It appears from some light reading on the subject, that a favorite food of Albania is chicken livers! I’m afraid I’m not very epicurean and our little family draws the line at offal. Luckily Albania has a ton of delicious dishes and I was able to cook two this week!
Albanians have a number of savory pies called Byrek.
This recipe is from the Best of Albanian Cooking by Klementina and John Hysa and also inspired by Global Table Adventure. This recipe is lighter.
Cook 4 leeks in a ton of butter until soft. Add 1/4 lb. ground meat (we chose chicken) and saute until cooked. Remove from heat and add in 3 eggs, salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with the salt. Prepare the crust by using 1 package of fully defrosted phyllo dough. Be sure to lay a damp cloth over the dough while you are working with it because it dries out super fast. Layer two sheets at a time, brushing with oil between each two, on the bottom. Use half the package here. Add the filling and then use the remainder. You might choose to make a pretty design if you are a kitchen goddess but I just tucked and folded and tried to make it not look like a train wreck.
Cook at 350 for 35 min until top is golden brown. Make sure to let it rest for a good half hour before cutting into it.
The flavor was reminiscent of a quiche but the phyllo was nice and crunchy. Byrek’s are a very common pie and have a number of different fillings including the one used in GTA’s blog with feta cheese or cottage cheese. John gave this two thumbs up.
I also had time to make dessert.
I found this recipe on a blog but it is originally from the Moosewood Cookbook. The recipe is an Albanian Walnut Cake with Lemon Glaze and as the blog author mentions, it’s more like a muffin-y/coffee cake batter. We all loved it and best thing is, it was easy to make.
I ate my piece while doing OChem!
I was curious how authentic this recipe was and as I looked through the Albanian cookbooks, I didn’t really see any cakes similar to this. Typical Albanian desserts are halva, stewed fruits, baklava, and fruit jellies like Turkish Delight. I found a recipe in one cookbook under Turkish food called Soft Walnut Cake “Ulutma” which was a walnut cake with semolina flour and a lemon syrup glaze.
An interesting thing when looking into the cuisine here is the large influences from North, South, East and West. Albania owes a large part of it’s cultural heritage from two main sources, Greece and Turkey. It is positioned directly north of Greece and you can see that with the feta cheese, phyllo dough, baklava and moussaka. Albania was also invaded and occupied by the Ottoman Empire from Turkey for a considerable length of time. From Turkey you see the kofta, korma, halva and other of those very typical Middle Eastern dishes.
I’m excited to get into Albania as this is another country that I know little of its past. My reading list is quite long this time and finals are coming up so we’ll see exactly how many more I can get through!
- The Best of Albanian Cooking – Klementina and John Hysa
- The Ottoman Kitchen – Sarah Woodward
- The Balkan Cookbook – Vladimir Mirodan
- The Balkan Cookbook – Jugoslovenska Knjiga
- The Albanians: A Modern History – Miranda Vickers
- The Bridge on the River Drina – Ivo Andric
- The General of the Dead Army – Ismail Kadare
- Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – Rebecca West