BIZELJSKO, Slovenia — Thanks to Pope Francis and the U.S. first lady, a traditional Slovenian dish is hitting the headlines.
As Melania Trump approached and shook hands with the pontiff on Wednesday, Francis asked in Spanish through his interpreter and pointed toward President Donald Trump: “What do you give him to eat? Potica?”
She looked puzzled at first, as did reporters, apparently thinking the pope was talking about pizza.
But then the first lady seemed to understand that he meant potica (pronounced paw-tee’-tzah).
“Potica, ah yes,” the Slovenian-born first lady smiled before stepping aside, still looking a bit confused.
Slovenia’s public broadcaster carried the news on its website in its entertainment section. RTV Slo reported that the pope is a fan of Slovenia’s potica and that he regularly asks visitors from Slovenia about the roll cake.
Potica is a typical highly nutritious Slovenian festive strudel with nuts, poppy seeds, cottage cheese, chocolate, tarragon, leek or honey fillings. It has been prepared for more than 200 years in earthenware baking-dishes or directly in ovens.
Zdravka Balon, a restaurant owner in the small Slovenian town of Bizeljsko not far from Melania’s hometown of Sevnica, said that potica “is probably the most traditional Slovenian dish” besides “Kranjske” sausages.
“It was traditionally served during Christmas or Easter,” she said, adding that after losing some appeal, new versions are topped with chocolate and other additions.
Melania Trump, born Melanija Knavs, left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career. The last time she is believed to have visited her native country was in July 2002, when she introduced Donald Trump to her parents at the lakeside Grand Hotel Toplice in the resort town of Bled over a meal.
Recipe for traditional walnut potica, courtesy of Zdravka Balon:
Ingredients: 1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup milk lukewarm, 1 cup butter, softened 6 egg yolks, 1 1/3 cups milk, 5 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup melted butter, 1 cup honey, 1 1/2 cups raisins, 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon.
Preparation: Dissolve yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 3 tablespoons of the flour in warm milk. Mix well, and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Cream the butter with the remaining sugar In a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yeast mixture, remaining milk, 4 cups of flour and the salt; mix well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Lightly grease one or two cookie sheets. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll Out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Spread each piece with melted butter, honey, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon. Roll each piece up like a jelly roll and pinch the ends. Place seam side down onto the prepared baking sheets. Let rise until double in volume. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.