Albania

Hey All,

So, I moved again – which means new people and new flags, yaaay! I have been here in Munich only for a month and have already started exploiting all the multi-culti coworkers of mine – so that this time I can present to you a bite of the Balkan!

I had the nicest evening yesterday – I was invited to the very cozy home of Alvia and Gleni – such a sweet couple! They were both very welcoming, already making me note how hospitable Albanians are. This intention was just more and more assured as our evening went on. Other fun facts about the cool people of Albania: they are very proud of their nationality and heritage and they have awesome, beautiful and relatively cheap beaches (that I really wanna check out). Oh yes, and the food – it is usually full of meat, as most Central/Eastern European or Balkan meals, BUT we made a dish with no meat at all. Let’s make byrek! 

1.1
All you need – onion, tomato, pastry, oil, salt, pepper

Say what? Only three ingredients? Yes! Byrek is typically kind of a Turkish dish, but it is very frequently prepared in Albania. It is so common that they feel it to be their own, so repeat after me: byrek is an Albanian dish, not (only) Turkish!

First of all, after crying your eyes out from chopping all the onions into medium sized slices/cubes, grab the sharpest knife and your tomatoes. You need to smoothly sort of carve into the skin of the tomatoes, not completely cutting it, from top to bottom, let’s say around four times. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t explain this very clearly but take a look at the photos for some help.) When done, you boil them for a few minutes. You did the carving so that, after cooking, you can easily remove all the skin and mash just the meat of the veggies to make the nicest tomato sauce!

1.2

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees in the meantime. Next, grab a pan, splash some oil into it, and throw your onion in as well to fry. When golden brown, add your tasty home made tomato sauce. Here you can optionally also add some sun dried tomatoes or feta, but the basics will do as well. Spice with salt, pepper, and Greek spice mix.

1.3

The pastry we were using was two packs of pre-made, strudel-like dough. You lay down a pack, consisting of 6-7 layers, on a baking sheet. Afterwards you spread the by now ready onion-tomato sauce on the pastry, and cover it with the second set of dough. Done! In the oven it goes!

Alvia did such a great job and she also really seems to be on the top of things in our office – but, apparently, she really cannot multitask. While we were preparing this delicious meal, whenever we were chopping and talking at the same time, something got dropped, spilled, or burnt – so just careful, this easy meal still might require your full focus! Your meal might be ready by now though, it only needs 20-30 minutes in the oven. Covering the top of it with some butter a few minutes before done is also recommended!

1.4
Byrek

Oh, and the most Albanian moment of my evening! As a companion for our meal we drank dhall. At first of course I was like: what? Dhall is yoghurt mixed with water and salt. That’s it. I was seriously concerned about how it would turn out but thankfully it was a great surprise! Such a refreshing drink and fit the meal so well!

This easy meal will fill you up very nicely, so might be better for an evening when you can just keep laying around and fall deeply asleep – I had the best night of sleep after this, pretty sure the dhall did the trick.

1.5
The Albanians

After gathering this flag I want to explore Albania more than ever, and more importantly, meet even more people from this country – Alvia and Gleni were truly the nicest hosts! Thank you guys so much for cooking!

Repeat after me one last time:  byrek is an Albanian dish, not (only) Turkish!

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