Aleluja – turnip peels

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Easter is marked by a festively laden table, but one of the oldest Slovene Easter dishes is the so-called aleluja, which is not a very well-known local dish today. Aleluja in the past was a fast dish and on Easter a ceremonial dish. Ethnologists seek its origin in the poverty most Slovenes lived in centuries ago, and in the poor harvests of the farmers. The simple dish made of dried turnip peels was first often cooked in really bad times, e.g. during the Turkish invasions, but later they also served it as a reminder of the extreme hunger, when only dried turnip peels were left to be put in the pot. Aleluja also became the first Easter dish, after which the Easter breakfast could begin. The recipe for it also proves that it is a simple dish.

Aleluja has several regional variants. In the Poljane valley white flour was added to it and then it was greased with butter. In other places of the Gorenjska region it was cooked in porridge with a roux made of buckwheat flour or in a meat soup. In some places it was also thickened with buckwheat or millet porridge, seasoned with caraway seeds and pepper or larded with cracklings.

Aleluja in the Cerkno region

The Pri Flandru tourist farm still knows how to make the kind of aleluja that used to be prepared in the Cerkno region. The head of the household Marta makes it according to the recipe that we’ve included below. In the Cerkno region the dish is called walupki, which means peels.

Writer Janez Trdina wrote this in his short story Arov in Zman (Arov and Zman) from 1850:

Christians besieged by the Turks ran out of food. When two farm hands were cooking their last ration of huskless grain, a turnip peel fell from the rod above the cauldron and cooked quite well. There was a heap of peels in the castle. Eating this is how they and also other people, who also did not have any other food left at Easter, survived.

Ingredients for 4 persons

  • 1/2kg dried turnip peels
  • 1/2kg peeled potatoes
  • 2 spoons cracklings
  • salt, pepper, garlic and ham stock

Procedure

Cook the turnip peels in salty boiling water. Pour out the water and put the peels into a pot on top of peeled salted potatoes and cook everything until it is done. Once cooked, pour out most of the water, mash the ingredients and mix them. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful with the salt, as the ham stock used to finish off the aleluja, is already salty. Heat the cracklings in a saucepan until the fat melts, add crushed garlic, and then use this to lard the peels. Add the ham stock until you get the desired thickness of the aleluja dish, which can be served as a side dish to cooked ham with horseradish. Tip: you can also use fresh turnip instead of the dried turnip peels. Enjoy your meal!