Easter in Slovenia – My Potica Journey!

It’s not even Easter yet and I’ve already eaten half my body weight in potica – all in the name of research for this blog!

It’s not hard to find potica in Slovenia, far from it, it’s abundantly available, particularly during Easter, Christmas and New Year holidays. I have often read that there are over 80 different types of potica in Slovenia, yet in most shops and bakeries there are only the usual staple varieties, such as; walnut – by far the most commonly found; poppy seedtarragonpork crackling; dried fruitpotratna –  as seen below – a layered ‘luxury’ potica, made with curd cheese, walnuts and layers of light and dark sponge.

potratna potica

So, where then are the other 70+ varieties I asked myself? Therefore, for this blog I set myself the challenge of seeking out some of the other, more unusual types of potica. In the process I have crossed waters and worked my way through an awful lot of potica, so, I hope you enjoy reading about potica in Slovenia as much as I have enjoyed eating it!

I must confess that sometimes I find potica can be rather uninspiring, dry, and, well, a bit underwhelming. For me the ratio of dough to filling is the key factor. According to potica experts, the ideal ratio is 1:1 – for example, if the dough is 1cm thick, then the filling should also be 1cm. In reality, especially when it comes to mass produced potica, this seems to be far from the case, hence it definitely pays to seek out handmade potica, and it also pays to pay! Though these days you can find potica in pretty much every supermarket throughout the land, and it can often be found on special offer, these shop-bought varieties, though cheap, are often disappointing. Homemade versions are almost always the best – almost everyone in Slovenia seems to have a grandmother who makes ‘the best’ potica, or I recommend also trying some of the ones below!

First I contacted Iva Gruden from Ljubljananjamhttp://www.ljubljananjam.si/ who knows pretty much everything there is to know about the food scene in Ljubljana. She suggested I try the coffee shop and patisserie Čopomana in Ljubljana. Čopomana has many flavours of potica including several that I have never seen, let alone tried.

Čopomana bakes the usual favourite flavours and also an array of different and imaginative flavours. During Easter week they are readily available, whilst at other times throughout the year they are baked to order.

  • Almond and candied fruit

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  • Hazelnut with rum-soaked raisins

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  • Pumpkin seed, pistachio and cardamom

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  • Date, orange, almond and rose petal

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  • Coconut and milk chocolate

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  • Chestnut, fig and Tonka bean – unfortunately I failed to get a good snap of this one for some reason, though it was actually my favourite of the lot – too busy eating, perhaps!

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I’d like to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to the owner of Čopomana, Tanja Viler, for her extreme friendliness, inventiveness and willingness. My visit even inspired her to invented a new flavour of potica (the chestnut one!), and I must mention that my attention was also drawn by all the other delicious looking handmade cakes, jams and other goodies available. I think I will be visiting again soon! More information here – https://www.facebook.com/Čopomana-576820115783243/?fref=ts

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My search also led me to Bled island. As well as being home to the Church of the Mother of God, and a gallery, the island also has its own ‘potičnica‘. I’m going to let the photos tell the story, as there is SO much to tell!

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I journeyed to the island by private boat.

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I was warmly greeted by Romana Bohinc, who then proceeded, at lightning speed, to skilfully make and bake five different kinds of potica.

  • A chocolate-enriched dough filled with ground almonds and cranberries soaked in honey and lemon juice

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  • Blanched almond with white chocolate, cream and honey

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  • Toasted hazelnut, honey and dried fig – Romana told me about the island’s fig tree. The alpine climate in Gorenjska isn’t exactly conducive to growing figs, however, she explained to me that the island has its own kind of microclimate, which results in a healthy annual fig crop.

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  • Walnut, honey and rum-soaked raisins – a slight twist on the classic walnut potica

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  • Chive, rum-soaked raisins and cranberry – with a base layer of egg yolks, butter and sugar. I couldn’t quite get my head round chives being used in a sweet bake, as they have a very pungent flavour, but this one actually turned out to be my favourite of the lot. Do try it!

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I was also impressed by the ‘no waste’ policy, whereby the ends of the dough that are cut off before the potica goes into a mould, are baked into biscuits.

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By prior arrangement the potičnica offers workshops for groups, whereby each person can make their own potica, have a guided tour of the island, a tasting session, and some potica to take home. This sounds like a fantastic idea to me and I hope that, rather than just being a spectator, I too will be able to participate myself sometime soon. More information here – http://www.blejskiotok.si/poticnica

I also happened upon one more variety of potica, cream potica, made at Trojane – home of the original Trojane doughnut! One perhaps wouldn’t associate Trojane with potica, but they have their own in-house bakery and patisserie and also pride themselves on their homemade local food. Whilst traditional walnut potica is available all year-round at Trojane, cream potica is only available at Easter and Christmas. The filling comprises a mixture including breadcrumbs, curd cheese and cream.

Trojane smetanova potica

Perhaps potica purists will baulk at some of the flavours shown above, preaching that they don’t consistute ‘real’ potica, but, as I see it, as long as the original shape and methods are retained, then there are no limits to the possibilities – all it takes is a little imagination, as I discovered on my potica journey.

Easter in Slovenia is celebrated in a number of ways. It begins on Palm Sunday when people can be seen flocking to churches around the country carrying bundles of branches and leaves, called ‘butare‘ which are then blessed as part of a custom thought to date back as far as the 9th century.

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On Easter Saturday people take baskets of food, covered with embroidered cloths, to church to be blessed. However, this food cannot be eaten until Easter Sunday. Then, after a period of abstinence (by some), with a fast beginning on Ash Wednesday, food becomes a big deal as tables in homes around the country can be found bursting under the weight of, of course, potica, as well as baked ham, horseradish, eggs and other delicacies!

However and wherever you choose to celebrate Easter, may it be filled with colour, joy, and, of course, potica! I reckon I might manage another slice, or two!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

 

Nuts about Doughnuts in Trojane!

Say the word ‘Trojane‘ to pretty much anyone in Slovenia, no matter where they live, and they are likely to know instantly what you are talking about – doughnuts!

The reason being is that the village of Trojane has become a Slovene institution thanks to Gostilna Trojane, which comprises a restaurant, café, cake shop and gift shop and it is most famous for its Trojane doughnuts.

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Here’s a very potted history. Before the motorway was built, all traffic travelling from Ljubljana towards the northeast of Slovenia i.e. Celje, Maribor, Ptuj, and onwards towards Austria and Hungary, used to travel through the centre of Trojane and it also marks the halfway point on the trade route between Trieste and Vienna where, 150 years ago, the then tavern provided a stopover for weary travellers to rest, sleep and eat. Nowadays, the motorway skirts the village, which must have been a boon for residents, though at the time Gostilna Trojane had serious concerns about the effect it would have on their business. They certainly needn’t have, as in fact business even increased!

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In the 1930s a younger generation took over the restaurants and later, having seen the rising popularity of doughnuts in Vienna, had the idea of making them in Slovenia. Thus, in 1960, Trojane doughnuts were created and the rest, as they say, is history! Initially the doughnuts were served, free of charge, just to chauffeurs, bus drivers etc. as a dessert after their meal. But word soon spread and before long people were flocking to try them.

They are definitely at their best when still warm! The classic doughnut is filled with apricot jam, though other variations are available.

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These days, for most people its almost impossible, indeed unthinkable, to drive past Trojane without stopping for a doughnut, cake, or a hearty meal from the very extensive menu and although it’s not exactly on my doorstep, if I’m in that direction I also always make a beeline there – well with the world’s worse sweet tooth I would!

On a recent visit I sat down with Urška Strnad, Head of Service, to find out more about the company and get some facts and figures, which left me even more impressed by this place. Despite its astonishing success, the privately run company certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. They have recently renovated a previous unused part of the building and can now cater for up to 850 guests in total, as well as having installed solar panels to add to their dedication to being environmentally-friendly. The majority of the 150+ staff live within a 15km radius, and car-sharing is encouraged. Additionally, everything is made on-site and only Slovene ingredients are used in all the bakery products.

Trojane doughnuts are significantly larger than the average doughnut, each one weighing 180-200g. I was astonished to discover that every doughnut is actually made by-hand and when you consider that they make, on average, between 10-15,000 per day – yes, per day – that’s no mean feat!

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As you might expect, I’ve tried everything ‘sweet’ on offer and, in addition to the doughnuts, my personal favourites are the chestnut roulade and the gibanica – one piece of which is enough to feed a small army! I was even allowed to have a go at cutting and decorating a roulade, though, I think I’d better stick to eating them rather than icing them!

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Trojane isn’t just about food though, just take a look at the views.

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It’s also worth taking the time to explore the area surrounding the village and perhaps, as I did, work up an appetite for the inevitable indulgence to follow, by taking a walk on one of the surrounding hills or the forests of the picturesque Zasavje valley.

In the immediate vicinity of Gostilna Trojane, you can walk from Zavrh up to the viewing tower ‘Stolp na Rebri’  – also later written as ‘Stolp na Rebru’ – hmm, the wonders of the Slovene language!

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The path starts 200 metres or so from the restaurant complex at the sign for ‘Zavrh‘. You can park here or continue a little further up and park where the tarmac road ends and continue on foot up the gravel track. You first reach a shine to St. Ozbolt.

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The path then leads a little more steeply up through the forest taking approximately 45 minutes to climb to 878m where a wooden viewing tower is located.

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It’s worth climbing up to the top for views like this and in the knowledge delicious food awaits down there in the valley!

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Other popular destinations for a walk in the area is to Spilk, or to the Čemšeniška planina highland and the mountain hut Koča na Čemšeniški planini. These two are also now on my list of places to go – well, any excuse to visit Trojane!

Useful links:

Gostilna Trojane –

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015