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Goveja Juha

(Slovenian beef broth)

This is the king, the lifeblood of the Slovenian dinner--especially Sunday dinner when most families ritually make it together. It's plain looking, not at all filling--rather an appetite stimulant for the rest of the meal. But it's surprisingly complex and interesting. And magnificently nutritious if you're carnivorous. Many layered in flavor, it lingers and cavorts on the tongue, stimulating both appetite and saliva flow. Serve hot to 6 people as a first course. (It's also very tasty cold--just add a little more salt--but not traditional so far as I know)

Additions: 2 cups cooked rice (z riz) OR 2 cups cooked soup noodles (z rezanci) OR sautéed mushrooms (z gobemi). You may instead not add any accompaniments, but break a raw egg into each bowl before serving.

Rinse the beef and bones, then put in a large pot and cover with 8-10 cups of cold water. Bring to a simmer very slowly. Do not skim the brown foam--it will eventually sink and strengthen the broth. In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan and stir in the liver (optional) and vegetables, frying until they are golden. Stir the salt into the broth, then scrape in the liver/vegetables and wash out the frying pan with the broth into the soup. Cook gently for at least 2 hours.

While the broth is cooking, cook the noodles, rice, or mushrooms in a separate pot. Let sit until you are ready to serve the soup.

When the meat is cooked, pour a teacup of cold water into the broth to clear it, then leave it to cool. Pass through a fine strainer. You may refrigerate at this point--which will make it easy to remove the fat. Or just skim the fat while it's hot.

When ready to serve, heat the broth to a full boil, then add either the rice or noodles or mushrooms and let heat through for 5 minutes. Ladle into small bowls and serve immediately. Alternately, you may ladle the hot broth into each bowl, then break an egg into the center of each one.