• Barbara Zizic

A Pedacito Of Croatian Zlevanka

Updated: Jun 2

Zlevanka is a traditional dish originally from the Medimurje area in Croatia. It is a cake and a full course meal all in one. Even though it has a long history of being an essential part of every household during wintertime, it has become popular through various cooking shows in recent years and many different variations and tastes have been presented.


Zlavenka truly tastes like heaven and something I believe everyone should taste and try. I had a chance to try it on one of my many journeys and visits to Varaždin. I have been preparing it at home ever since. This is the story of how I found and fell in love with, zlevanka.


My journey started like most of my journeys start, I visit a destination and have an urge to visit every destination nearby. This time it was Varaždin. A beautiful baroque city that reminds me of Vienna in many ways. The old city is amazing, filled with stores, coffee shops, old buildings, museums. And anything you can imagine the old city might have.


That day I was visiting my family in Zagreb, but that day they had to work the whole day long, as it normally goes in big cities, and I had time to kill.

The many outdoor cafes in Varasden, Croatia
The many outdoor cafes in Varasden, Croatia

I am not a person who likes to sit at home the whole day long, so I decided to take a walk downtown. Nothing big, just walk. But then I remembered that I had never been to Varaždin and it was my wish to visit for a long time.


So I decided to take a tram to the bus station and get the first ticket available for Varaždin. It was a bit more than an hour away from where I was so I had plenty of time to visit the city, take pictures, and go back to the capital the same day.


The ride there was very calming to me. I knew I would finally see Varaždin, the city I saw only in pictures before that, and the city for which I believe was the most beautiful city in Croatia. And I was right. As soon as I arrived, I instantly fell in love. It felt like home to me, even though I have never been there.


Upon arrival I walked a lot, stopping to admire every historical monument in the city, took a lot of pictures, visited museums, but from all that walking I got hungry. It was time to find some restaurant to grab a bite. I knew they had zlevanka dishes that I only saw on cooking shows but never tried before. So I decided to try it because when in Rome…


I come to the main square looking for some restaurant that offers zlevanka. It was not hard to find since every coffee shop and every restaurant has them. They come in many varieties, but I asked for the original, traditional ones. Once I ordered them I couldn’t wait to try. The waiter came and served me the zlevanka dish and the coffee I ordered.

An original zvelanka I tried in Varasden, Croatia
An original zvelanka I tried in Varasden, Croatia

I took the first bite and I was hooked. It was the perfect dish. It looked very simple and yet so tasty. It smelled so nice and was so soft and easy to eat that I was under the impression I was in heaven. Needless to say, I ordered one more. I don’t think I ever tasted anything like it. Once I did, I was hooked and wanted to eat it every day.

I stayed in that cafe a bit more, with a full stomach and heart full of joy. The first thing I did was I went on google and searched for zlevanka dishes to find and save the recipe because I was definitely making it once I am back in my hometown. I researched recipes and a little bit about the history of the dish. This is what I found out:

A bird's-eye view of the Croatian city where I ate zvelanka
A bird's-eye view of the Croatian city where I ate zvelanka

Zelvanka is a traditional cornbread cake that has a long tradition. It was an essential part of every village cuisine in northern Croatia from the 19th century. It is traditionally made from cornbread, cheese, or cream but some may add walnuts, cherries, or sugar. By its looks, it is reminiscent of a classic pie but, unlike pie, zlevanka is very filling and easy to make.


It is a traditional dish loved by our grandfathers and made by our grandmothers. A Dish that has been taught for generations and recipes that have been passed down to younger generations. Every grandma has her own secret ingredient and claims that her zlevanka is the best one in the whole village.

Every grandmother in Croatia claims to have the best zvelanka recipe.
Every grandmother in Croatia claims to have the best zvelanka recipe.

Bonus. Zlevanka recipe

1 egg

3dl of milk

60g of flour

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon of salt

25g of the cow cheese or cream

Preparation:


Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, spread it on a tray, spread the cream all over the mix, leave it for 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 189c and bake for 30 minutes. And you are done. Enjoy!

 

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