Piquant Bryndza Cheese Spread

When I was a child, I never questioned the origins of a strange, non-Slovak sounding name my Mum used for the delicious spread she often made for our snacks or evening meals. All I knew about šmirkas at that age was that it was made with bryndza.

A selection of bryndza cheese labels

We would spread šmirkas on slices of fresh rye bread, crowned it with radishes, and there you had a nice, satisfying meal that would feed all the family. Yes, even our Dad – a diehard carnivore – was happy to change his daily routine once in a while.

It’s no wonder I chose to include šmirkas in A Taste of Slovakia book. Bryndza is a sheep’s milk cheese closely associated with Slovakia because of the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) label it received from the EU in 2008.

Šmirkas (pronounced as shmirkas) is an old name for bryndzová nátierka, a piquant bryndza cheese spread that has been part of the Slovak diet for centuries. Some people still use the traditional name these days, including myself and my family, but few of them know it was derived from the German Schmierkäse (meaning cream cheese). This, however, is not surprising, as Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1867 – 1918. Šmirkas is just one of the German-sounding names that have survived in our language until today.

There are quite a few recipes for Bryndza Cheese Spread circulating around Slovakia. The one below is from a tiny recipe book I got from shepherds in LiptovDSC_0201

Piquant Bryndza Cheese Spread
Serves 6 – 8

  • 150 g bryndza cheese (or other quality soft cheese)
  • 60 g butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • chives to garnish, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • radishes to top
  • salt to taste*
* there’s no need to add more salt if you are using bryndza, as the cheese has already salt in it

Method:

  1. Put the bryndza cheese and the butter in a mixing bowl and let soften at room temperature. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Wash and chop the chives.
  2. Cream the bryndza cheese with the butter, add the onion, the paprika and the mustard. Work all the ingredients into a smooth paste.
  3. Wash the radishes and slice them. Spoon dollops of the bryndza paste onto slices of fresh bread and spread around. Top with the radishes and sprinkle with the chives.

    Šmirkas is an old name for the traditional bryndza cheese spread from Slovakia

I understand bryndza cheese is difficult to buy outside Slovakia, but can sometimes be replaced by cheeses like Greek Feta, French Roquefort, Italian Ricotta or some soft varieties of Pecorino.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s