Before this week, all I knew about Albania that it was in Europe… somewhere. I probably couldn’t have found it on a map. So I really didn’t have any idea of what to expect. For me, that made it pretty exciting to try food from Albania.
What Do People Eat in Albania?
Albania is located next to Greece, and shares a lot of similarities in food, as well as with the general Mediterranean area. Greek salad is popular and there are a lot of Albanian salads that are similar. Olives (including olive oil) and feta cheese are popular. Apparently, Albanians also really like onions; Albania is ranked fourth in the world for onion consumption per capita.
Sadly (for me), breakfast is not really a big deal in Albania. Usually it’s something light and simple such as bread with butter, cheese, jam, yoghurt, and/or olives, served with coffee or tea. I did find a kind of porridge or soup that was common in rural areas, called ‘trahaná’, but that wasn’t something I could easily make. It consists of wheat or semolina flour mixed with yoghurt or milk, which is then sun-dried in blocks and crumbled until it’s fine. This is available online (usually called ‘sour trahaná pasta’ or just ‘sour trahaná’), but only in large amounts, and since it didn’t really appeal to me, I decided not to try it. But maybe someone out there likes the idea; after all, it’s popular in Albania!
What I Made
- Fergesë (Baked Tomatoes, Peppers and Feta)
- Pispili (Cornbread with Leeks)
- Qifqi (Rice Balls)
- Tavë Kosi (Baked Lamb with Rice and Yoghurt)
- Sallatë Shope (Albanian Salad)
Fergesë (Baked Tomatoes, Peppers and Feta)
This is one of Albania’s national dishes. It is a kind of dip thing made primarily of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onions and feta cheese. Its full name is Fergesë e Tiranës me piperka, and there is also a version made with liver called Fergesë me mëlçi, which is usually served as a main dish.
I thought this was going to taste strongly of feta cheese, but it didn’t really. The cheese is definitely there, but I think the roasted pepper flavor was what came through the strongest. I followed the recipe from My Albanian Food but I baked the mixture in a 8×8 inch baking dish instead of the two clay dishes suggested. This was alright. I think I should have chopped the roasted peppers more finely, but the recipe wasn’t really explicit in that respect. I served it with the Pispili, below, since apparently that is a common combination.
Pispili (Cornbread with Leeks)
This is a kind of cornbread with leeks and feta on top, and it’s usually served with Fergëse or some kind of soup or stew.
I halved this recipe, and baked in a round 9 inch cake tin. I don’t feel there was really enough batter, and the result was quite thin, but then again it looks kind of thin in the picture on the recipe I followed from Foreign Fork, so maybe that’s intended. I did feel there was a bit too much of the leek and scallion mixture on top. I would probably just use one leek next time. I was worried the leeks wouldn’t cook enough, but they turned out okay. Still, I think I might sauté them briefly first if I were to make this again.
Qifqi (Albanian Rice Balls)
The above picture shows my ‘prettiest’ Qifqi, which are basically just balls made of rice and egg with some dried mint. Sometimes, they also contain cheese. I wanted to make them since they are apparently very hard to find outside of Albania.
I followed the recipe from Global Kitchen Travels but I did not have the special pan indicated, so I decided I would just pan fry them instead. The mixture was a lot looser than I was expecting, which may be intended, since that wouldn’t really be a problem if I was using the pan I was supposed to. I did get some Qifqi that were close to being ball shapes, and others were complete pancakes. However, they did taste good for something so simple. I should have made some kind of Albanian sauce to go with them, but instead I used kewpie mayonnaise. Wrong, I know, but so good.
Tavë Kosi (Baked Lamb with Rice and Yoghurt)
This dish consists of chunks of lamb and a little rice on the bottom, with an egg and Greek yoghurt mixture poured over the top before baking. I thought the texture would be similar to quiche, but it was closer to mousse I think. That wasn’t actually a bad thing. What is looks like on the inside:
All the recipes I came across for Tavë Kosi seemed very similar, and I ended up using one from the BBC website. Sometimes, small blogs have the only authentic-sounding recipes, but they aren’t always written in a way that is easy to follow so I like to use a more reliable source if possible. I halved the recipe and baked in an 8×8 inch baking dish and I think it worked well. I also used ground lamb cut into chunks as pretend lamb stew meat, since ground lamb was on special. This was delicious, even though it doesn’t look too spectacular, and it’s something I would probably make again.
Sallatë Shope (Albanian Salad)
This is a simple salad consisting of cucumber, tomato, parsley, vinegar and olive oil, as well as peppers and onion according to some sources, with a shredded brine cheese called sirene over the top. I added some lettuce and attempted to grate some feta over the top in place of the sirene, then gave up and crumbled the rest. So, not the best presentation, but it was a pretty good salad to go with the Tavë Kosi.
The Tavë Kosi was easily the highlight of this week. I’d like to revisit the Pispili at a later stage as well. Overall, it was interesting to cook and eat food from Albania, and a little more relaxing, since I didn’t make so many dishes.
Next week, I will be cooking food from Algeria!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and got me thinking about familiar ingredients in new ways 🙂
Thanks! This is definitely giving me some new ideas 🙂