Eat The World

195 Countries

3 – Algeria (and still some Albania) August 9, 2012

Filed under: Albania,Algeria — Emily @ 6:16 pm

It was such a joy to have my mother and nephew visit last week. We had a lot of healthy vegetarian food including summer squash pasta and lentil cakes from Martha Stewart which have a middle eastern flair. I also tried my hand at making Aplets which are the Washingtonian version of Turkish Delight, a common dessert in Albania.

Next week I will make Harira, the fast-breaking stew that many Muslims eat during Ramadan. This year’s Ramadan started at the end of July and will last for 2 more weeks. Since both Albania and the next country on my list, Algeria, are Muslim countries, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit about Ramadan. Ramadan is a month devoted to prayer and spiritual reflection. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The pre sunrise meal is called suhoor and the post sunset meal is called iftar. Suhoor is generally light, just a few dates, but I read that iftar is often a very big meal or feast.

This article from Huffington Post talks about how Muslim athletes are dealing with the fasting during Ramadan. Since the fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, it is an extremely big deal to observing Muslims. According to FIFA officials, athletes can still compete during the fasting time without compromising athletic performance but the Egyptian athletes are eating during the Olympics with approval from their government.

This article from Al Jazeera said that 3000 Muslim athletes were allowed to avoid the restrictions for the Olympics. Charity is very important for Muslims and some athletes are upping the charity donations to help compensate. I think that’s a great idea. Kind of an interesting thing to think about when you are watching the rest of the Olympics.

In Washington, there is this wonderful company in Cashmere that makes Aplets and Cotlets. These are a very similar treat to Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight is a food that was introduced to many countries via the Ottoman Empire. I intended to make it for Albania, but it is eaten all over the Middle East, Balkans and North Africa. Here’s a picture of the extent of the Ottoman Empire’s conquest.

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You can read about the Ottoman Empire at that link. The conquest of these areas by the Turks defined much of Europe and set the stage for later tragedies including the genocide of ethnic Albanians (120,000 to 250,000 deaths) in Kosovo. I was old enough to remember that but not old enough to understand. The Balkans are at an interesting location. They are caught between the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church and the Islamic forces of the Turks. Like the Greeks, they are fiercely independent and from what I read, have a practice of vendettas and feuding.

At any rate, the Turkish influence was extreme and the Albanians converted from Christianity to Islam mainly because of the perks, less taxes, less chance your kids would be taken and forced into the military. Turkish delight is a softer gummy treat. It is flavored with rosewater and has a variety of nuts and flavors. Since I’ve grown up eating Aplets and Cotlets, I decided to try and make those instead of the more traditional Turkish delight. Long story short – sticky, messy, failure.

Luckily at that same time I was trying to find harissa paste in Indianapolis and stumbled upon Saraga International Grocery. It is a tremendously huge grocery with foods from all over the world including some oddities from Africa. I found my harissa and in the same aisle found some packaged Turkish delight. I brought it home and we all had a delicious snack!

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This stuff is delicious and mild. I highly recommend it! (as long as you don’t have nut allergies)

The other thing I made this week was supposed to represent Algeria (even though it comes from Martha Stewart). I made Lentil Cakes with Feta-Yogurt Sauce. I used lettuce instead of watercress but it was very flavorful and delicious AND vegetarian.

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This next week I hope to make that Harira (tomato lentil soup) and hopefully Makroud (semolina date pastry) if I find semolina flour at the international grocery. I’m also working my way through the Albanian books still. They are pretty heavy and as you might imagine very depressing. There has definitely been a lot of sadness in the world during my lifetime.

 

One Good One Bad July 20, 2012

Filed under: Albania — Emily @ 10:33 pm

The first dish I made this week was eggs with peppers, onions and tomatoes. This dish was from The Best of Albanian Cooking and is pretty similar to some Italian recipes I’ve tried. I served it with pita bread. I fried a bell pepper, 4 tomatoes and an anaheim. When they were cooked down, I cracked 4 eggs into the pot and covered it for 3-4 min. I enjoy a liquid yolk but John doesn’t. Cook longer if you want it more solid!

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Another dish I made this week was chicken and spinach cooked in yogurt. I used a frozen spinach and it was just way too much spinach. The way it was cooked, the yogurt became very sour and unpleasant. We were not fans. And as you can see below, I served it over rice even though a flat bread would be more authentic.

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I didn’t have a lot of time to research or read this week so this is all forĀ  now on Albania! I would like to make Turkish Delight like Global Table Adventure but I’m not sure I will have the time for it.

 

2 – Albania July 12, 2012

Filed under: Albania — Emily @ 3:10 pm

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!

Cookbooks:

  • The Best of Albanian Cooking – Klementina and John Hysa
  • The Ottoman Kitchen – Sarah Woodward
  • The Balkan Cookbook – Vladimir Mirodan
  • The Balkan Cookbook – Jugoslovenska Knjiga

Other:

  • 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