TRADITIONAL ALBANIAN RECIPES
Albanian Spinach Pie (Byrek Me Spinaq or Pite)
Byrek (also called Börek, burek, or lakror) is a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough known as yufka (or phyllo). Börek is also very popular in the cuisines of Balkans, especially in North Africa and throughout the former Ottoman Empire. In Tirana, the most common fillings include a mixture of cheese, eggs and spinach, but it can also include meat, or a sweet filling of pumpkin. It is traditionally made with several layers of dough that has been thinly rolled out by hand. The final form can either be individual triangles of byrek, especially from street vendors, or one large byrek that is cut into smaller pieces. Byrek is traditional to southern Albania but is made throughout the country with variations.
1 cup oil, preferably olive oil
1½ packets (or about 30) pastry leaves (filo dough)
1½ pounds spinach, chopped
1 cup diced feta cheese
½ cup chopped green onions
salt, half teaspoon
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F Brush the baking pan with some of the oil, and start laying the pastry leaves inside. First, lay two leaves, sprinkle or brush with oil, then lay two other leaves, and repeat the procedure until half of the leaves are laid. Make sure that they cover the pan by hanging them about one inch over the edges of the pan. Sprinkle spinach with salt, then mix well by hand. Add the feta cheese, oil, onions, eggs and salt, and spread this mixture over the already laid pastry leaves. Finish by covering the spinach with the rest of the pastry leaves repeating the first-half procedure and then roll the hanging edges of the bottom leaves over the pie (think of a pizza crust), sprinkle top with oil and bake moderately at 350°F for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot, accompanied with buttermilk, or beaten yogurt, thinned down in cold water or with chilled stewed prunes. Sometimes a green salad adds to the meal!
BAKED LAMB WITH RICE (Tavë kosi)
70 grams butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1.2 kilos boned lamb shoulder, cut into 5cm cubes
4 grated garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
60 grams long-grain rice, rinsed
50 grams plain flour
600ml/20fl oz Greek-style yoghurt
4 free-range eggs, beaten
freshly grated nutmeg, to finish
salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Heat 20g/¾oz of the butter and the olive oil in a large lidded pan over a high heat. Brown the lamb in batches.
Return all the lamb to the pan. Add the garlic, oregano and 200ml/7fl oz water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered with a lid, for about 45–60 minutes until the lamb is tender.
Stir in the rice, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 3 litre/5¼ pint earthenware or other ovenproof dish.
Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and make a roux, cook for 2 minutes, then take off the heat. Add the yoghurt and mix well, then return to the heat and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat, add the beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the lamb and rice mixture, grate fresh nutmeg on top and bake for 40–45 minutes until starting to turn golden-brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a simple lettuce salad.