I must confess that before hitting this, the second stop in my international culinary adventure, I had never given much thought to Albanian food. I'd never traveled to Albania, never come across, much less eaten at, an Albanian restaurant and indeed, beyond the war in Kosovo, never given much thought to Albania at all.
It seems that I'm not alone on this, Albanian cookbooks seem to be few and far between, and there are few websites discussing Albanian food. However, I was able to find at least a little bit.
It seems that historically, Albania has been under the domination of different empires: from the Greeks and Roman in antiquity, to more recently, the Ottomans. Albanian food has been heavily influenced by all of these conquerors, as well as by their neighbors. Indeed, many of the recipes I found were modified versions of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Staples: qofte (savory meatballs fried or grilled), dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and baklava among them. Greek-influenced stuffed vegetables are also quite common as are Turkish-inspired meat-filled-pastries. As in most countries, Albanian food used to vary considerably from region to region. It seems, however, that during communist times the food has become more homogenized, as well as lightened - though it continues to rely heavily in the use of oil.
All this said, I wasn't particularly excited about cooking Albanian food. The recipes I found did not seem particularly appealing, and had I not been doing this project I probably wouldn't have cooked the food at all. That would have been a mistake, for most of the things I prepared where rather good and my guests thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and novelty of this menu.
My menu consisted of an appetizer of:
Qofte tė fėrguara
Friend mint-flavored meatballs, served with:
A common middle-eastern sauce, and accompanied by:
Tirana's Romaine Salad
This was followed by:
Pule me arra
Chicken with walnuts
For dessert I served:
Albanian Walnut Cake with Lemon Glaze
accompanied by ice cream (which has become very popular in Albania).
Albanian Food Links