Smoked sheep's cheese

Slovakia’s love affair with cheese

In Be inspired, Travel by Rebecca Comments

Apart from the awesome people, gorgeous scenery, and fascinating workshops during my trip to Slovakia in May, the food was a definite highlight. Being a foodie, I of course took photos of everything I ate. At first my new friends (and old colleagues) thought I was pretty weird but before long they were taking photos of their food for me too. Go team!

Fundamentals of Slovak cuisine

Slovak cuisine isn’t as definitive as Italian or Japanese cuisine; it shares a lot of similarities with neighbouring countries like Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Traditional dishes are hearty and meat-centric. Given it’s landlocked location in the centre of Europe, freshwater fish is the main seafood option. Herbs, spices and flavour contributors that feature in many dishes include bay leaves, paprika, sage, thyme, black pepper, onion, garlic, and cheese. Wheat, potatoes, and bread are common in many meals and lunch is the largest meal of the day. Borovička is the national beverage; it’s a spirit flavoured with juniper berries and is not for the timid.

A cheese lover’s heaven

Oh my, do the Slovaks know how to cheese. It was fresh, fried, grilled, in things, on things, everywhere you looked there was cheese. I tested my ability to consume all of the cheese and discovered that I indeed have limits.

It started off very well, with delightful cheese platters for breakfast.

Cheese platter in Vienna

Starting the day right with a bounty of cheese

Things continued superbly with grilled cheese.

Smoked sheep's cheese

Grilovaný oštiepok – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, grilled, served with nut marscapone and beetroot relish. I could eat this every day.

The cheese situation escalated dramatically when I was served this bad boy – bryndzové halušky, a dish of great national pride. It’s effectively like potato dumplings/gnocchi with sheep’s milk cheese.

Sheep's cheese gnocchi

It mightn’t look like much (and that’s not just because of my dodgy photo) but I only got about a quarter through this plate; it was incredibly filling and rich. A must try!

I actually had to have a few cheese-free days after that plate full of goodness. My return to cheese world was with this delightful entree. Again it looks rather simple, but I have to say it was perhaps one of my favourite dishes of the trip. The cheese was superb and the beetroot divine!

Sheep's milk cheese with beetroot.

Sheep’s milk cheese with beetroot.

A meaty affair

I decided a few years back that although I’m vegetarian, if the mood strikes and I want to try meat dishes while travelling, I’d do it. In Vietnam there was barely a need to eat meat because the cuisine was already very vegetarian friendly. It was a slightly different story in Slovakia!

I got this great vegetarian pizza in Bratislava:

Me with my non-vegetarian pizza

My vegetarian pizza’s ham:vegetable ratio was not what I’d expected.

I quickly embraced my 10 days of meat eating and tried everything from pork schnitzel to beef stew and lamb shanks, which pushed me right over the edge and firmly back into vegetarian living.

Three Slovakian meat dishes

Chicken casserole with pearl cous cous, beef stew with potato flour dumplings, lamb shanks. The last one cured me of the need to eat any more meat for a while to come.

Ham sandwich in Vienna

I’m normally a vego, except sometimes when I travel overseas. I love the flavour of (most) meats but I’m happiest when I don’t eat it. But it was still awesome to have a proper leg ham sanga!

All the soup, all the time

Soup is a mainstay of Slovak cuisine and my, do they know how to brew up a winner! I tried pea and ham, goulash, tomato, and many others that I can’t remember. I’d give a big A+ on the soup front, Slovakia!

Goulash (yum!), surprise pea and ham (double yum!) and mystery soup (yum?).

Goulash (yum!), surprise pea and ham (double yum!) and mystery soup (yum?).

I can’t go past an edible bowl.

Parsnip soup

This tasty potato and parsnip soup was a mess to eat but a delight to look at!

Poppy seeds and other sweeties

Fun fact: Slovakia is legally allowed to farm poppy seeds because it’s integral to their traditional cuisine. There are strict farming guidelines in place, as poppy can also be used to create drugs like heroin and morphine. They’re completely innocent in dessert form, don’t worry!

Poppy seeds give desserts a really unique flavour – something sort of earthy and nutty. They also give a nice slightly crunchy texture. They’re absolutely everywhere in Slovak baking, and are especially well known in the form of makové rožky.

Makove pastry

This is makové rožky, a little horseshoe shaped pastry filled with poppy seeds. So good!

We tried this rather unique dessert, which was essentially potato dumplings/gnocchi with cream and chocolate.

Sweet gnocchi

Gnocchi with sweet toppings? Ermm… it’s a no from me.

Last, and perhaps best of all, were the cherry cakes. My love for these delightful treats was borderline obsessive; I spent most of my sightseeing time in Vienna ensuring I’d have enough coffee breaks at places selling cherry cake.

An abundance of cherry cakes

I absolutely LIVED for the cherry cakes of Austria and Slovakia (these pics are all actually from Vienna). My time in Vienna practically revolved around eating cherry cake and drinking coffee #livingthedream

Our European buddies are venturing over to Australia next week. I’m so keen to hear what they think of our food!