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Nuts About Potica

Ljubljana, 3 April - Few dishes are more closely associated with Slovenian national identity than potica. The dough roll with sweet or savoury filling is an integral part of any major holiday, but it is Easter when potica consumption reaches its peak.

Bled
Potica, the traditional Slovenian pastry.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Potica is any kind of pastry consisting of a sweet yeast dough rolled out thin and spread with a variety of filling that is then rolled up and baked in a round or square baking dish.

Although sweet walnut poticas are the dominant form, there are dozens of regional and local varieties, with spreads ranging from poppy seed, almond, fig and cream to carob tarragon and, for those who like it savoury, meaty greaves.

According to ethnologist Janez Bogataj, potica features in the cuisines of all Slovenian regions. "Every house has its own secrets and flavours," he writes in the book Creative Slovenia.

While walnut potica is now considered the gold standard, it all started with honey potica centuries ago, honey being among the oldest known sweeteners.

The first written mention of potica dates back to 1575, according to Gorazd Makarovič, a curator at the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, though at that time it was called "povitica" and was also known as "štrukelj".

It started out as a food for the nobility in the 16th century, before gradually becoming a festive dish of the urban middle class in the 17th century and adopted by the peasant class in the 19th century.

Today almost every household will have potica on the table, though many will eschew the laborious process and just go for the store-bought variety.

The vast majority will probably reach for the walnut variety, but for the more adventurous palates tarragon will be the filling of choice.

As Bogataj notes, Slovenia is in some ways unique in combining tarragon with sugar. "In most other European countries it is used mostly with meat and savoury dishes," he says.

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© STA, 2015