Greetings from Albania, where, among other things, KCC has been on the trail of the byrek, the pie that fuels the Balkans.
From the capital Tirana to the resorts of the south via mountain strongholds such as Berat, we’ve tracked down some fine examples of this savoury pie. But more on this next time, as we haven’t yet had time to recreate this culinary delight at KCC H.Q.
This time round we’ll have a look at some great salads that we’ve encountered on our travels. While in Tirana we visited a restaurant called Mullixhiu which cooks up some great dishes with organic Albanian ingredients.
At this time of year, the full array of fruit and vegetables are coming into season and we had a great salad made from thinly sliced courgettes and plums with a courgette flower sauce and another featuring beetroot, spinach and scattered fragments of dried filo pastry.
We’ve made a salad based on the first one that includes veggies and fruit: courgettes, pears, green peppers and capers served on a bed of lettuce to be precise.
With a spinach byrek sourced from one of the many byrektore shops in Ksamil a small resort on the Albanian Riviera, a tomato, pepper and onion salad, and some olives and white cheese, here’s our first Albanian feast.
Ingredients (serves 4)
One medium-sized courgette
One small pear
Two green peppers
Two juicy medium-sized tomatoes
One small red onion
A sprinkling of capers
The key to the courgette salad is to make it just before eating – don’t let it sit around for too long. As for the tomato salad, make this one first and allow the flavours to mingle – the longer, the better.
Roughly chop the tomato and mix in a bowl with thin slices of red onion and green pepper. Set aside and let the flavours mix together while you make the courgette salad.
Shred the lettuce and line a serving bowl with it. Thinly slice the pepper and then the pear. Next slice the courgette as thinly as you can and then sprinkle the capers over the top. Add your preferred salad dressing and that’s it – you’re ready to go!
This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at lor – Turkey’s answer to ricotta cheese. Drier than its Italian cousin, lor ismade from whey after it has been separated from the curd. It’s used in Turkish dishes such as börek or mixed with herbs and nigella seeds as part of a breakfast spread.
It’s peak season for aubergines at the moment and we found that this adaptable vegetable paired excellently with lor cheese. We stuffed some slices of aubergine with the cheese, adding some spinach or sorrel leaves to the parcels to give the lor a bit more oomph. The dish was finished off by submerging the aubergine wraps in a spicy, gingery tomato sauce.
For some reason, this combination of aubergine, white cheese and tomato just works so well.
If you’re having trouble sourcing the lor cheese, it’s dead easy to make yourself from milk or yogurt – here’s some easy-to-follow instructions from Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
Two large aubergines cut lengthways into 0.5 cm thick slices (this should yield 8-10 slices)
250 g lor cheese (or ricotta)
Eight-ten sorrel or spinach leaves (one for each aubergine slice)
500 g tomatoes
One medium-sized onion
One or two garlic cloves
3 cm fresh ginger
One teaspoon paprika
One teaspoon chili flakes
One teaspoon turmeric
50 ml olive oil
Brush the aubergine slices on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and black pepper over the slices and bake for 20 minutes or until turning a golden-brown colour in an oven pre-heated to 220°C or gas mark 7.
While the slices are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the finely chopped onion to the pan along with the minced garlic and ginger.
Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes then stir in the paprika, chili flakes and turmeric. Chop the tomatoes or grate them and pour into the mix. Cook for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
Allow the aubergine slices to cool and then make the wraps – put a sorrel or spinach leaf, with the stem removed, and a dollop of lor in the middle of the slice and roll it up.
Pour the sauce into a baking dish and place the aubergine parcels in the spicy sauce. Bake in the oven at 220°C or gas mark 7 for twenty minutes or until the sauce is bubbling.
As usual, serve with a green salad and some crusty bread.