Cooked in Translation – Albanian Pizza
As you are reading this, my family and I are on a short vacation in beautiful Cornwall! That hasn’t stopped me from cooking for this month’s Cooked in Translation which is all about interpreting a well known dish from a different ethnic or regional perspective. This month, our host is Paula M of An Italian in the Midwest and she’s decided to make pizza!
Keeping with this month’s theme of Eastern European food, I’m featuring Albanian pizza. I have a very good Albanian friend who told me that her mum used to make an open pie with filo pastry that they used to call Albanian pizza, despite the fact that it was usually made without cheese. Her description reminded me very much of Burek or Borek (and other variations of the name), which is a pie made from filo pastry found all over the Mediterranean, the Balkans and even parts of the Middle East and North Africa. They can be vegetarian or filled with lamb or beef, with or without cheese. In my travels to these areas, I have tasted a huge variety of these pies, even in as far east as Bulgaria.
So, back to Albanian pizza. This is my recipe, I make a cooked tomato base with onions for it, that is the only thing I don’t change, otherwise, I’m always varying the topping/filling to suit my mood and guests. In these pictures, I didn’t use any cheese as I was making them for my husband who doesn’t eat it (!) but otherwise, the cheese is always there. I suggest you use whatever topping you fancy, just like on your favourite pizza. I like heat, hence the jalapeños, omit them if you want or substitute for fresh chillies. The pickled jalapenos also add a piquancy that I love.
For those of you unaccustomed to filo/phyllo pastry, don’t be put off by all that hype about it being difficult to handle – it’s not. Just handle it gently, cover what’s not being used with a damp towel and you’ll be fine, trust me! What you’ll be doing is layering the pastry up into 3 layers and each layer will need to be brushed with oil. I use garlic infused olive oil because I think it adds to the overall taste, I do that with regular pizza too.
You are also going to layer the topping, ending up with 3 layers with the last remaining open, hence it being called a pizza. I like to make 3 layers but do 2, if you prefer.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 quantity tomato sauce (see recipe below)
100g filo pastry
1 tbsp chopped onions from the sauce
5 slices of jalapeños in vinegar, chopped slightly
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 handfuls of mozzarella
50ml garlic infused olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 180C (fan 160).
2. Oil the base and sides of a dish measuring about 22cm x 16cm (10″ x 7 “) with the garlic oil.
3. Cut the filo pastry to fit the dish so it’ll just come up on the sides. Lay one sheet, oil and repeat with 2 more layers.
4. Do the first layer of topping: tomato sauce, tuna, pine nuts, onions, jalapeños and cheese.
5. Repeat the whole process, (i.e., 3 layers of pastry and filling), 2 more times, finishing with the 3rd layer of cheese.
6. Drizzle a little of the garlic olive oil all over and bake for 15 minutes until the pastry is just turning slightly brown.
7. Serve immediately.
1 medium onion, chopped, with a tbsp kept aside as topping
1 tbsp olive oil
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tsp capers, rinsed
half tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat parsley
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of sugar