When Feta Met Olive…my husband is feta and I am olive…or is it the other way around? Albanian food infused with Turkish…a delicious combination! That is what my blog is all about, bringing both traditions together in perfect harmony. I add my own unique spin to my food as I have so many influences from around the Mediterranean to make every and any dish amazing!
The question I used to get often as a kid was, “Where is Albania?” To the south we have Greece, to the east is Macedonia, Kosova and Montenegro, to the north and from across the Adriatic sea we have Italy. My family comes from the southern part of Albania, it borders with Macedonia. My family lived in Ohrid for sometime after they left Albania in the 1940’s.
How would I describe Albanian cuisine? A mixture of things, really. Some recipes are specially Albanian and other recipes have a Turkish, Italian or Macedonian influence to them, depending on the regions you are from. The main herbs and spices in Albanian cuisine are mint and oregano. Growing up, we never used basil, but I have incorporated it into my recipes over the years as well as many other herbs and spices. Albanian food isn’t spicy; the only spice used is red pepper flakes and black pepper and that is only used in certain recipes. Paprika is often used; Albanians love their paprika! In certain regions, like the Albanians from Macedonia, add dried hot pepper to beans; Albanians all over love fasula me mish, beans with meat.
Gjelle, pronounced jel, is the Albanian word for stew or pot food. Anything that is cooked in a pot can be called gjelle, unless it is soup which is called qorb (pronounced chorb). Albanian food is simple. Roasted peppers, buke me djath, bread and cheese, are a staple food on every Albanian table. Beans, fish, lamb, and Albanian style burek called lakror made with a variety of fillings come to mind when I think of Albanian cuisine. Oh, we mustn’t forget our love for cottage cheese or gjize, and butter haha! Albanian food is the food I grew up loving, and continue to love and learn more about.
The national food of Albania is tave kosi. Although I never have tried it myself, I believe it to be more popular in the capital Tirana. Foods like lakror, Albanian style pizza, is well known and loved all over Albania; it is unique to the Albanian culture, even in Turkey it is known as Arnavut burek, Arnuvut meaning Albanian.
When I think of Albanian food I think of my grandparents, the stories that they told us from their childhood. My grandmother warming up milk pouring it in a bowl with broken up pieces of bread, called pershesh, something so simple yet so very warming. My grandfather frying up peppers on the gas stove, adding a ton of feta cheese on top and cutting up a watermelon and slicing freshly baked bread…that was a typical summer’s day dinner for us. When I think of Albanian food, I think of my heritage, my family, the aromas that come from the kitchen when I am making traditional foods which brings me joy. I have never been to Albania nor has my mom…the recipes my grandparents left us with is all we have that connects us to the homeland.
Many Albanian recipes are similar to Turkish recipes, it is no wonder with the Ottoman influence over the years. So learning Turkish food was a breeze as it isn’t so far off from Albanian food! Many dishes and food ingredients even have the same name, and for the most part are the same recipes, a minor change or two in ingredients or in method of cooking, but not too much of a difference. Could be different from household to household as well, as what is available in different regions that could make a difference in a recipe. I know for a fact that my grandmother, my mother and myself all make the same dish differently, and we are related, let alone from different regions…it happens. Everyone puts their own special touch to a recipe.
Now let’s talk about Turkish food, Turkish food is unique as every region has their own specialty recipes. Some areas in Turkey are known for specific recipes. I am lucky to have met people from various parts of Turkey, and have learned many dishes from around the country. For the most part, however, Turkish recipes are the same; they consist of fresh ingredients and are very colourful and bright.
Turkish food is full of fresh vegetables, soups, meze or appetizers, meats, bureks, yogurt, and desserts that delight your eyes. So many recipes to choose from. Turkish food is exciting, not spicy yet not bland at all! Although black pepper is commonly used in many dishes, as well as red pepper flakes for heat, it is not spicy food. Mint, oregano, parsley, paprika, and cumin are commonly used for seasoning in Turkish food. Homemade red pepper paste and tomato pastes are commonly used in many dishes. Olive oil is the main ingredient in cooking Turkish food, it is even drizzled over the food after it is cooked for health benefits.
I hope through my blog and through my social network, you will learn more about Mediterranean food and come to love it as much as I do! I also hope I inspire you to try something new, to use new ingredients in your cooking, change things up a bit! Cooking is fun, and learning new things keeps it fresh and exciting!