Kristy Wenz is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover, experimental home cook and avid traveler. She blogs regularly at Eat Play Love, where she and her family explore cuisines and cultures around the globe.
Warming Up to the New Year With Slovenian Soup
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2017 is officially upon us and the holidays are past. As we settle back into less hectic days (hopefully), many of us find ourselves in the full grip of the winter months. Some will hunker down to work or tackle indoor hobbies, while others will be hitting the slopes or strapping on the snow shoes. No matter your pleasure, a bowl of steaming soup is the perfect accoutrement to the season and this month's World Platter has just the recipe from our featured country of: Slovenia.
Now some of you may remember that we dipped into the tastes of Slovenia last spring with a Tarragon Potica, a traditional Slovenian cake; and that Slovenia’s cuisine is vastly diverse owing to its complicated history. Slovenia as we know it today has been a part of numerous nations including the Roman Empire, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Croatia before it became Yugoslavia, which was comprised of six socialist federations, after World War II. Slovenia became a democracy in the late 1980’s and then independent from Yugoslavia in 1991. As such this is a relatively young nation, and while many traditional recipes reflective of its diversity abound, Slovenia also boasts a dynamic, inventive and emerging food scene unique to its cultural identity.
After I visited this mountainous region last summer, it became evident very quickly that if you haven’t yet considered Slovenia as a food and wine destination, it’s only a matter of time. Likewise, as Wine Tourist Magazine illustrates this issue, Slovenia is also a stunning ski destination in the winter months. Although the altitudes aren’t as high as neighboring Austria, Switzerland and France, the snow is plentiful, the resorts high-quality and the prices reasonable. In other words, Slovenia is a quintessential winter destination for the ski-loving wine tourist, and The World Platter is bringing you the Gobova Juha to whet your appetite for this warm, welcoming culture.
WARM-UP WITH GOBOVA JUHA
Gobova Juha is a mushroom soup traditionally served throughout Slovenia in the winter months. It is most commonly presented as a starter, but can just as easily be served as a light lunch or dinner with fresh warm, crusty bread. What’s more, it’s perfect for warming up after coming in from the cold and snow, and it will match both a white or red Slovenian wine. Slovenia is a heavily forested nation where mushrooms are bountiful and the variety vast, and this soup showcases them in all their woody glory. The Gobova Juha is also easy to prepare and filling without being overly caloric, because unlike many mushroom soups, this one is prepared as a broth-based soup rather than a cream-based soup. (Helpful for those New Year’s resolutions!)
We’ll start our Slovenian cooking adventure by selecting the mushrooms. As they are the star of the show, freshness and variety are key. Shiitake, oyster, cremini and even portobello mushroom varieties offer stronger and more distinctive flavors than the white button mushrooms; however, if these are unavailable adding in a few packets of dried mushrooms (reconstituted first) will provide that characteristically woody burst of flavor. Next up is the broth, also vital to the finished dish. Now, if you want to go the extra mile, use a fresh, homemade beef broth to really infuse the soup with intensity, but if like us, you’re using a store-bought broth remember to adjust your seasonings according to personal tastes to enhance the final flavors.
The final key to making this a dish characteristic of the region is to add a touch of sourness to the soup. Sour is very common Slovenian flavor profile and it adds to the uniqueness of this recipe. In this version we used a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar, again this can be adjusted to suit personal tastes. It isn’t an overpowering flavor, but rather adds a subtle sourness while at the same time complementing the mushrooms. You’ll also find this soup commonly served with a dollop of sour cream for that additional richness.
FOUR SIMPLE STEPS
As for preparation, after the veggies are prepped and ingredients measured out, there are only four steps which are easily finished within an hour. First, the onions and garlic are sautéed. Then the mushrooms and seasonings are tossed in for about 10 minutes, followed by the broth and veggies which are simmered for another 30 minutes. Finally the vinegar and last seasonings are incorporated and simmered for a few additional minutes. That’s it! You’re now ready to serve a steaming cup of soup that will warm you down to your toes.
We served our Gobova Juha as dinner alongside a warm loaf of sourdough bread – perfect for dipping. We also sampled the soup both with and without the sour cream; either way was delicious, so serve to your preference. It is a soothing dish with hearty umami flavors that is sure to leave you satisfied.
As for the wine, this is a point of joy for the wine lover as mushroom dishes often lend themselves to a number of varieties, white and red – even bubbly! But for the sake of cultural experience, not to mention personal delight, make it a Slovenian wine. You’ll find many interesting Slovenian wines, some similar to those produced in Burgundy although distinct to this region, that will beautifully complement the dish like a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. I would even suggest preparing a tasting of a variety of Slovenian wines with which to warm up your friends alongside bowls of soup by the fireplace and make a festive night of it. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy this Slovenian dish, I think you’ll be adding this destination to your wine tourist bucket lists!
Happy New Year! May your tables, glasses and hearts be full through the coming months. Na zdravje!
1 T butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of mushrooms (mixed variety – oyster, cremini and shiitake)
1 T salt
1 T flour
¼ t each dried thyme, tarragon, sage and mustard powder
4 c beef broth, unsalted
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 T white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and fresh chopped parsley to serve
In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic and a pinch of salt for five minutes or until onions are soft and translucent.
Add the mushrooms, seasonings, another pinch or two of salt, and flour. Sauté for another 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked down (they will produced their own liquid so no extra oil is needed).
Next add the beef stock, the remaining salt, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Finally add the white wine vinegar, season to taste and simmer an additional five minutes uncovered.
Serve hot with fresh bread, a dollop of sour cream and fresh chopped parsley.