Špela Vodovc is lucky to have combined all her passions into work: nature, gastronomy and sports. Under the brand Cook eat Slovenia she was organising cooking classes in Ljubljana for a number of years, and now she has transitioned to creating guided food and hiking tours in Slovenia and most recently publishing her very own Slovenian food cookbook in English. Enough reasons to interview her, plus make those damn tasty autumn-perfect semolina štruklji she proposes at the end of this piece!
Why, when and how have you decided to start with culinary workshops, tours and then the book?
It all started out of love for Slovenian cuisine. During my travels around Thailand I saw locals organising cooking workshops, teaching travellers about their traditions, local ingredients and eating habits. Since I have always enjoyed hosting friends and spending time with them, especially with a glass of good wine and delicious food, I thought: let’s do such a cooking class in Ljubljana too. And so I did in 2013. First I found a venue where guests would feel like visiting my home. Then, I selected dishes and Slovenian wines that would in one experience sum up the culinary trip around Slovenia. Because the workshops were well accepted, I got inspired to organise multi-day food and hiking tours around Slovenia. Since I sent the cooking classes guests recipes of the dishes we’ve made and also an additional recipe to try at home, the wish of having my own Slovenian food cookbook was born. I started plotting and planning two years ago, and the process awakened a lot of feelings and memories of my childhood.
What is the cookbook like?
Food has always played an important role in my family, and in this book I have collected recipes of Slovenian dishes I ate as a little girl. It represents the culinary tradition of a nation and the legacy of my family. With it I want to bring back the romance of old traditions with some almost-forgotten recipes, alongside the most recognized and typical Slovenian dishes.
How was the making of the book? How long did it last, how much money was needed and who was involved?
I needed a proper team and all the right utensils for food styling as I also wanted to include traditional kitchenware in which Slovenian food is served. Photographer then became Mateja Jordović Potočnik, translator Urška Charney, proofreader Noah Charney and designer Gregor Žakelj. The pop-up food photography studio was in my parents home, filled with props. My mom helped me prepare and style the dishes. Estimated price for the book is 25,000 Euros; half of it I contributed alone, and the other half I have raised in a Kickstarter campaign. Marko Kumer – Murč and Urban Zorko from Ena Banda production were the guys behind the amazing promotional video for this campaign.
What is Slovenian food for you? What would you highlight?
Slovenian food is unique and diverse, and easy to like-love at first bite. We use fresh and local ingredients and we usually cook seasonally. That is why my cookbook is divided into seasonal recipes. My biggest love are štruklji of all kinds, and for Christmas a must is potica. I love stews and in the summer all kinds of fish dishes.
Špela’s recipe for semolina (grits) štruklji
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) curd cheese
- 180 g (1 cup or 6.4 oz) wheat grits
- 80 g (2.8 oz) butter, room temperature
- 4 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy and salt. Add well-mashed curd cheese and butter and stir. Moderately thicken the mixture by slowly mixing in the wheat grits. Pour the contents of the bowl onto a wet and wrung-out kitchen cloth and shape into a cylinder (štrukelj). Wrap with the cloth, tying its loose ends with the yarn. Cook for 25 minutes in salty boiling water. When done, take the štrukelj out of the water, remove the cloth and cut the štrukelj into 2 cm (0.8 inches) slices.
This type of štrukelj goes nicely with venison.
Thanks for reading!
If you crave some more delicious experiences, come join our food tours! Or buy our super informative, mobile-friendly and helpful foodie e-guide. Also, if you need help with your travel planning to Ljubljana and/or Slovenia, do not hesitate to contact us as we do also offer these services. Cheers from the yummy side of the Alps!