Japrak – a traditional dish that brings on so many memories

One of my favorite traditional dishes is japrak (dolma). It is prepared in spring when the nature is so generous with greens. Japraks (dolmas) are cooked in all Balkan countries, Middle East and Central Asia. They’re basically vine leaves stuffed with greens and rice. Many recipes call for meat, but I prefer them without.

I’m pretty sure japraks bring a lot of memories to all of my Albanian readers and will make curious the others.

I’m sharing with you my family recipe of japrak with just a small change. I added a little bit of ground cumin and powdered garlic for flavour. Japraks seem difficult to prepare, but believe me they aren’t. They just require time and patience, but the result is so rewarding. They’re perfect with some yogurt or Albanian cold yogurt soup, for which I will have a dedicated post soon.

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Asure aka Noah’s pudding – the easiest recipe you can find

Asure is a special dessert with eastern origin that is traditionally cooked also in Albania. The dish has a fascinating story behind.

When Noah and his animals were running out of food, he mixed whatever was left and cooked them together to feed his companions. The result was asure, a beautiful and so adaptable dish.

The original recipe calls for many ingredients, different types of beans, grains, fresh fruits, dried fruits, fruit juice and different spices etc, while in my family we only use wheat, walnuts and cinnamon and thicken it with corn-starch. Sorry Noah… The recipe is so easy and it makes enough to serve a crowd since traditionally asure is made to share with relatives, neighbors and friends. I usually put it in small jars, since is easier to share and also they are so cute.

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Orange & chocolate Bundt cake

Sometimes I get nostalgic about moms cooking and try to recreate her recipes. I end up calling her to check if I missed something, which for sure always happens. Mom starts explaining in her way, without mentioning concrete measures or amounts at all, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, even when she talks about baking.

Most of the times I end up in a real mess, since I haven’t yet understood, how little is mom’s little.

Anyway, I was pretty lucky with this Bundt cake, which used to be my favourite years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still am in love with it, but I’m saving the 5 stars for another dessert which I will share in a future post.
So, the cake came out perfect, moist and fresh and chocolaty, quite as good as mom’s. Continue reading

Red wine liquor – tradition at its best

I love learning about traditional recipes and experimenting with them.  They are paths to the past and make me understand and love Albanian culture and culinary even more.

Red wine liquor is one of the recipes I’ve had so much fun with, because, you know, it includes wine.

It’s practically wine, cooked with sugar and cloves which is kept in the fridge and served chilled, in small glasses, since it is quit sweet. It was offered to women guests when they came over to visit during the communist regime,while to the men we offered raki. At that time there were few choices of drinks and food and people had to get creative with what they had in hand.

This liquor is a great way to use leftover wine or a wine you don’t like very much, since the cloves and sugar change the taste. It makes also a great edible gift along with some homemade cookies.

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Pispili – Albanian cornmeal flat bread with green leafs

Pispili - cornmeal flat breadIf someone asks me, which is my favourite recipe ever, my answer will be without any doubt “Pispili”. It is a traditional dish cooked in many regions of Albania in different ways, but they all have something in common, they are made of corn-meal and leafy green vegetables. Even the name differs from region to region, you may find it under the name “Pispili”, “Brushull” , “Pacarak” and possibly many more that I haven’t heard.

My mom makes an amazing Pispili, almost every time I go to see her. So, I basically eat Pispili every week. The recipe has evolved through years. We now use polenta instead of corn meal, and also add some feta cheese.

The recipe is very easy to follow, the hardest part is to clean the greens 😛 We use spinach and spring onions, but you may use whatever greens you like, sorrel, nettles etc. I sometimes like to add mint for some extra flavour. You may even replace the spring onions with leeks, but personally I do not like it.

If you’re looking for a light and healthy dinner do not miss Pispili. It pairs perfectly with yoghurt and is better eaten fresh, but in case there are some leftovers they still taste great, the other day warmed in the toaster.

Pispili - cornmeal flat bread

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Pumpkin and honey halva – my favorite Halloween treat

Pumpkin HalvaEvery Halloween my aunt makes a very nice halva with Pumpkin 🙂 I had never tried to make it myself, till last week, when I got a big pumpkin and I had to find some creative ways to cook it.

The recipe is easy to follow and needs few minutes to prepare, so I thought why not share it with you. This pumpkin halva calls for semolina flour which gives a very nice crunchy texture to the halva and grated pumpkin which gives an amazing aroma and flavour.

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Hasude – cornstarch pudding

IMG_9589_editedHasude is a very old recipe, cooked in different areas in Albania. It is a kind of pudding made with water and corn-starch. I believe it has Turkish origin. It is not the prettiest dessert, but it’s very easy to make and tastes really nice. I crave it time by time, especially in summer, because it is very light, and is usually served after being chilled in the fridge. It does not contain gluten, so if you’re gluten intolerants, you’ll enjoy it even more.

Despite being so easy to make I had never cooked it myself, just before some months ago. I started searching online, but the recipes and instructions were a bit confusing, so I wrote to Dhurata, a well-known food blogger in Albania, who is the best at bringing old recipes to life in a contemporary way. I made few changes to her recipe and ended up with this version. Continue reading

Olive oil cookies

IMG_2244These are maybe my all-time favourite cookies, where the olive oil taste matches perfectly the orange and cinnamon flavour.
My mom used to make them all the time and I expressed my support by eating them all.
I don’t know why they never come as perfect as when mom bakes them, maybe they lack mom’s touch or she has a secret that hasn’t shared with me.

Anyway they’re still very nice and somehow healthy. They’re also pretty easy to assemble. No rolling or chilling the dough. No fancy ingredients or techniques. And you may keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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