Any Slovenians out there? According to my website analytics, Slovenia is only the 54th most common country for people to view this website from, with only about 850 visitors in the last year - so there's probably not many of you reading this right now.
But if any Slovenians are reading, I first want to say how much I adore your country, and should probably also apologise for this almost-certainly-not-traditional version of a traditional Slovenian dish - štruklji! (which I'm about 80% sure is pronounced something along the lines of strook-lee, but feel free to correct me...)
These little dumplings come in all different forms, both sweet and savoury, but the version I'm sharing today is rolled with apples, cottage cheese and prunes (you can use raisins if you prefer!), with plenty of spices. And it's delicious.
If you're wondering why I'm suddenly sharing a Slovenian dish, it's because I was lucky enough to visit the country just before Christmas, and let me tell you: I fell in love!
(...with the country, I mean. Happily married here.)
Slovenia isn't a common holiday destination for us Brits, and honestly it's not somewhere that's ever really been on my radar - but after spending a few days in the capital city Ljubljana and its surrounding area, it's definitely a place I'll be returning to.
How can you argue with views like this?
Before you ask: Yes, it really is as beautiful as it looks. Yes, I did ride up a mountain on that chair lift. Yes, I did shake in my boots the whole way (it's higher than it looks!). And yes, I would happily do it again. The views from the top are totally worth it - Slovenia is quite possibly the most beautiful country I've ever visited.
Despite only spending 3 nights in Slovenia, I ate štruklji about four times (it was a good trip). Every restaurant seemed to want to show off their own version, so of course I thought I should give it a go myself when I got home. Luckily, the recipe seemed to differ a lot from place to place (as you can see below!), so I feel comfortable calling this my personal adaptation - even if it's perhaps not the most traditional recipe.
My version of štruklji may not be totally authentic, but it was easy to make, really delicious, and as soon as I bit into it, I was taken back to Slovenia - which is a success in my book!
I'm sure the restaurants we ate at made their own dough, but filo pastry makes a really easy alternative. The dumplings are boiled, so the pastry doesn't end up crispy or flaky like filo usually does, but rather dense and slightly chewy - which is actually a lot tastier than it sounds!
Just spread your filling (the cottage cheese, and those tasty spiced apples) onto a few sheets on filo, roll it up, and wrap everything tightly in a tea towel before boiling.
I'll admit, when you first unwrap the towel after boiling, you'll think I'm crazy - the pale, doughy slab isn't much to look at to begin with. But slice it up and sprinkle it with a little icing sugar, and it makes quite a beautiful dessert. Štruklji is often served topped with fried breadcrumbs, but I skipped these (not a fan!).
Have you ever been to Slovenia? I'd love to hear what you thought about it. The mountains were so beautiful in December, but one day I'll go back in the summer time - apparently all you can hear in the mountains is the jingle of bells around cows' necks. Tell me that doesn't sound completely idyllic?!
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Slovenian Tourist Board, and did not pay for my trip myself, but all opinions are my own. I was not otherwise compensated to write this post.
Slovenian struklji (apple dumplings)
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- 2 red apples
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 50 g caster sugar (~ ⅛ cup)
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 prunes, chopped (or 2 tablespoon raisins)
- ~ 7 large sheets of filo pastry (each measuring ~ 12 x 16 inches)
- Spray oil
- 260 g cottage cheese (~ 1 cup)
- 1 egg
- Icing sugar, to serve
- You'll also need: a clean tea towel and some string
- Peel and core the apples, and cut the flesh into fairly small dice. Add to a small saucepan with the lemon juice, sugar, spices and chopped prunes (or raisins) and cook for around 5 minutes over a medium heat, until fairly soft.
- Meanwhile, lay out a sheet of filo pastry on a slightly damp, clean tea towel (my pastry sheets each measured around 12 x 16 inches). Spray the pastry lightly with oil, and place another sheet on top. Repeat until you've used all of the pastry - I used 7 sheets in total.
- In a small bowl, combine the cottage cheese and egg, and mix well.
- Spread the cottage cheese mixture over one half of the filo pastry, and top with the apple mixture. Starting from one of the short ends of the rectangle (choose the end that you covered with filling - see picture above), tightly roll the pastry. Wrap the pastry roll tightly in the tea towel, and tie the ends with string.
- Place the roll in a large pan of water, and bring to a boil. Cook for around 30 minutes, then drain. When the roll is cool enough to handle, cut the string, and unwrap the tea towel. Cut the štruklji into slices, and serve topped with a sprinkle of icing sugar.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.