Eating Albania

28 June 2018

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.
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KCC’S Albanian feast
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.
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Waiting for a byrek to come along in Ksamil, Albania

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

One lettuce

Two juicy medium-sized tomatoes

One small red onion

A sprinkling of capers

Method

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!

 

 

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Courgette Flower Power

4 May 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve been busy stuffing courgette flowers, a popular starter all around the Aegean Sea. In Turkey, these delicate taste-bud ticklers, known as kabak çiçeği dolması, are stuffed with a rice mixture and baked, unlike their Italian cousins which are filled with ricotta cheese and deep fried.

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Succulent stuffed courgette flower power

The courgette, zucchini to our north American readers, is a really versatile vegetable – in the past we’ve used it in a tasty fritter mücverstuffed courgettes and in a creamy almond dip, and it’s great that we’ve found a use for its flowers as well.

If you’re growing your own courgettes, then you should have a ready supply of flowers, otherwise you may need to scour your local farmers’ market for these vivid orange blossoms.

Ingredients 

20-25 courgette flowers

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its earthier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

One medium-sized tomato

One garlic clove

Pinches of dried thyme, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, cinnamon and salt

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh mint

25 g raisins

25 g  pine nuts

25 ml olive oil for frying

Juice of one lemon

One sliced lemon

100 ml natural yogurt

Method

Pour the olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the chopped tomato, dried and fresh herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts and cook for five minutes over a high heat.

Turn the heat down and add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

Make sure that the courgette flowers are free from any green, leafy bits or stem and remove the stamen from the inside of the flower. Allow the rice mixture to cool and then fill each flower with a teaspoon of rice mix – don’t overfill them as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks.

Fold the end of the blossom together to seal the rice mix in and place the filled flowers into a heavy based frying pan or casserole dish. Pour water over the flowers to just cover them, add a generous glug of olive oil and the lemon juice, put a lid on the pan and cook over a low heat until all the water is absorbed.

Leaving the pan covered, let the cooked courgette flowers rest for 30 minutes or so with the heat turned off and then serve with lemon slices and a dollop of natural yogurt.