Denise Rejec is an expat from the beautiful island of Malta who calls Slovenia her second home. Denise Rejec is the author of the blog Wine Dine Slovenia – An Expat’s affair with Slovenia’s food and drink.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Denise Rejec, who says that writing was always one of her passions. With her blog Wine Dine Slovenia, he presents her own experiences with Slovenian cuisine as a Maltese native. She aims to present a variety of articles that will convey as much about the country’s gastronomy and wine offerings as possible.
Read the interview with Denise Rejec below and find out what she had to say about Slovenian cuisine.
THE: What are some of the differences between Slovenian and Maltese traditional cuisine?
If I had to choose which cuisine to go for after a tough workout or uphill climb, it would definitely be Slovene. Traditional Slovenian cuisine is the richer and heartier one, with lots of meat and potato-based dishes, while Maltese cuisine is a lighter Mediterranean one. There is one common factor: the influence of other countries. In Slovenia, you’ve got cuisine inspired by Italy to the west, Austria in the north, Hungary in the east, and Croatia to the south. While Maltese cuisine is an eclectic mix of Sicilian, Italian, French, English, and North African elements.
Our traditional dishes are rabbit, ‘lampuki’ (dorado) pie, ‘timpana’ which is a dish of baked macaroni with a top layer of pastry, and ‘ħobż biż-żejt’ (literally translated as ‘bread with oil’)—a great snack of Maltese bread garnished with olive oil, tuna, capers, onions, tomatoes, olives, sea salt, pepper, and/or any other ingredients of choice. We’re also known for another delicious snack, the ‘pastizzi’—puff-pastry pockets filled with either mushy peas or ricotta cheese. Sinful, but sooo good!
THE: Which spice, flavorS, or herbS defines Maltese cuisine?
We use quite a bit of Mediterranean herbs to add flavour to our dishes, namely thyme (which does a good job of bumping up our traditional rabbit dish), rosemary (which I love to use on fish), and oregano. When in Malta, I just love heading out into the countryside and collecting wild thyme and asparagus for my cooking. Regarding flavour, I would say the overall taste of Maltese cuisine is rather Italian
THE: Describe your first experience with Slovenian food. Which food was it, how did it make you feel?
The moment I set eyes on my first Slovenian dish, I knew I was in for something new. My first Slovenian food experience was at my mother-in-law’s where I dove into a nice portion of bloody sausage (‘krvavica’) and sour turnip (‘kisla repa’) with ‘ocvrki’ (pork crackling). If we had to eat this kind of food in Malta, where our lifestyles are more sedentary, we’d be twice the size.
THE: What is your favorite Slovenian food, restaurant or chef?
With all the exceptional restaurants in Slovenia, it’s extremely hard to pick my favourite. I tend to prefer Primorska cuisine the most, with all the prosciuttos and the Italian influence, though I also find exotic meat dishes with venison or bear very enticing. I love ‘potica’ (without the raisins) and the traditional ‘Martinova pojedina’ of roast duck with purple cabbage and ‘mlinci’.
THE: Malta is also known as a wine country, the same as Slovenia. Which Slovenian wine is your favorite and would recommend to tourists who come to Slovenia?
Slovenia has an endless choice of excellent wines, making it hard to list them all. My personal favorites so far, off the top of my head, are Pinot Noir by Cultus winery, Malvazija, and Teran by Pri Starčih – Tavčar winery from Kras, Ta Star (a matured blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc) by Čarga… I also love Rodica’s natural wines, the sweet Rebula wine called Leonardo by Marjan Simčič, as well as many other orange wines made from the Rebula grape variety that is typical of the Goriška Brda wine region.
THE: This year Slovenia will receive its first Michelin stars. What are your expectations and how will the introduction of the guide effect Slovenian gastronomic tourism? Who in your opinion will get some Michelin stars?
More and more people, especially hard-core food enthusiasts, will be coming over to Slovenia simply for its food offer. This is already the case thanks to brilliant chefs like Ana Roš, who needs no introduction. However, there’ll be an incentive for all restaurants and chefs to achieve higher quality standards and keep them constant. Most are already successful at doing this, but I believe the less known chefs here will also have something more to work towards.
The introduction of the Michelin Guide also means that prices will increase generally. You can eat a high-quality multi-course meal at such reasonable prices currently, but I expect that to change with the intro of the guide.
Which restaurants will get the stars? No doubt Hiša Franko with its Ana Roš, Gostilna pri Lojzetu – Zemono run by Tomaž Kavčič, Gostišče Grič with its Luka Košir, Hiša Denk with its head chef Gregor Vračko, Strelec run by Igor Jagodic, JB restaurant by Janez Bratovž… and a couple more for sure. Let’s wait and see! Hopefully the Coronavirus will be over and done with soon enough so that we can witness the revelation.
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