ALBANIA

Flamuri Kombetar – a red field with a black double headed eagle
COUNTRYAlbania
DishesTave Kosi, Perime Zgare, Baklava, Sheqerpare
Time 3 hours
Effort 6/10
Rough cost £18
COUNTRY Albania
Capital Tirana
Population 2, 876, 591
Land mass 28, 748 km2 (140th largest)
Languages Albanian (also greek, Aromanian, Macedonian)
Religionsmost commonly practised is Islam, followed by christianity

HISTORY

Tave Kosi: apparently cooks were marinating lamb in yogurt to serve to the Sultan during a long siege. Then instead of throwing the spiced yogurt away, they decided to use the leftover grilled lamb meat and yogurt to create a casserole. This is what is known today as as the famous Albanian Tave Kosi.

Baklava: Many Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern countries claim baklava as their own and they all put their own spin on it, dating back from the 8th century. In Albania the dough often includes egg yolks and a popular filling is walnuts.

RECIPES

Albanian baked lamb with rice (Tavë kosi)

I had never made something like this before and so was a little apprehensive about how it would turn out. It did take two hours from start to finish, but a lot of that time the lamb was in the oven. The only tricky bit is making the béchamel – if you have never done this before it would be a good idea to read a couple of recipe instructions. Beating in the yogurt with a whisk helped get rid of any lumps. In the end, the dish was absolutely delicious and I will certainly be making it again.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
  2. Heat 20g/¾oz of the butter and the olive oil in a large lidded pan over a high heat. Brown the lamb in batches.
  3. Return all the lamb to the pan. Add the garlic, oregano and 200ml/7fl oz water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered with a lid, for about 45–60 minutes until the lamb is tender. (I put the lamb in a casserole dish and cooked it in a fan oven at 150oC to free up the stove for grilling vegetables.)
  4. Stir in the rice, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 3 litre/5¼ pint earthenware or other ovenproof dish. There was quite a lot of liquid, but it all soaked into the rice during cooking, leaving quite a dry mixture of lamb and rice, so do not worry!
  5. Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and make a roux, cook for 2 minutes, then take off the heat. The roux should look dry and have a pale colour when it is ready. Add the yoghurt and mix well, then return to the heat and cook gently for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Take off the heat, add the beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper. Make sure that when you add the egg mixture that the yogurt sauce is quite cool or the eggs will curdle (cook and go lumpy).
  6. Pour the sauce over the lamb and rice mixture carefully, trying to keep the liquid from the lamb under the topping, grate fresh nutmeg on top and bake for 40–45 minutes until starting to turn golden-brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a simple lettuce salad/grilled vegetables/bread. SO GOOD!

Perime Zgare (grilled vegetables) *vegan

From reading lots of websites about Albanian food, apart from deciding that I have to go there at some point because it looks so beautiful, it seems that grilled vegetables can be found on the dining table at any meal. I used aubergines and red peppers, but courgettes, onions, squashes, leeks – really any seasonal vegetable – can be grilled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, perhaps have the addition of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley and then dressed with a little vinegar. This dish is eaten hot, warm or cold, as a side dish or main vegetarian dish perhaps with a salty feta-type cheese and some fresh bread.

Ingredients

  • Vegetables of your choice – today it was aubergines and red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fresh herbs, such as thyme or flat leaf parsley
  • Vinegar (balsamic)

Method

  1. Slice the vegetables into thin pieces so that they cook through before the burn.
  2. Brush with olive oil.
  3. Grill in batches on the BBQ or a griddle pan at a medium high heat.
  4. Lay in a dish. 
  5. Sprinkle with seasoning, herbs and vinegar and serve as you like, hot or cold. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge and make great left overs. Put them in a salad, a toastie, some pasta or with grilled meat. 

*Essential cheat information – if your vegetables are not quite soft after grilling, just finish them off in the oven. Cover them up to stop them from drying out and cook for 10 minutes or so (until soft) at about 180oC.

Baklava *(vegan) 

This was actually quite easy to make. I used shop-bought filo, which is vegan. Instead of honey, I used agave syrup but you could also maple syrup or even just a sugar syrup. In terms of nuts, you can pretty much use whatever you want. I chose not to use almonds or cashews to reduce the environmental impacts. Also, you can get creative with the flavours by adding rose-water or orange-blossom water. KEY – make sure to properly score the pastry before baking as this will really help to cut up the pieces. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (use blender)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pistachios (use blender)
  • 1 cup finely chopped peanuts (use blender)
  • 12 sheets filo pastry (used shop-bought)
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil / vegan butter
  • 1 cup agave syrup / maple syrup 
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup brown sugar 
  • Juice of  ½ lemon 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and put baking paper on a large, flat baking tray that the filo will fit into fairly snuggly.
  2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3.  Add a 1/3 of the sugar mix to all the nuts in a big bowl and mix.
  4. Unwrap the filo pastry and cover with a damp towel.
  5. Remove the first sheet of filo and place on the baking parchment.
  6. Brush the top with some of the melted coconut and layer 2 more sheets on top, brushing oil between layers.
  7. Evenly spread 1/3 of the nut mix on top of the 3rd sheet. 
  8. Repeat this with the other 2/3 of the nut mix and you should finish with 3 filo sheets as a top.
  9. Score the top of the filo in a diamond pattern (going diagonally across from corner to corner). Or you can create a chess-board square pattern – up to you really! 
  10. Bake in oven for around 40 minutes until the top of the baklava is a lovely golden colour and crisp.
  11. While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Heat the agave/maple, water and lemon juice. Bring it to a boil and then simmer whilst stirring the syrup for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  12. When you remove the baklava from the oven, immediately pour the syrup evenly over the top. 
  13. All it to cool and enjoy !!!

Faleminderit and see you in Algeria! M + B

#baklava #tavikose #perime zgare

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