Followers of our blog have probably noticed that our quest to cook our way around the world has slowed (well, stopped) in recent weeks. This is because we’ve been on an incredible holiday in Australia so had to put the challenge on hold while we put all of our energy into eating as much Aussie food as possible, and have certainly enjoyed munching our way through a menu of macadamia nuts, fresh prawns, Vegemite, Tim Tams, barramundi, Caramello koalas, proper salad sandwiches, meat pies, Arnott’s Shapes, Allen’s lollies, lamingtons, LSA, banana bread, Jatz crackers and kangaroo. Miranda (hailing from those parts) has also enjoyed eating capsicum, zucchini and eggplant instead of peppers, courgette and aubergine for a while.
But now we’re back in the ‘Mash House’ and back to our challenge, with Slovenia the first country on our list. One observation we’ve made is that nearby countries often have very similar cuisine, and having made plenty of foods involving stewed meat, stodgy carbs and lots of butter and cheese through Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany, we wanted to try something a bit different. For Slovenia, therefore, we decided on potica, or nut roll, which resembles a Swiss roll but is filled with nuts or poppy seeds instead of jam, and is more of a sweet bread than a cake. This recipe is from Vicky on allrecipes.com.
For the bread:
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp lukewarm milk
1/2 cup softened butter
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup milk (additional to the 2 tbsp)
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup + 2 tbsp freshly ground walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon (approx.)
1. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp of the flour in the warm milk. Mix well, and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. (I thought it was very strange putting flour in with this mix, but did it anyway. It didn’t froth up as much as yeast normally would, but I don’t know whether this is anything to do with the flour.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the remaining sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add the yeast mixture, remaining milk, 2 cups of flour and the salt, and mix well.
4. Add the remaining flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
5. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (This was incredibly difficult because the dough was so sticky – again, I don’t know whether this is a fault of mine or the recipe. I just beat it up as best I could, but there’s no way I could have worked it for the 8 minutes suggested in the original recipe without getting it all stuck to my hands and the bench.)
6. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil (or do what I did and spray the top with a little oil – there was no turning that sticky dough once it was in the bowl!). Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. (Pretty sure mine didn’t double in volume, but I went ahead anyway.)
7. Lightly grease (or line) a baking tray. Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. (I did this between two pieces of non-stick greaseproof paper, otherwise it would again have just stuck to the bench.)
8. Spread the dough with melted butter (I found that I didn’t use as much as the recipe said), honey, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon.
9. Roll the dough up like a Swiss roll and pinch the ends. Place seam side down onto the baking tray and again let rise until doubled in volume. Preheat oven to 175C.
10. Bake for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
This recipe is a perfect example of why we are loving this challenge so much. We had never heard of potica before, and would probably never have made it if we weren’t investigating Slovenian food, but we’ve now found a new cakey-bready thing that we really like. It’s very versatile and could be served as an indulgent breakfast, with a cup of tea as a snack or as dessert after dinner (even with some ice cream or custard if you were feeling particularly naughty). It’s more cake than bread, really, and is somehow rich yet quite light at the same time. Definitely recommended and not as tricky as it first appears!
Next, we’ll be cooking something Croatian. Miranda has been to Croatia a couple of times and loves it, but can’t actually remember any traditionally Croatian foods other than cuttlefish risotto and the plum brandy she brought back on her last visit, which must be an acquired taste… so at this stage, what we’ll be making is a mystery! Either way, it’s good to be back!