Slovene cooking is just as varied as the landscape. Old national dishes have rich traditions. Some of them have been preserved through centuries. In Slovenia, there have around 40 culinary districts, which apart from having very different eating habits also have very different dishes. Soil composition and weather conditions varying from district to district have helped to shape the nutrition of the inhabitants.
On the menu of the traditional Slovene cooking, one will find refined and exquisite dishes that used to be served in castles, a rich choice of dishes from Slovene town cooking, a culinary treasure of Slovene farm cooking, and dishes typical of various groups such as the Idrija miners, the Savinja Valley raftsmen, lumberjacks, parsonage cooking, etc.
Today, it’s the simple elementary farm dishes that are most common in Slovene kitchens. All imagination and inventiveness put in them were preserved together with them. Dishes that used to make part of the festive menu of the Slovene farmer are even today a true feast for the eyes.
King of the animals in Slovenia
In Slovenia, the pig is a veritable king of the animals as pork still represents the main food for the majority of the Slovenes. This is the reason why koline ( traditional pig slaughtering and preparation of pork products ) represents the biggest wintertime feasts for a Slovene farmer. With koline go rich feasts, home-made culinary delicacies, and numerous games and customs.
Especially nice custom is exchanging the koline ( pork products ) with the neighbors to taste them. Black pudding – sausages filled with a mixture of blood, intestines, millet, and buckwheat porridge – are also very common throughout Slovenia and most frequently they are the object of neighborly gifts.
The best-known specialty in Slovenia is ham-cured pork leg. In Primorska ( the Littoral ) they make pršut, air-dried pork leg. One of the specialties is also želodec – a filled pork stomach, differently prepared in practically every region. Some of them are cured while others are simply air-dried.
Pomurje ( the Mura region )
The menu of this district offers a large choice of soups, flour-based dishes, and dishes made with dough. Cabbage, turnip, beans, pumpkins, etc. are also widely used. In meat dishes, pork is most frequent, but one will also find quite some poultry ( chickens, geese, ducks, turkey-hens ) and home-bred rabbits.
Their renowned dishes are bograc – a stew made of pork, beef, game and wine, gibanica ( layer cake with curd cheese, walnuts, poppy seeds, and apples ), various soups, and other dishes.
Štajerska ( Styria )
A soup in this region is almost a must. Besides the renowned sour soup, the region boasts a wide range of other varieties made of chicken and beef. In wine-growing hills, they even make wine soup. From these parts originates roasted Martinova gos ( Martin’s goose – prepared for St. Martin’s day when the new wine is baptized ) and konjiški lonec ( a dish from Slovenske Konjice made with beef tail ), flosarski golaž ( rafter’s stew ) and flosarski zrezek ( rafter’s steak ). The Upper Savinja Valley ( Zgomja Savinjska dolina ) is known for žlinkrofi ( square-shaped pasta with a meat stuffing ).
Cabbage deserves to be mentioned as well since it is used in numerous dishes such as pečeno štajersko zelje ( baked cabbage filled with minced meat and porridge and topped with sour cream ), štruklji ( made of rolled-out dough and stuffed with cabbage and then boiled ), and potica ( roll cake stuffed with cabbage ). Štruklji stuffed with tarragon filling are also very typical of the region.
Koroška ( Carinthia )
High mountain farms in Koroška still serve apple must, homemade bread, sausages, and cured ham, cheese, and a small bowl of sour milk with buckwheat or com žganci ( made of different hard-boiled flour ). In Koroška žganci are made specially: first, they stir-fry the flour, then they gradually add salted boiling water and grease.
Koroška is also renowned for its boiled štruklji with buckwheat filling and koroški mavžlje made of the meat from pig’s head, fried bread, buckwheat porridge, and different kinds of spices, altogether wrapped in pork net and roasted.
Bread is very important to the Slovenes since there is practically no meal without bread. They are a nation of bread eaters. The tradition of home-made bread goes far back as well, and the day of the week when the bread was baked on the farm stove was a feast for the whole family. O, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread! But the bread wasn’t baked every day. It was usually made once for the whole week or an even longer period. Even today there are quite some farms where bread is only baked once a week. Cottagers, crofters, and poorer farmers made bread from a mixture of black flour and potatoes. Such bread stayed fresh for several days.
Richer farmers used to make white bread with prunes, raisins, walnuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (bottom). No bread from the bakery can be as delicious as the bread baked on the traditional farm stove. Any visitor who will stop at one of the numerous tourist farmhouses can convince himself of that. They still serve genuine local food and drink. In the wine-growing regions that are premium wine, and in other parts guests are greeted with strong homemade brandy, which is supposed to “tie down their soul”. Sadly, the old tradition of welcoming guests with bread and salt has been abandoned.
Gorenjska ( Upper Carniola )
Even today, local cuisine is based on meat and milk. The region has always been closely connected with cattle-breeding and Alpine dairy farming and even today it is known for excellent cheese. The Emmentaler cheese from Bohinj is very famous while the smelly mohant is slightly less famous.
The region is also known for its orehova potica ( walnut roll ), Sara – hot pot with ram’s legs and vegetables, and Gorenjska Prata made of chopped meat from a pig’s head and diced bread, mixed with spices and eggs and roasted wrapped in pork net.
No other region could compete with Gorenjska when it came to the number of porridge dishes. But that was in the past, although it is true that even today Gorenjska boasts a great variety of boiled struklji.
Dolenjska and Posavje
The most typical Dolenjska dish is struklji. The Slovenes are known for making struklji in more than 70 different ways and quite a number of them originate from Dolenjsko. The region is also known for zlikrofi prepared with different stuffings ( intestines, meat, cheese, eggs, poultry, etc. ) and sauces.
There is also an abundance of other dishes such as grilled lambkins and piglets, typical of Bela Krajina, a goose or a turkey with chestnut stuffing, mesne pletenice, prosenice – smoked sausages made of pork entrails, meat and millet, tovoma potica, a roll-cake filled with sauerkraut and smoked pork or ham, and buckwheat potica from Bizeljsko filled with cottage cheese, cream, and walnuts.
A specialty is also roasted pork ribs with baked potatoes. We also shouldn’t forget about pork feet, home-made sausages cooked in wine and dormice. Be it in a well-seasoned goulash or stew, roasted with mashed chestnuts and apples, or boiled with potatoes, these tiny animals represent a true delicacy.
Notranjska ( Inner Carniola )
The specialty of the region is krompirjevi zganci, made from potatoes and wheat or barley flour, as well as hot pots cooked in clay pots in traditional farm stoves: ricet ( also called jesprenj ), beans with bacon, and the renowned bloska trojka seasoned with cracklings.
The region is also known for baked struklji with cream, cured pike, and Millman’s pike. Typical of the region are also notranjski zelodec ( pork stomach ), lung, and liver sausages.
Primorska, the Kras, and the Gorica region
In this area, soup has mainly been replaced by various types of pasta, although they offer dry soup with prsut? and rice and a variety of fish soups and vegetable minestra ( minestrone ) along the coast.
A strong influence of Mediterranean cuisine is felt throughout the region but despite that very particular and specific dishes have developed in different areas.
One of such areas is Idrijsko-Cerkljansko ( the Idrija and Cerkno regions ) known for old Idrija miners’ dishes: budle – comballs with raisins, dried turnip peels boiled with potatoes, and also deliciousjetrne klobase ( liver sausages ). The regional specialties are zlikrofi stuffed with a potato filling, and bakalca – a sauce made from ram or rabbit meat served with zlikrofi.
Polenta is well-known in the whole region although practically every village prepares it according to its own recipe. It is served with cottage cheese, fish brodet ( Istrian fish stew ), goulash, escargots in sauce, etc.
The region is also known for its vegetable side dishes – mangold with potatoes, peas with prsut, fennel fried in olive oil, aubergines, and asparagus, prepared in every possible way.
Truffles are a true delicacy. This most precious and expensive mushroom in the world grows in the Koper hinterland. Truffles are served stewed with herbs and wine in fritajla, in risotto, with pasta, and in fish dishes.
Everybody in Primorska knows Bakalar – mashed codfish with olive oil and garlic. The region is, naturally, the home of several other seafood delicacies. Different kinds of shell-fish, crayfish, squid, and fish prepared either in buzara, brodets, various marinades, or roasted or grilled also deserve mention.
Nutrition in Slovene regions is very varied, be it sea-food delicacies or žlikrofi. The Idrija žlikrofi are filled with potato, while elsewhere they can also be filled with meat and other stuffing. Cooks in Slovene inns can offer several home-style delicacies and spoil every guest, no matter how demanding he might be.