Monday Meal Review: Albania

Recipes from an Albanian Menu

Exercising Restraint in the Albanian Kitchen

I’ll be honest with you. I spent most of Saturday feeling a bit put out.  As I cooked my way through Albania, I rummaged through my spice drawer for nothing in particular. I picked up and put down a head of garlic at least 5 times.

Cooking with just one herb or spice per dish – a trait I found in all the recipes we tried this week – felt, well, foreign to me.  None of these dishes even had garlic in them.  Exercising restraint was not easy but, as we all know, this is what I am here for! Turns out paring down the aromatics in a recipe amplifies the main ingredient, resulting in big dose of bright, clean flavor. As with a theater performance, when a bare stage allows for the star to shine, each of these Albanian dishes left room for the main ingredients to steal the show.

The Albanian Recipes

Tava Elbasani | Lamb in Yogurt [Recipe]

Tava Elbasani | Lamb in Yogurt

What did I like most about this dish?

The tangy yogurt laced with Hungarian paprika makes a homey dish – a perfect complement to gamy lamb. The texture is lovely, too; the initial simmering time coupled with the yogurt bake works to tenderize the meat.

What did I like least about this dish?

Unfortunately, the recipe I consulted did not specify oven temperature, so I guessed… and I guessed wrong. At 400F the yogurt custard got blasted by too much heat. I adjusted the recipe to 350F; this gentle heat will produce a creamier custard.

Byrek ose Lakror | Leek Pie [Recipe]

Byrek ose Lakror | Leek Pie

What do I like most about this dish?

Did I mention the pie contains leeks? Yum. The mild onion flavor makes leeks on of my favorite springtime vegetables. Also, the glossy nut brown crust is a stunner. Make sure to add the feta to give it some pizzazz (this was my friend Jason’s idea).

What do I like least about this dish?

Having to wait at least an hour before cutting into the pie. I cut into the pie after only 30 minutes the first time and it had not “set up” yet. The silver lining? If you wait an hour, the dish can be prepared well before the guests arrive.

Turli Perimesh | Vegetables with Parsley [Recipe]

Turli Perimesh | Vegetables with Parsley

What do I like most about this dish?

Everything. This dish was a real winner. Quick. Easy. Simple. The parsley adds fresh garden flavor without complicating the bright vegetables. Turli Perimesh would make a great weeknight meal with a side of rice and/or fish.

What do I like least about this dish?

Nothing.

Albanian Cornbread [Recipe]

Abanian Cornbread with Feta and Green Onion

What do I like most about this dish?

The addition of green onion, feta, and cottage cheese made cornbread exciting again.

What do I like least about this dish?

The cornbread was dense and dried out quickly. This is definitely best served hot.

Llokume (Turkish Delight) [Recipe]

Turkish Delight

What do I like most about this dish?

This sweet treat was packed with the zing of orange and rose water – a fantastic pick-me-up after dinner. Also, the bite-sized portions make it easier not to over indulge. (Ok, who am I kidding? Bite-sized portions just make it easier to pop ’em into my mouth!)

What do I like least about this dish?

Waiting four days to eat Llokume is torture. Also, the recipe is pretty tricky. I would have done much better if I had the help of an experienced Llokume maker. Anyone know one?

Ava’s Corner

The Albanian Kitchen: Ava at 7-months old

Turli Perimesh (Albanian Vegetables) is the only dish I felt comfortable sharing with my 7-month old, Ava. She loves zucchini and summer squash, so it was natural that she would enjoy these foods, but we avoided tomato since the acid can bother some babies. I gave her very soft pieces for her to chew on. I kept my eyes on her, but she did really well. Pieces could also be pureed for a young baby.

2 Comments

  1. The cornbread and lamb were my favorite. Cornbread was a suprise for me since it’s all fancy being filled with extra non-cornbread goodies. It’s the second time I’ve had lamb. It was very tender and the yogurt stuff gave it an awesome tang (but not too much).

    7/10

  2. Amanda Roberts says

    I have ALWAYS wanted to “cook around the world” with my kids (I’m such a foodie. most people teach their kids about the culture. I want them to EAT the culture. :)) and i just stumbled upon your site and you did all the amazing hard work and research already for me…with reviews! So if you don’t mind, i’ll be frequenting your site and using some of your recipes for different countries! Glad i wasn’t the only one with this idea!!!! 🙂
    thank you for sharing

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