Iće i piće

NO 24, April 2011


How strukli became Croatian

Jelena Ivanišević

Photos: Damir Fabijanić

It was when once strukli had gouged out a place for itself (although plural in the original, like ravioli, the word can be more conveniently translated as singular) as gastronomic icon of northwest Croatia that the story about it actually began. What the vernacular tradition had dreamed up and the old cookbooks recorded now became a basis on which the local cuisine could build a more creative future. The interest in and potential of the old fashioned dish, one of the domesticated versions of the strudel, certainly lies in the fact that it can be seen as any one of the courses of a meal. In the boiled version strukli combines the concept of warm starter and hearty soup, during its popular history it has also made a place for itself as a main course, as well as the sweet ending to a more sumptuous dinner. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an occasion in which the most popular version of the strukli, that with fromage frais, or quark, would be inappropriate. Now, when the recipe has almost entirely got out of the hands of private cooking, it is possible to eat strukli at ever meal, eating or standing. Together with the popularity, the question has naturally arisen as to how to present it appropriately to its history and in what way to present it as an expression of the indigenous cooking style. For strukli, as made in Zagreb and Hrvatsko Zagorje, really is a distinctive feature of Croatian cuisine. Of that simple, anonymous, warm everyday cuisine of one’s great-grandmother, always the condensed experience of history, space, terroir and culture distilled into marvellous recipes. And so it can stay the foundation or the inception, better to say, of the new story of Croatian cooking.

When twenty years ago the kitchens of the Esplanade Hotel started to make and pack ready-cooked strukli, it seemed like a good idea. Simple too, the way brilliant ideas usually are. Take an old-fashioned recipe, don’t change the ingredients, but do a quality upgrade. The list of ingredients is after all very ordinary, just flour, water, salt, cheese, cream and eggs, and it is not particularly refined or ingenious. Just brilliant. A dish that can be a soup or a warm starter, a main and indeed only dish and a dessert. To boot, it’s handy if you’re eating on the move, at a party or standing up. It can be bought all over the place, probably has never been less made or more eaten at home. Twenty years later, strukli has made the journey from local to generally recognise national dish. After all, isn’t it on the list of the intangible cultural heritage and wasn’t a strukli-fest held in Zadar quite recently?

Strukli has obviously slipped out of Zagorje and Zagreb to the south, refrigerators in corner shops and bakers, and today it is probably more interesting to try to hypothesise where it’s all going to. Can strukli conquer the world? Well, it seems it’s well on the way.

Strukli with liptauer

flour 600 g
egg 1
oil 100 ml
salt 10 g
water as required
quark 1,2 kg
sweet red paprika 1 teaspoon
spring onion to taste
garlic / chives 3 cloves
salt 10-20 g
egg 1
butter 50 g
  1. Mix up the dough, form into a ball, and leave to rest for half an hour. In the meantime, prepare the fi lling with all the ingredients.
  2. Stretch out the pastry, spread the fi lling over it, roll it up and cut it with a saucer.
  3. Boil for fi ve minutes in boiling salted water.
  4. Arrange in an ovenproof dish, brush butter over them, and bake for 5–6 minutes until golden.
  5. Serve with sour cream, to which chopped chives has been added.

(Palace Hotel Zagreb)

Strukli soup

lard 1 teaspoon
small onion 1
sweet red paprika 1 teaspoon
water 1–1.5 l
  1. Gently boil the strukli in the water, and don’t drain off the water.
  2. Sauté fi nely chopped onion in the lard with the addition of a teaspoon of ground sweet red paprika.
  3. Add this mix to the water with the boiled strukli, serve.
  4. Sacrifi ce two or three of th eboiled strukli and chop them up to thicken the soup.
  5. Season to taste with salt and chopped parsley and if wished add a little sour cream.

(Palace Hotel Zagreb)

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