Cooking (eating) and traveling are always on my list of things to do more of as a new year starts. While I’m regularly in the kitchen as it is, I’ve found that I haven’t been challenging myself as much as I have in the past. And while we travel fairly frequently, I’m always looking to explore other cultures, particularly ones that I know little or nothing about.
That brings me here, to the start of 2017, with a new project in mind. Each week, working my way through the alphabet, I’m going to pick a culture, country, or region starting with that week’s letter. Then, I’ll pick a dish representative of the culture to try to replicate. I’m calling this project 26X2. (Hopefully) by the end of the year I’ll have made it through the alphabet twice, and I’ll have explored 52 new cultures and their recipes.
26X2, Week 1: Albania
For the first week of 26X2, I’ve decided to focus on Albania. Not really knowing where to start, I did a Google image search for traditional Albanian recipes to see any common trends. One dish stood out to me, and it turned out to be flija.
While researching the recipe, flija reminded me a lot of a crepe cake, where loads of individual crepes are layered with filling into a tall stack to, essentially, make a cake. The process of making flija is decently long and involved, but I found it to be active enough to not feel tedious. It’s traditionally made over a campfire using a pan with a domed lid. I used a spring form pan and a broiler because I’d rather not burn my house down. Now that I think about it, though, I might need to remake this in my parents’ backyard to get the full effect. You can either use a water-based batter or an egg-based batter, and I used the latter. This is layered with a dairy batter, and cooked in between the addition of each new layer. The egg and flour batter is added in a way that makes it look like spokes on a bicycle, and when you’re finished you’ll be able to see all of these layers that you’ve arranged.
The finished taste reminded me a lot of a baked pasta and cheese dish, even though there’s no cheese in the recipe. I served mine with honey, but it can be served with yogurt, jam, or more savory toppings.
It also states in the recipe to grab a glass of wine as it’ll be a while until you’re done. That’s exactly what I did, and I found the process to be quite enjoyable!