Every country has its specifics, characteristics and features. This is why there are not to be found 2 exactly the same countries in the world. This variety poses difficulties to foreigners while choosing the next destination for vacations. Usually, when foreigners come to visit Albania, they are afraid of finding bad road infrastructure and afraid of urban legends they have heard about crime and corruption here.
Of course that when it comes the time to leave the country, they end up with a kind of unwillingness. The main reason is – Albanian cuisine. There are several reasons why foreigners love to eat our food.
Firstly Albania has a perfect climate and this leads to a variety of foods. This wide – range availability is stunning in the eyes of foreigners. They come across different types of fruits, vegetables, combinations and meals (such as Fergese – a certain dish made of mixing together peppers, curd, olive oil, meat and then baking all these in a dust pan; Tave Kosi – another dish made of yoghurt, meat, flour, rice mixed in a big pan and then baked up to a point where the mass creates a thin brown layer on the surface, Comlek – a dish made mainly from shallows which are seasoned with spices such as clove, red and black pepper left to boil until they melt; Byrek – which are more or less the synonym of pies but not to be confused with them because of the fact that Byrek is made of a different number of layers and it also differs in filling compared to pies).
Second Albania has been invaded by many countries which have left their signature on our cuisine. We have borrowed different dishes from the Italian and Turkish culture. There are some delicious desserts and meals in our cuisine which originate from these countries (such as Baklava – typical of Turkey – is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup; and Pasta – which is a kind of noodle made from wheat flour mixed with water and formed into sheets or various shapes; Pizza – which is an oven-baked flat bread generally topped with tomato sauce and cheese. It may be also supplemented with other ingredients chosen on personal taste. These dishes are highly preferred by foreigners.
Thirdly, not only have we borrowed these recipes but also we have mastered them up to a point where they seem naturalized. Some foreigners even do not think about these dishes as being loaned. They seem typical of our country.
Another reason hidden behind the ‘beauty’ of our cuisine is related to lots of ingredients used to make up a dish. When someone orders in an Albanian restaurant, the portion of the food served on the plate is huge. It is the opposite of the French Gourmet which people are usually used to. This is why people end up stuffed and with a feeling of being fully delighted by taste mixture.
These are the main reasons why to choose Albanian cuisine. Many more may be involved but they are subjective and depend on each people taste.
Three easy home-made Albanian recipes
- Jufka (home-made pasta) are typical of the Northern part of the country. They taste delicious but some people consider the process of making this pasta at home a bit uncomfortable. Most of the people buy it in the market but they do not taste the same. Thus, making them at home is worth it as the final product is so delicious.
Serving for 2 – INGREDIENTS
2 pounds flour
4 egg yolks
Milk (just as you will need while preparing the dough)
Photo credits: Viki Photography
All the above – mentioned ingredients are mixed together until they form a mass. This mass should wait for some time until it is ready and after it is divided into medium-sized balls. After, each of these balls is opened into wide noodles (up to 30 cm width) and starch is used during all the process of opening them. This procedure is repeated until all balls are finished. Later they are left to dry for some time over a sheet (but not totally dried). Then they are wrapped in form of rolls and they are cut lengthwise. Once this part is done they are left to dry until they are totally dry. As it refers to their storage everybody is free to choose between different types of bags.
As for the cooking usually it is suggested that they are fried in a casserole or pan with some butter and continuously stirred with a wooden spoon until some of the pasta strings turn golden brown. Afterwards, some liquid from a boiled chicken may be added to make them taste better. The pasta must be left until the liquid has evaporated. Remember stirring it time after time. This way they are ready to be served.
- Fergese – this is a traditional dish of the central region of Albania – the capital Tirana.
Photo credits: Kosovarja KS
Serving for 2 – INGREDIENTS
2 medium sized tomatoes
Butter for frying
1 tablespoon of flour
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of curd / cheese
1 teaspoon of chili sauce
First the seeds and stems are removed from the peppers, then rinsed, cut lengthwise and fried in a pan with the butter on our disposal. After tomatoes are peeled and cut into pieces. Having finished with this, tomatoes are added to the pan where the peppers are fried with the butter. The mass should be stirred up to the point where peppers start to become gold and the mass become denser. At this point, the pan is removed from the medium-heat fire and spices (chili sauce or parsley depending on one’s taste) are added. Then the curd/ cheese and the eggs are added while stirring. The mass is ready to be served and everyone may garnish it with other spices, more fried peppers or more grated cheese. If one wants it to be spicy they may add tabasco despite of the fact that this way the dish would lose its authentic touch.
- Byrek – this dish is named differently in different regions in Albania – byrek, lakror, burek but the essence remains the same. When we say lakror we understand that this dish is typical of the South-Eastern part of the country. The Albanian byrek can be filled with a wide range of ingredients such as spinach, pumpkin, leek, lentils, meat, tomatoes, beans, and curd. The choice in this case relates to one of this ingredients – the leek as it is rarely used, making this kind of pie more special.
Photo credits: F_A (Flickr)
Serving for 2 – INGREDIENTS
1 pound leek
1 packet of pastry leaves (as this saves time instead of making the dough yourself)
1 cup of oil (olive or sunflower)
A handful of chopped onions
Not more than a teaspoon of salt
1 cup of cottage cheese
Before starting with the preparations it is important to preheat the oven at 180◦Celsius and to use a baking pan which is brushed before with oil in order for the ‘pie’ not to stick. One should not forget that there is an order while laying the pastry leaves – starting with laying 2 leaves than sprinkling them with the mass obtained from leek mixture with other ingredients and this order should be followed until the last pastry leave laying. It is important to remember that each of the leaves should not only cover the baking pan surface but it also should come out an inch from the baking pan. Also, after putting each of the pastry leaves in the baking pan, olive oil must be sprinkled over them. But, how to make a mass out of these ingredients? The leek should be rinsed with water then cut into pieces (the pieces may be of a longitudinal order or not – as one prefers) and seasoned with salt.
Photo credits: Blerim Balaj (Wikimedia)
This mass should be mixed by hand until the water comes out the leek and the mass becomes denser. This stage may be a little uncomfortable but it is essential in the final product. Once this is done, the oil, the cottage cheese, onion and the remained salt are added. Some of this mixture is laid on the first two pastry leaves and then it is covered with another couple of pastry leaves. Again we add some of the mixture and two of the pastry leaves. This procedure is repeated until there are no more pastry leaves or leek mixture left but it is crucial that the final layer of the ‘pie’ should be of pastry leaves and not of leek mixture because the idea is to cover the mixture.
Then, the part of the pastry leaves which is out of the baking pan is rolled over the ‘pie’. The surface of the final pastry leave that covers the baking pan is sprinkled with oil and the pan is ready to bake at 180◦Celsius for 45 minutes or until the surface turns slightly brown. After coming out of the oven the pie’ should rest for half an hour and then cut into pieces and serve it hot, accompanied by yoghurt or some cheese.