Albania: Byrek Me Spinaq – Spinach Pie

Albania | May 8, 2015 | By

Spinach pie is really popular in our house but we’ve never considered making it ourselves. Now we know how easy it is. It seems that Albanians know this too because it’s one of their most popular dishes. It just takes a little planning to thaw the filo sheets ahead of time, but once they are ready, it’s a piece of cake (or pie). This recipe will work with any vegetable as long as it’s not too watery. We caramelized some leeks and used them instead of onions just because we had some on hand. The salty feta and earthy spinach combine to make this a really satisfying meal. We happened to have some leftover stuffed peppers to turn this meal into an Albanian style feast.

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Albania: Gjellë Me Arra – Chicken With Walnuts

Albania | May 7, 2015 | By

Here’s a traditional Albanian dish that, quite frankly, did not really do it for me. It’s possible that it did not come out the way it should. But looking at a bunch of recipes for the same dish, there didn’t seem to be too much variation and it looked like the pictures online. The main feature of this dish is a thick, rich walnut and butter sauce that, to me, was a bit gummy and bland. Oh well, a food explorer doesn’t always strike gold.

Here is the recipe we used in case you’d like to try it.

 

Albania: Qofte Të Fërguara – Fried Meatballs

Albania | May 6, 2015 | By

I can’t resist a good meatball recipe, and these qofte did not disappoint. They get their unique flavor from the addition of fresh mint and feta cheese. Served with rice, and a tomato, cucumber, and feta salad, it was a great dinner for the salad fanatic and the meat lovers in my family. 

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Albania: Speca Të Mbushura – Stuffed Peppers

Albania | May 6, 2015 | By

Here’s another recipe that seems to span both Mediterranean and Eastern European cuisine. Truth be told, we didn’t make these from scratch. We had so much leftover lamb and leek casserole that we used that along with some basmati rice and fresh herbs as the stuffing. It worked out well. Ground beef is the typical filling for this dish, but there’s no point in wasting perfectly good leftovers! We served this along with a plate of assorted pickles and a crunchy salad of cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. 

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Albania: Tave Kosi – Baked Lamb and Rice with Yogurt

Albania | May 5, 2015 | By

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Tave kosi is a delicious casserole of sorts. Browned lamb is cooked with garlic and oregano, rice is added and cook until just tender, and then baked, topped with a velvety layer of yogurt thickened with eggs and roux. The result is a homey and comforting dish that feels like it was made by an Albanian grandmother. 

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Albania: Tave Me Presh – Leek Casserole

Albania | May 4, 2015 | By

Because of it’s location, Albania has a cuisine that has a lot of similarities to Greek, Turkish, and Mediterranean food in general , but there’s an unmistakeable hint of eastern Europe too. This dish illustrates that interesting combination of cultures. A layer of lightly caramelized leeks is the base for lamb and red pepper. There are no spices beyond salt and pepper so the flavor of the ingredients really shines. Served over a bed of mashed potato to soak up the juices, this dish reminded us of a shepherd’s pie. Here’s the recipe we followed. We also added chopped Swiss chard, just because we had some that we needed to use and it felt right. While looking for recipes for this dish we stumbled upon a great food blog called 196 Flavors that has a similar theme to ours. Here’s their version of the recipe.