‘slow food‘ movement which rose to prominence in the 1980s was embraced wholeheartedly by Slovenia, which certainly says something about the cuisine. ‘Slow food’ was a reaction to the increasing importance people placed on fast food and it’s no surprise that many of the country’s top dishes require a few hours to prepare and cannot be rushed if they are to be done properly.
Slovenians are also continuing to adopt dish styles which are already popular around the world and implementing them into their cooking. Recently, soups have become a popular addition to country’s already ample selection of dishes. Below is a summary of a few of the most popular typical Slovenian dishes:
Veal and buckwheat dumplings
These simple dumplings, whose name translates as ‘buckwheat spoonbread‘ to those who’ve yet to master Slovenian are the country’s national dish. They are traditionally served with meat, stews, sauerkraut or sausages. Buckwheat is one of the main crops grown in Slovenia and is a staple ingredient in porridge, breads and stews throughout the country.
This is a typical Slovenian pastry, consisting of a round spiral of flaky, crispy dough with a sweet or savoury filling. Once the dough is made, it is left to sit for an hour before being rolled out and stretched as thinly as possible. The pastry is then rolled into a Catherine-wheel style circle. Ricotta cheese and curds are the most common filling.
Bujta repa is a very typical Slovenian pork dish which is served throughout the country. ‘Bujta’ comes from the word ‘kill’ and the dish is a typical Winter warmer. It is prepared by stewing the fatty parts of the pigs head and skin with sour turnips. Millet porridge is also often used in preparation and it was very common for this dish to be eaten following the slaughter of pigs. Essentially a kind of thick soup, the dish is prepared by throwing all the ingredients into a big pot and stewing slowly.
Like most of central and eastern Europe, Slovenia is a keen consumer of sausages. The most famous Slovenian sausage is the kranjska klobasa. In general these sausages are quite small and simple, with only a few ingredients, although recently chef’s have been getting a bit more adventurous, adding fillings and other extras to the traditional recipe, which only contains pork, bacon, salt, pepper and garlic. Slovenia is constantly trying to get the special European Union Protected Designation of Origin award for this sausage, despite objections from Austria and Croatia!
Potica and Prekmurska Gibanica
There are two main deserts that are popular throughout Slovenia. Potica is a delicious ‘nut roll’ style cake. Sweet dough is rolled thin and then wrapped up with a spread made from various nuts. It’s the kind of cake that your Slovenian grandmother is sure to serve when you come to visit! Usually quite a firm cake, there are many different variations on the recipe, which can include chocolate, poppy seeds and hazelnuts. This cake is a firm favourite with all Slovenian’s at Christmas time.
Prekmurska Gibanica is a kind of layered pastry cake containing apples, nuts, raisins and ricotta. The desert is popular in rural regions and reflects the types of fruit that grow in these regions. This is a classic example of traditional Slovenian cuisine, it was even chosen to represent the country in the ‘Cafe Europe‘ initiative organised by the Austrian government in 2006.
Did you know?
- There are over 1,200 different Slovenian dishes.
- Dandelion is a popular ingredient in salads and has been gathered for centuries during the spring. Dandelion and potato salad is a popular dish.
- Lunch is usually the main meal of the day in Slovenia.
- Slovenia is home to several odd food festivals and celebration days including the Cabbage Festival, Salt Makers Festival and Bean Day.