December 5, 2020 – The secret of one of Zagreb’s lesser-known gourmet secrets is slowly getting out, and now there is a new way to try it – strukli with truffles.
One of the most incredible things about Croatia, a land of 4 million people, is the richness and diversity on every level. Every village seemingly has its own dialect words, at least one unique tradition, and often some sort of culinary twist or ingredient which sets it apart form the rest. It is one of the reasons why writing about Croatia is such a fascinating job, for no two days are the same, and there is usually a surprise or three around every corner.
Along with safety and lifestyle, it is one of the jewels of Croatian tourism around which I believe we should build our tourism – the unique authentic experience.
A few weeks ago, for example, I was invited to go truffle hunting near Zagreb Airport in the region of Turopolje. Truffle hunting in Croatia but not in Istria? Just outside Zagreb? I had never heard of such a thing and I was more than a little skeptical. But – and not for the first or last time – I was wrong, and not only can I confirm that the Zagreb truffle industry is alive and well, but also that some of those lovely truffles you are sampling in Istria have their origins in the forests around Zagreb. You can read all about the Zagreb truffle hunting experience in Move Over Istria: the Rise of Zagreb Truffle Hunt Tourism.
But if the truffle hunt was a surprise, so too was the lunch that followed. A Dalmatian restaurant recommended by MIchelin in the heart of Velika Gorica, offering local Turopolje specialities, including black and white Turopolje truffles, including this 135g gem below.
You can read more about the truffle-themed lunch in the article above, but there was one more gourmet addition to a fabulous lunch at Mon Ami restaurant which I only tried later that night when I got home.
Over lunch I was introduced to a very nice young lady called Ivana Belosevic, who ran a bakery called Cipov in the nearby village of Busevec. The name “Cipov” is actually a word used in Turopolje to describe white bread. Cipov was a type of bread only eaten during holidays such as Christmas or Easter. A traditional name for a business which is helping to produce some fabulous authentic Croatian dishes, such as strukli.
But authentic Croatian dishes with a twist.
Such as strukli with truffles.
The conversation at lunch was as good as the excellent food, and I enjoyed listening to Ivana talk with passion about her bakery business, where she has been making homemade strukli now for some 15 years. Another Ivana – Alilovic, Director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board – approached her and asked her what she thought about making strukli with truffles. Zagreb has a great truffle story which is being left untold, and delicious authentic local dishes flavoured with local truffles would be perhaps the best way to promote the story.
And so a new gourmet treasure was born – strukli with truffles.
Strukli is akin to a savoury strudel, with cottage cheese the key ingredient, and one of Croatia’s most famous – and popular – dishes. It is best-known in the region of Zagorje, but appears in various formats in other parts of the country. You can see how it is made in the English-language video above. I am not aware of anyone else making strukli with truffles. Ivana’s new Facebook page also shows strukli with apricot, and I am sure that a visit to the Cipov family bakery in Bresovec will yield plenty of other culinary delights.
As we previously reported, one of the successful tourism stories in this crazy year was the launch of the Around Zagreb platform, which is a joint effort from the city and county tourist boards of Zagreb. This has helped to considerably widen the scope of tourism possibilities in the capital, in the form of day trip activities just outside the city. In an era of social distancing and outdoor activities, Zagreb County is rich in authenticexperiences – both active and culinary – away from the crowds. and truffle hunting and the sampling of its cuisine fit into this nicely. The pumpkin offer of Ivanic Grad (with its own pumpkin festival), Zumberak trout, and the authentic Samobor quartet of salami, kotlet, mustard and kremsnit, not to mention the local Plesivica wine region, have enough authenticity and unique flavours to entice curious foodies.
The new strukli with truffles is just one in a number of excellent local authentic product which is made with passion and care by small local family businesses. Individually, they are tiny businesses struggling to survive, especially in this most challenging of years. Collectively, they offer a fascinating web of authentic excellence, which shows the true diversity of Croatia’s traditions and heritage. both culinary and otherwise.
In another nice initiative that we reported on recently, the regional tourist board has launched a seasonal campaign to both highlight and promote these businesses.
The local producers are collected in interestingly designed categories that will change in weekly cycles from December 3 to December 24: 1. Relax and reward your body, 2. Decorate your home with Christmas magic, 3. Prepare your holiday table, and 4. Sweet Secrets of Zagreb County.
“In Zagreb County, there are many craftsmen, hardworking people who turn natural resources from their homeland into unique local products,” said Ivana Alilović, the director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board. “At the same time, they combine the traditional and the modern. With their creativity, they refresh our heritage and enrich the entire offer of the region. Natural cosmetics and healthy food, medicinal preparations, imaginative decorations and everyday items for the home, irresistible treats etc. Each of these products bears the signature of its origin and its author.”
“Production is usually small and limited, but with a high level of quality and personal commitment. Domestic goods that are truly domestic, but also different. We want to raise awareness about the importance of buying from local producers and help all of them in the branding and promotion of products that we can be proud of.”