After my review of Skaručna, you probably began to understand the importance of beef in Slovenian gastronomy: from my dinner there, two of the appetizers, the soup, and the main course all contained beef. Cattle are raised throughout the country, except in the westernmost part. Cow’s milk produces skuta (Slovenia’s farmer cheese) and many local cheeses, from the emmentaler-like bohinjski sir to the boob-shaped trnič. A traditional Sunday lunch must start with a beef soup, and the main course often consists of a beef steak – other popular options being a pork roast or a schnitzel. Inevitably, there are leftovers, so the beef from the soup is sliced, mixed with vinegar, and turned into a cold dish that can be kept for the whole week: esihflajš (from German Essigfleisch, “vinegar meat”).
As with most meals made with leftovers, the recipe is pretty simple: onions, cucumbers, pickles, and/or eggs complement the beef to form something that’s often called a salad, despite the fact that it’s made with a good 90% of meat. This was one of the appetizers at Skaručna, in fact.
But you and I don’t eat beef soup on Sundays. Instead, we make beef tongue pizza. Same problem, same solution! We cooked a whole beef tongue and used only a small fraction of it on our Slovenian pizza; now we can prepare esihflajš with the leftovers. To make the dish less meat-heavy, I’m serving it with a potato salad that shares some of the same ingredients: pumpkin seeds and hard-boiled egg. I’m also making my own vinegar out of orange wine, which is unique, not very difficult, and quite Slovenian in spirit (in practice, I’ve never seen anything like it in the country, even though Slovenia is fond of skin-macerated wine).
Slovenian beef tongue and potato salads
Yields 4 servings
Total preparation: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 24 hours for the beef tongue, plus one month for the orange wine vinegar
Active preparation: 1 hour
Orange wine vinegar
300 g orange wine
1 g 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (if the wine contains sulfites)
90 g spring water
45 g raw, unfiltered vinegar, or mother of vinegar
- Fill a pint jar with boiling water to sanitize it, then empty and dry.
- Pour the wine into the jar. If the wine contains sulfites, stir in the hydrogen peroxide to neutralize them. Let sit for a minute, then stir in the water. Add the raw vinegar (or mother of vinegar) and stir again.
- Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth secured with string. Store in a dark place at room temperature (25-30 C / 75-85 F for best results).
- Check the vinegar after about one month, and test the pH (using pH strips or a pH meter). It should be 4.0 or below. If that’s not the case, wait a few more weeks and measure again.
- Strain and bottle. If using mother of vinegar, you can store it to make another batch.
- For reference: after one month, I got a pH of 2.9 and bottled my vinegar. The commercial white wine vinegar in my pantry has a pH of 2.6.
4 large fresh eggs
- Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Gently drop the eggs into the pot, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, in barely simmering water.
- Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water and let cool. Peel and reserve.
300 g small peeled creamer potatoes
10 g parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
25 g pumpkin seeds, toasted
45 g grated parmesan
3.5 g peeled garlic, coarsely chopped
5-10 g orange wine vinegar
35 g olive oil
black pepper, ground
2 hard-boiled eggs
- If needed, cut the potatoes into pieces about 15 g each. Transfer to a pot filled with salted water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until soft.
- Blitz the parsley, pumpkin seeds, parmesan, and garlic in a food processor or blender. Add the vinegar and olive oil, and pulse until you get a pesto texture. Reserve.
- Drain the potatoes, then toss in a bowl with the above pesto. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut the hard-boiled eggs into quarters and gently add to the salad. Serve at room temperature.
150 g beef tongue sous-vide, thinly sliced crosswise
85 g (about 2) hard-boiled eggs, grated
40 g peeled red onion, thinly sliced
30 g cornichons, brunoise
- Arrange the slices of beef tongue in the center of a large plate or a platter.
- Surround the beef with grated hard-boiled egg on one side, and sliced red onion on the other. Pile the cornichons into a mound in the center. Serve at room temperature.
4 half slices bread loaf
15 g olive oil
10-20 g orange wine vinegar
13 g pumpkin seed oil
1 g salt
- In a pan over medium heat, fry the bread in olive oil until golden brown, on both sides. Reserve.
- Combine the vinegar, pumpkin seed oil, and salt in a plastic container; the amount of vinegar depends on its strength and your personal taste. Cover the container with a lid and shake well. Sprinkle this vinaigrette over the beef salad, then toss the salad with forks to combine all the ingredients.
- On each plate, serve some beef salad, some potato salad, and a piece of fried bread.