Kofta (or in Albanian, qofte) is one of those dishes with a wide range – lots of variations not just by region (north Africa to the Balkans to India) but within individual families. Regardless, minced meat with herbs and spices in patty / meatball / stick form is going to be good.

I’m using an qofte recipe from Discovering Albania that uses flavours that seem to pop up often in Albanian recipes – feta and mint. The recipe just calls for “meat” – I’m using beef but lamb would be just as good. Mix the ingredients up, shape into little patties, fry in a pan!

Yum, crispy fried meat hot out of the pan. The mint is subtle but gives it a nice flavour, and there’s a nice tang from feta. I’m having them with some cherry tomatoes as a snack – a nice balance of richness and acidity.

ALBANIA: The pyramid scheme that started a war

In 1997, Albania descended into chaos as the country’s economy totally crumbled after being swept up into massive pyramid schemes. The resulting civil war between political sides left thousands dead, even more bankrupt, and influenced the war in Kosovo the following year. The following two videos look at the pyramid schemes themselves that triggered the war, both in the Albanian context and as a cautionary tale.

ALBANIA: Meze platter

I got a few more Albanian products in from TurkishMart – it seems to be one of the few sources for Albanian imports into Canada, and they have really fast shipping. There’s a lot of potential with these ingredients!

Sejega lutenicaLutenica is a spread found across the Balkans – basically a chunky sauce made from roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, and in this case, carrots too. I’m not entirely certain exactly how it’s different from ajvar, except I think lutenica is chunkier.

Cà Mucci roasted garlic – What more could you need, roasted garlic in oil! It’s plain delicious, you can spread it straight into bread. I’m probably going to rip through this jar in short order.

Cà Mucci tomato peppers with cheese – Pickled sweet yellow peppers with a good dollop of soft feta cheese in the middle. Not spicy at all.

Cà Mucci hot cherry peppers – Similar to the yellow peppers, but actually spicy! They’ve got a great zip to them, and the feta goes so well.

I figured I’d make a little Albanian meze platter with these goodies. There’s a lot of flexibility with meze, but I tried to use foods that are talked about in Albanian sources. I’ve included:

  • Feta, with a little drizzle of olive oil
  • Olives
  • Whole grain baguette
  • Cornichons
  • Prosciutto and salami
  • Cucumber slices and baby tomatoes

I had originally planned to also include hardboiled eggs, another staple, but unfortunately I forgot! Still, I think that’s a good enough little spread, I can replicate it on a bigger scale when more guests are over.


I picked up some nice crusty baguette today, so it’s perfect to test run a couple Albanian treats! (Well, two out of three go with the bread.)

Albanian Naturals Raw Pine Honey – I love a nice honey, particularly to stir into some plain yogurt in the morning. Since it’s raw honey, it’s more flavourful – there’s a subtle herbal flavour and a lot more oomph overall than something pasteurized to oblivion. There’s also a bit of the same tang in the aftertaste that you get if you’ve ever snacked on spruce tips in the spring.

Sejega Fig Jam with Cacao – Picked it up from the Albanian section of Turkish Mart, I’m intrigued by the combination of fig and cacao. Let’s get it on this baguette and see how it is! It’s not as sweet as I was expecting – it’s predominantly fig but there’s a subtle chocolate flavour that comes out at the end. This is lovely as a sweet treat, but I bet it could pair well with meat and cheese too.

Fanta Exotic – This flavour of Fanta is available across eastern and northern Europe – but it’s particularly popular in Albania, and there’s unconfirmed comments that it may have been an Albanian exclusive at one point in the past. Passion fruit, peach, and orange – it’s really tasty. No wonder this flavour is sought after!

ALBANIA: Podcasts

Beachfront in Sarandë – Source: Rough Guides

Explaining Albania: Blood feuds and honour, a tragic tale of Albanian tradition – An interview with Dr. Elona Prroj, a Protestant minister from Albania who runs an NGO seeking to end blood feuds in the country’s north, where they not only still occur, but have resurged after being suppressed during the communist era. Her own husband was killed in a blood feud, and she is working to both break the cycle with forgiveness (as her own family has done), and to tackle some of the root causes of blood feuds – particularly poverty and limited access to education.

Pendulum Podcast: In And Out Of Octopodi by Lori Lako – Poetic spoken-word reflections by Albanian artists and an interview with an art historian about Albania’s disappearing historical buildings – including the demolition of the National Theatre during the start of the pandemic, despite intensive protests, and on the neglect of the Pyramid of Tirana. They speak of loss of not just cultural heritage, but of local and personal history, and what gets lost as Albania works to wipe away its past.

The Pyramid of Tirana – Source

A Coffee in the Accursed Mountains: The one with… mountain tea – A discussion by two British immigrants to Albania about coffee / tea customs and about mountain tea. Mountain tea in southern Albania is the same as the Greek kind, however, in Albania’s north and in Kosovo, mountain tea instead refers to tea made from marjoram instead. I tried the southern kind – it’s quite nice, like an earthier chamomile.

Ottoman History Podcast: Paraskevi Kyrias, Albania, and the United States at the Paris Peace Conference – A look at the post-WWI 1919 Paris Peace Conference through the diary of Paraskevi Kyrias (Parashqevi Qiriazi), one of the few women participating. Kyrias had championed women’s education, had been part of the team that standardized the Albanian alphabet, and advocated for Albania’s independence with skilled diplomacy at the 1919 Conference. The podcast also follows her legacy and the communist Albanian government’s initial rejection of her due to her Protestantism and American connections, and then their subsequent co-opting of her legacy later in her life.

ALBANIA: Burani me Spinaq e Vezë

I’m trying a nice way to get my greens in with Albanian burani – rice and spinach topped with poached eggs. I’m guessing the name has the same etymology as biryani – originally from the Persian word for rice. The recipes for burani all incorporate herbs, but these herbs differ by recipe – I’ve seen ones with mint, basil, dill, or fennel. I’m going to go with basil since I have a nice new basil plant! I’m using this recipe from My Albanian Food, with one modification – I’m adding a few cloves of garlic since most of the other recipes use them (and why miss an opportunity for more garlic?)

It’s a pretty straightforward dish – sautée up the onions and garlic, add rice and water, then spinach and herbs, then once it’s boiled down a bit, gently crack the eggs on top and let them poach. It’s simple and filling and pretty healthy – I feel like I could play around with the herbs and get creative. I think the amount of water in this recipe was a bit off, it didn’t boil down as expected, but that can be adjusted – still a nice tasty lunch.

ALBANIA: The General of the Dead Army by Ismail Kadare

There’s a lot of good literature from Albania, so I figure I’d start big with Ismail Kadare – probably Albania’s most famous author. The General of the Dead Army was his first novel and his first hit internationally, originally published in 1963. Kadare is still publishing today, and a read-through of his biography is as just as gripping – running afoul of the communist regime, including almost being executed, having his books published in the West without his permission (or knowledge) due to Albania not being part of international copyright treaties, slipping anti-regime works past the censors, and later being asked (and declining) to become President of Albania.

As for The General of the Dead Army, it is a darkly wry book – it follows an Italian general, sent to Albania 20 years after WWII, to recover the bodies of Italian soldiers killed in the invasion and occupation of the country. The general’s mental state slowly degrades, both with facing the dead, his own past, and a country and a people that is not pleased to have him turning over what was buried. There’s black humour, and harrowing scene of an interrupted wedding celebration, and a general so wrapped up in his own mind that he cannot help but repeat the past.