Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cheese Dumplings, Slovenian Style

I fell in love with Russian cheese pancakes at a farmers' market and later made a decent version of my own at home.

I was disappointed that Slovenians didn't seem to have their own version of this tasty dish.  The closest approximation was a boiled cheese dumpling, usually served with a topping of buttered breadcrumbs and a little sugar.  So I decided to give Slovenian cheese dumplings a try, to see how they compared.

I found three recipes in my vintage cookbooks.  They showed up under different names (cheese balls, cheese dumplings, sirovi knedeljni, skutovi cmoki) but used the same basic ingredients, in varying proportions. One recipe called for separating the eggs.  Two involved shaping the dough into individual pieces before boiling; one just used a spoon.

One element was common to all three recipes: dry curd cottage cheese. I figured my usual substitute, Russian-style farmer cheese, would do just fine.

I picked the easiest recipe, one from the Progressive Slovene Women.  It was a simple batter dropped from a spoon.  I cut their recipe in half and made one other adaptation: a little nutmeg instead of salt, for a LoSloSo dish.  (It turns out to be virtually the same as my recipe for Russian curd cheese pancakes.)

For the result, read on.

Cheese dumplings (Skutovi Cmoki)

1/2 lb. Russian-style farmer cheese (or dry curd cottage cheese, if you can find it)
4 heaping T. flour (or more if needed)
2 eggs, beaten
1 T. melted butter
2 pinches nutmeg (or 1/4 t. salt, like the original recipe)

Stir or crumble the cheese.  Add eggs, melted butter, and nutmeg or salt.  Mix well.  Add flour, a tablespoon at a time, to make a thick batter/soft dough.

Bring large pot of water to boil.  Drop in batter by spoonfuls.  Cook for 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.   The traditional topping is buttered bread crumbs, along with some sugar for a sweeter dish.  Dumplings can also be left plain, as I did, to accompany a savory main dish.

The result?  Well, it was mixed.  The batter was almost too loose to hold together in the boiling water.  The finished dumplings seemed puffy and a little waterlogged.  The flavor was definitely bland without the salt.  The next day, the chilled dumplings had deflated and had a better texture, similar to cheese pancakes.

There is no getting around it: I prefer the pancake version, although I do see the advantages of making a fat-free version by boiling.  On the other hand, a non-stick skillet can be used to make the pancakes.

The problem, I suspect, was my substitution of Russian-style farmer cheese for the dry curd cottage cheese.  There are two solutions: drain the cheese first and/or add a little more flour.  That's what I'll do if I try this again.

Meanwhile, I'm sticking to pancakes!



  1. Hey,
    We have three different cheese dishes that are probably similar to the Russian recipe. I don’t really know if the recopies are Slovenian or are coming from elsewhere. But we do three different dishes. They are not from cheese per se, but are from cottage cheese- curd cheese- our expression for this is skuta.
    We usually eat all of these three dishes for lunch, it kind of a dessert after a vegetable soup os something like that. Firstly there is a recipe for cottage cheese pancakes or as you would probably name it crepes. Because we call what you say crepes, pancakes. So crepes with cottage cheese and some dressing and then it bake in the oven. It looks like this: http://www.google.si/imgres?client=firefox-a&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:sl:official&biw=1280&bih=894&tbm=isch&tbnid=M6gPznvcMrF0CM:&imgrefurl=http://www.ednevnik.si/entry.php%3Fw%3Dsporhet%26e_id%3D57933&docid=FsWDpMF8jP3Z4M&imgurl=http://www.ednevnik.si/uploads/s/sporhet/81303.jpg&w=320&h=240&ei=xb2QUuzGBIXJhAflmoDwDw&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:1,s:0,i:82&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=190&tbnw=256&start=0&ndsp=19&tx=158&ty=66 in the baking pan and like this on a plate: http://www.google.si/imgres?client=firefox-a&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:sl:official&biw=1280&bih=894&tbm=isch&tbnid=IEG3ykUaqZN6AM:&imgrefurl=http://www.gurman.eu/print.php%3FS%3D6%26Article%3D2080&docid=fmVwS9MuU4WPhM&imgurl=http://www.gurman.eu/media/articles/1206_medium.jpg&w=200&h=192&ei=xb2QUuzGBIXJhAflmoDwDw&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:4,s:0,i:91&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=153&tbnw=160&start=0&ndsp=19&tx=62&ty=91
    The other thing is cottage cheese dumplings or in our words skutni cmoki. You can fill them with something like fruit or what you like, or don’t fill them. And it looks like that: http://www.google.si/imgres?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:sl:official&biw=1280&bih=894&tbm=isch&tbnid=LV4eyiamZsFy8M:&imgrefurl=http://www.kulinarika.net/recepti/10606/&docid=D4yAUC3cNISXhM&imgurl=http://www.kulinarika.net/slikerecepti/773/0.jpg&w=572&h=389&ei=Wr6QUt8TzJWFB7O2gZgL&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:0,s:0,i:77&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=179&tbnw=238&start=0&ndsp=20&tx=127&ty=94
    And the third thing is hard to translate because you also say dumplings, but is not the same as the second dish, we call it skutni štruklji. This is some king of dough, similar to pasta and filled with cottage cheese and other things and rolled up. Here is the photo: http://www.qulinarica.com/members_data/155ba7db18/images/350bbd/Skutini__truklji.jpg
    I hope I didn’t write too much.

    1. Hi Anja,
      Thanks for writing and for including the links, which is very helpful. (I was able to click on them in the original message I got. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be "live" now that I have published the comment.) I think I have made all three of these dishes! There are also photos and recipes on my blog. The first one, palačinke, I grew up eating, only my mother called them blintzes or jelly rolls. (I didn't make the cheese filling on my blog post.) The third one--that's a large boiled struklji, isn't it? ( On my blog, I made a cheese-filled buckwheat version.) And now I've tried the cmoki, or individual boiled dumplings. So it sounds like I have come as close as Slovenians get to the flat curd cheese patties that Russians call syrniki.

    2. Anja, a question: What do you thing went wrong with my cmoki? Not enough flour? Cheese not dry enough? Maybe I should have used my homemade skuta instead of the farmer cheese.

  2. I am not sure right now, but I will check my moms recipe or ask my aunt in the evening (she teaches cooking in a kulinary high school). I haven't done it myself, but we eat it quite regulary. about the crepes, we call it palačinike, sometimes we eat it with nutella or jam and sometimes we fill it with skuta or wallnuts and bake it. And the cmoki are also good if they are made from another dough (I think with potato) and filled with fruits. But you probably already know that? Offtopic, have you ever been to Slovenia?

    1. Thanks, Anja, any cooking tips (especially from an expert like your aunt :-) is much appreciated! Yes, I have visited Slovenia once, for a few days, as part of a longer "Eastern European Tour" (as it was called.) Vienna, Budapest, and in between stops in most of the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Several nights in Lake Bled and a day in Ljubljana--far too little time to visit such a beautiful country! I would love to go back and suspect my husband and I will do so in the next year, because one of our adult sons is living in Kosovo and working as a journalist there. Where do you live in Slovenia?

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