Time for another foray into Albanian cuisine!
Fergese (fried curd) turns up on the dinner table in all sorts of guises. My favourite is made with carrots, red peppers, garlic and olives mulched up in the food processor, mixed into the gjize (pronounced ‘geeze’) and fried. I’ve even had it at a restaurant with chunks of chicken in it. I don’t have a food processor so we’re sticking to a simple version which was shown to me by my brother-in-law Berti.
- Gjize (curd or cottage cheese)
- Speca (peppers – red & green)
- Hudhra (fresh garlic)
- Gjalp (butter)
- Qumesht (milk)
- Vaj (oil)
Slice and dice the speca and hudhra and soften up in a frying pan with a big chunk of gjalp.
Add the gjize to the frying pan. Use only what you’ll think you’ll eat straight away because its best served fresh from the pan. We probably used a quarter of the amount of gjize shown in the photo above.
Continue to fry the mixture. Add a dollop of milk and some vaj. Fry a little longer and then its good to go. Totally yum with chunks of fresh bread! Hubby said my fergese was really good – so that’s a total Albanian housewife win! Woo hoo!
It’s a wet, miserable Monday afternoon… so time to do some cooking…
There was only ever one place to start my journey to Albanian housewife success and that was with byrek. The flaky pastry stuffed with cheese, meat and/or spinach is not unique to Albania but is definitely part of the staple diet here.
The best byrek I’ve had yet was made by my mother-in-law. And no, I’m not just saying that for the brownie points. There’s a real art to a quality byrek and hers is melt in the mouth delicious.
So here’s the pathway to basic byrek success… (note: agologies for the I-instagramed-my-lasagne quality of the photos – I am definitely not a food photographer!)
- 1 x pkt peta (pastry). Ask at your local Turkish supermarket for a suitable equivalent
- 5 x veze (eggs). Whisked
- Qumesht (milk). We used about 1 ½ cups
- Gjize (soft cheese). Crumbled up feta is a good alternative
- Vaj (oil)
Mix eggs, milk and gjize together to get kind of a gloopy, lumpy mixture. No need to over whisk the eggs. But do make sure that you haven’t got any enormous lumps of gjize in your mixture.
Warm up a large flat flan-type dish. Heat up a bit of oil in it and spread the warm oil around the bottom and sides of the dish so that the byrek won’t stick to it.
Start with covering the bottom of the dish with a couple of layers of the pastry. Then spread a few spoons of the gloopy mixture over. Then add a few more layers of pastry – before adding more of the gloop. It’s a rough science – you kind of just patch work the pastry over the bottom of your dish. Proper Albanian housewives have large circular dishes perfectly sized to take the round sheets of peta. But I’m just a beginner – I haven’t got one of those yet.
Place dish in oven and cook for 20-25 min until the top is crispy and the innards are spongy but not soggy.
Best eaten warm. But great cold from the fridge for breakfast.
If you want to get more adventurous, you can cook up some mince and onions etc and spoon it over with the egg mixture.