Discovering Ljubljana’s Cuisine At A Slovenian Cooking Class
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Slovenians will tell you their country is shaped like a chicken, and their food obsession doesn’t end there as I discovered when I attended a Slovenian cooking class in the capital.
Being let loose in a Ljubljana kitchen with five different dishes taught me a lot about a national cuisine to which I was totally new – and drinking double that number of alcoholic accompaniments may just have helped me forget a few of the lessons, but I’ll never forget how much fun the class was…
Given the fact that Slovenia as a country is only 23 years old (my age; shocking co-incidence that) the ex-Yugoslav Republic has a surprising number of moreish signature dishes to which I am introduced for the first time at a cute, homely wood-panelled bistro in Ljubljana’s town centre after the customers have cleared out for the day.
Even more surprisingly this new-to-most national cuisine also excels at producing an embarrassment of dishes indelibly linked to neighbouring nations and then out-doing them.
Italians: look away now – the ham I’m served on arrival at Gostilna Dela, as a sort of rustic amuse-bouche to kick off the class, is as good as any I’ve had in Parma. Slovenia’s Karst region prosciutto is delicious, somewhat sturdier and more smoky than its Italian counterpart but a total revelation to a committed deli food devourer like me.
When it’s time to get down to some serious cooking, the famous Kranjska Klobasa sausage we make as one of the main dishes rivals any German Bratwurst, and the Gouda and goulash I encounter during the rest of the week just back up my notion that the Slovenians are quietly cooking up a storm without most of Europe batting an eyelid.
But unique and exotic-sounding national dishes are what I’m here to learn about during the relaxed, enjoyable and hands-on evening with my cookery teacher Spela – who isn’t too shy to help me wash down each course with any number of different world class Slovenian wines, including Cvicek, a Chianti which is uniquely made from a blend of red and white grapes and is consumed chilled.
My favourite dish is the Ajdova Kasa Z Jabolkom, Mladim Sirom In Orehi – that’s a Buckwheat Kasha, a salad with apple, fresh cheese and walnuts that I keep cheekily spooning into my mouth while we carry on cooking.
After a further feast of Piran sea bass, chard with potatoes, and Trieste sauce, followed by our hand-made Štruklji and preserved fig pralines as a final sweet course, I think I can’t consume any more.
Then Spela brings out bottles of her mum’s home-made schnapps to finish off the evening, along with a local brand, Krucefix, also a family affair, produced in the foothills of the Alps near the Austrian border – and I’m asked a dangerous question, but one I wish was put to me more often: ‘Do you want 20% alcohol or 40% alcohol.’ The class just got even better.
So as they say in Slovenia Dober tek – Bon Appetite. Or maybe at this cooking class it’s more like Na zdravje. That’s cheers to you and me.
For more information about Culinary Slovenia’s cooking classes, food tours and tastings visit their website –www.culinaryslovenia.com.
Classes are held at Gostilna Dela, at 7 Poljanska on the cusp of Ljubljana’s pedestrianised town centre, meaning that if you’re staying centrally you can easily walk or cycle to the class.
The cooking workshop I attended costs a very reasonable 60 Euros per person (maximum of 12 participants) which includes all food and drinks.
Ljubljana’s Tourist Board also has information and ideas about discovering Ljubljana through its food on their website www.visitljubljana.com.
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