There are a myriad of ways I could go with this project. I decided alphabetically by country. Accept it. Embrace it. I can see already that the difficulties, too, are myriad, but I’m game: I have to decide what soup and what filled bread or turnover-ish thing really represents an entire country’s cuisine, and then I have to research various versions of recipes for each and come up with one that seems to encompass the soul of each. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to take awhile – I figure on roughly one of these a week, so we’re looking at a close to four year project given the number of countries out there – longer, taking into account that there will be week’s skipped for whatever reasons come up. As I said last week, we’ll see how this goes.
For Albania, I picked Jani me Fasule as the soup, and Lakror as the bread. The former is basically a mildly spiced white bean soup, the latter, a sort of cheese and vegetable stuffed “pie”, similar in some ways to the more well-known Greek spanakopita, but not the same.
Jani me Fasule
I know “fasule” is the word for beans, several folk online specified that it’s specific to white beans, though that doesn’t seem to be the case in various online translations – the rest of it, I don’t know. A fairly straightforward and simple recipe:
Chop a carrot, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a medium hot chili and cook them until soft in butter. Add in a large, chopped tomato, a tablespoon of sweet paprika, a teaspoon of dried mint, and presoaked white beans (I soaked a cup and a half or so of them overnight in water). Top with vegetable stock , bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are done. Add in about half a cup of finely chopped parsley. Done. Delicious!
Traditionally, as with many Eastern European soups, just water is used, which I imagine was more of an economic development, or simply because the idea of stocks never developed as part of those cuisines, and it’s an excellent soup made that way too, but I like it far better with the additional flavors brought in from a well made vegetable stock.
We’re basically making a strudel type dough here – 2½ cups pastry or cake flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 cup warm water. Mix together well, knead until smooth, cover and rest for half an hour, then divide into six equal portions.
Brush a pan with butter (perfect use for a pizza pan), dust the excess flour off the dough and lay it out. Brush the dough with butter. Repeat with two more of the pieces of dough, so you’ve got three layers – you don’t have to brush the top of the last one with butter since the filling is going on it.
The filling: Saute 3-4 chopped leeks (white parts only) and a couple of chopped pickled mild chilies (Italian frying peppers, or what we call ajíes de vinagre here, are perfect) in butter until they soften, add in a chopped bunch of spinach and cook until well wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Mix with a pound (half kilo) of fresh “farmer’s cheese” (or ricotta, or even cottage cheese). Spread out on the dough base to within about an inch of the edge.
Next time… Algeria.