I’ve only been to Slovenia once, for my Nephew Gary’s and his lovely wife-to-be Hannah’s wedding this summer. Unfortunately, I was only here for five days, but believe me when I say that I left with so much newfound respect and culinary knowledge about this amazing and friendly country that it was unbelievable.
Slovenia – if you do not already know – is in central Europe and well-known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes. Tourism in Slovenia offers tourists an array of activities to do, even though the tourism market is relatively small at the present time. Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and the largest city.
It is the country’s cultural, educational, economic, political and administrative centre. But it is the Slovenian cuisine that has captured my heart, and anyone who follows my food and travel blogs knows how much I enjoy learning about the culinary history of the places I visit. Slovenian cuisine is a fusion of Central European cuisine, particularly that of Austria and Hungary, as well as Mediterranean and Balkan cuisine.
In fact, I’ve been told that there are over 40 distinct regional cuisines. That is amazing!! Each region appears to have its own specialty product. Slovenia has its roots in humble peasant fare. In a country with little meat and fresh produce, most cooks relied on root vegetables and browned bread crumbs and pork cracklings to flavour simple porridges and egg dishes.
Slovenia, one of the greenest country in the world
Foraging is also a natural process in Slovenia; in fact, I spent an hour chatting in broken English (and that was just me) with a gentleman who owned a small shop in Kranj, his pride bursting with pride in telling me that the carefully selected array of vegetable produce he was selling came from his own garden. The close connection between its cuisine and nature itself is probably one of the reasons why Slovenia was the European Region of Gastronomy 2021.
In one of the greenest countries in the world, Slovenia brings us nature straight to the plate. Here in Slovenia, you can jump into its culinary delights, while still exploring the diverse offer of top modern cuisine, but mixing it with traditional Slovenian dishes. One such place I was lucky enough to stay at was In Kranj, at the beautiful Guest House Arvaj. It had its own restaurant that was always popular with visitors and not only just the residents. Here I had this dish called ‘Goveja juha z domačimi rezanci’ translated to ‘Beef soup with homemade
It’s a Slovenian traditional clear beef soup dish that is thought to have originated in Austria. Made by Slovenian peasants, it appears to be a simple dish, but trust me, it takes a lot of preparation to get the flavours just right. This dish was only one of the many dishes I cooked on returning to the UK.
The Carniolan sausage
I cooked a beautiful vegan dish of Smoked tofu with a Puy lentil and chilli warm salad, which was paying homage to the dish we were served at the most amazing set of Lake Bled Castle for the reception meal. I also cooked a smoked sausage dish with horseradish sauce, pretty similar to a Slovenian Carniolan dish that I was served, with beautifully made dumplings and a creamy but not overly hot horseradish sauce. The Carniolan sausage (Kranjska Klobasa) is said to originate from the time of Emperor Franz Joseph, originates from the time of Emperor Franz Joseph, when he stopped somewhere in the mountainous region of Carniola (north-western Slovenia, near the Austrian and Italian borders), where he tasted the sausage. and called it Carniolan sausage.
Trout is another popular dish, especially around the clear waters of Bled and the surrounding area. But one of my favourite desserts that I tasted in Slovenia was without a doubt the ‘Bled cream cake’ (Kremšnita or Kremna Rezina)
This cream cake delicacy is available throughout Slovenia, but nothing beats sitting on a bench next to the lake, with the castle in full view, and savouring this unique tasting experience in every bite….because that’s exactly what I did….more than once!!
The taste of vanilla in the cream is truly a delight, made so much to perfection that the consistency doesn’t allow it to collapse when cutting. With A crispy layer of butter dough and a generous dusting of icing sugar, you can see why this is the symbol of Bled cuisine.
Excellent wines or beers from local breweries
Don’t forget to try some of Slovenia’s excellent wines or beers from local breweries. They also sell schnapps, such as homemade honey, blueberry, and pine schnapps. Natural tap water is also said to be cherished.
As I mentioned at the outset, I visited this lovely country in the summer, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Slovenia, with its stunning and picturesque scenery, would look in the winter, especially around Christmas.
My mind was now whirling to what culinary delights and traditions the Slovenians could come up with at Christmas time. So I delved into a bit of research about the place I visited for my nephew’s wedding, Lake Bled, and with a couple of photos sent to me by my good friends at ‘Bled Tourism’ I tried to capture this beautiful little town in all of its “winter wonderland glory”
In the winter, the lake is sensationally transformed into a breathtaking scene of Christmas delights, with snow-covered trees, sparkling lights, and the moon cascading across the stillness of the lake. A group of events called Winter Fairytale gives everyone an opportunity to go shopping for seasonal gifts at the St Nicholas’ Fair and the Christmas Fair.
The Legend of the Sunken Bell
The Legend of the Sunken Bell will also be performed on December 25th. “Every year on December 25th, people gather around Lake Bled to watch the bell sink.” The luminous bell slowly sinks into the lake in complete darkness, creating a truly magical spectacle. This custom commemorates an old and tragic Slovenian legend. An honourable man was once murdered by robbers and his body was dumped in Lake Bled. To honour her beloved husband, his grieving widow, who lived in the castle near the lake, had a large bell made out of all the gold and silver she possessed.
However, the boat carrying the bell sank into the lake as a result of a massive storm. The widow couldn’t take it any longer, so she sold everything she owned and used the proceeds to build a new church. She then left Bled to become a nun in Rome. Long after her death, the Pope heard her tragic story and gave the order to build the new bell.
So, pay your respects to the true virtuous widow of Bled Lake and witness the spellbinding spectacle of the sinking bell.”
Photo by Bled Tourism Board
After witnessing the sinking of a bell, you can take a stroll around the lake and, if desired, listen to the concerts on the Lakeside Promenade. Bled’s charming and compact Christmas Market, the Bled Winter Fairytale (also sometimes referred to as the Bled Festive Lakeside Promenade) boasts an impressive array of authentic gifts for a market of its size. The lakefront is lined with market stalls selling a variety of traditional Slovenian souvenirs and seasonal decorations, many of which are handmade by local artisans. Delicacies such as honey, brandy, sweets, and dried fruit are plentiful but because Slovenia has one of the most densely wooded countries in Europe, Hand-carved woodenware, which includes kitchen utensils, cutting boards, accessories and so much more, making Bled’s Christmas Market a haven for all cooking enthusiasts.
All across Slovenia and not just in Bled, Christmas and New Year celebrations are linked with a rich culinary tradition.
The air is always filled with the delicious aromas of Christmas bread and ‘Potica’, a nut roll made of paper-thin dough and filled with a variety of fillings, including savoury. Pork, or the traditional slaughter of a pig ‘Koline,’ meant that the tables were set with various pork dishes. As with anywhere around the world today in our ever increasingly fast-paced lifestyle that we all live in, I could imagine Bled at Christmas time to be a break from the hustle and bustle of it all, a chance to relax and take in the year’s events, good, bad, happy or sad… a chance to prepare for the New year and hopefully all the good luck it may bring.
So let December be a time to spend with our loved ones and friends, and to forgive those who may need it.
Photo by Bled Tourism Board
Remember those who aren’t as fortunate to be with their loved ones, as well as those who are no longer with us.
So From “Recipes from my travels”
Stay safe & Enjoy the festivities.