Although it often gets overshadowed by its Italian neighbour, the Balkan nation of Slovenia has rich and proud culinary traditions of its own. Being uniquely placed on the border of Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, Slovenia has taken influences from almost every area of Europe.
The country has a climate and landscape perfect for dairy farming, and farmers often turned to cheesemaking as a method of food storage. Trnič, a hard cheese from the mountain plateau Valika planina in the heart of the Kamnik Alps, is small and decorated and really quite romantic. Shepherds spent the long summers in the mountains with their flocks, taking the time to make cheese and think about the ones they loved whom they had left behind in the valleys. The cheese itself is made from cottage cheese, salt and cream and is shaped with special wooden moulds. It can be grated and sprinkled on risotto, porridge, pasta, soup and salads.
Trnič was always presented in pairs – one for the shepherd, and one for his lover. If the woman accepts the cheese and kept it for several years, it was proof of their love and a promise of marriage. A pair of Trnič cheese also bears more than a passing resemblance to a pair of breasts, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Slovenian food historians.