Welcome to another instalment of the Earth Eats series. In cased you missed the first one make sure to check out the aromatic beef pilaf recipe from Afghanistan. Today we are traveling to the European country of Albania for a super delicious casserole dish you’re going to love.
Albania is a Southeastern European country located east of Italy, just north of Greece, tucked beneath the former Yugoslav Republic states and overlooking the azure waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Due to it’s location, Albanian cuisine is highly influenced by Italian, Greek and Turkish cookery. Vegetables play a big role in Albanian cuisine and are always present, in one form or another. Meats like lamb, beef, chicken, pork and rabbit are used throughout the country, and in coastal cities seafood plays a bigger roll.
Every region of this Southeastern European country has a special dish characteristic to the area, but Albanian’s national dish is, considered by many to be tave kosi. The dish is made with lamb, yogurt, rice and baked with a mixture of eggs and yogurt. Though it sounded good I skipped it for a dairy free and slightly lighter dish with plenty of vegetables. The dish I choose is called tave me presh.
Tave me presh is a minced lamb and leek casserole that is slowly baked then served over mashed potatoes. Those experiencing a brutal winter will really love the this warming dish, but it’s also perfect for nights when you want to throw dinner in the oven and forget about if for a while. Though minced lamb is the meat of choice in tave me presh, I decided to make a minced beef version because many don’t have access to the lamb mince. It is a very simple dish that anyone, anywhere can prepare — another great reason for choosing it. As a matter of fact I’m sure you already have the ingredients in your kitchen. Okay, let’s get cooking.
- 3 medium leeks, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch pieces but if using thick leeks cut into smaller even sized pieces
- 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
- 500 gm or 1 lb. minced beef or lamb
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce/puree
- 3 small red peppers weighing a total of 300gm/10.5 oz, seeded and evenly chopped (you can also use red bell peppers)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 300 ml or 1.25 cups beef stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- half a tsp of fine salt, adjust to taste
- large pinch of ground black pepper, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp flour to thicken sauce
- mash potatoes to serve (I make mine from scratch)
- Heat the oven to 190c or 374f, prepare a baking or casserole dish. Heat the oil and once warm fry the leeks until soft then put them in baking/casserole dish. In the same pan and oil, or add more oil if needed, cook onion until soft and translucent. Next add meat and cook until cooked through, drain all the liquid and fat, then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Next add peppers, puree, salt, pepper, and broth and mix until well combined. Over medium low heat, bring to gentle boil then add flour to thicken up a bit. Taste and adjust salt and/or pepper if desired. Lastly, pour the pan ingredients over the leeks in casserole dish, place in the centre of the oven (uncovered) and bake for 1 hour. Nearly all of the liquid will have evaporated and the peppers will be very soft. Serve over mashed potatoes. (You might want to start the mashed potatoes one half hour into the cooking time of the casserole.)
MAKE IT PRETTY: The dish is not an attractive one right out of the oven. Make it look pretty by serving it over the mashed potatoes and by using chopsticks to pull up some bits of leeks and peppers. Just use my photos as inspiration.:)
As you can see from the ingredients list the dish is very simply spiced. But you know what? The flavours of the leeks, pepper and beef really stand out and make the dish quite flavourful. The smell as it bakes is just incredible! I know the photo showing the cooked casserole doesn’t look very appetising, but if you serve it like I have in my photos it will really help with first impression. Once your family tastes the dish looks won’t matter much. My husband and I both really liked it and I would definitely make it again.
I tried to find some Albanian cookbooks on Amazon but unfortunately only found one. Here it is in case you’re interested in cooking more dishes from Albania.
Well, there you have it, another edition of Earth Eats. Thanks for stopping and I hope you give this Albanian casserole a taste.