Friday, February 08, 2008

Meal 46. Albanian Groshe

I stumble across the lovely Eri as I am picknicking in the park with a friend. He is sitting all alone with lots of delicious food surrounding him which surprises me. Who would make so much food to eat by himself?
Of course, it turns out his friends were only temporarily absent. But by the time I find this out, he has offered me some of the food and I have speedily convinced him that he is the perfect candidate to make the Albanian meal for this project!

Though he has been living in Holland for the last ten years, he still has a strong dose of national pride and has plans to return to his country of birth when he graduates from law school. [Update: at the time of publishing this blog, he HAS graduated and IS back in Albania]
His brother Lulzim also studied law in Utrecht and is now minister of Foreign Affairs in Albania, a fact that makes Eri understandably proud. Googling him turns up photos with Condoleezza Rice, what a surprise!
Anyway, no offense to Lulzim, but Eri is obviously the handsome one, and proves to be an excellent cook as well.
The white bean soup he is making for the project takes about four hours to prepare, so while everything is simmering on the fire we actually have time to go out for a coffee. I know, normally it is not a good idea to leave something on the fire unattended for so long, but we survived to tell the tale.

Sadly, Eri later tells me the recipe is top secret, so normally you would need your own Albanian sources to find out how it is made.
But, after a bit of sniffing around online I discovered a list with Albanian soup recipes online that seems quite trustworthy. Strangely, though Eri assures me this soup is called groshe, they seem to think that is made from lentils. Whereas fasule would be white bean soup. If any Albanians are reading this, let me know what you think!
In general, cuisine from this relatively unknown country is quite similar to its neighbours' and you might even find tarator on your table (as seen in Meal 45 from Bulgaria). Many of the dishes can be compared to other "Balkan" cuisine and Turkish and Greek food.
One thing I am still curious about is a drink called Dukagjin made with grape juice, sugar and mustard!


Anonymous said...

I was raised in an Albanian family with grandparents arriving to America via Ellis Island. I LOVE all the traditional Albanian foods that I grew up with and keep the recipes alive for my children to enjoy. The soup known as Groshe was typically a dark lentil soup. The white bean tomato based soup was traditionally called Fasule.

Anonymous said...

dear Anonymous,

as someone from albania eating fasule/groshe right now as I'm typing this, please know that there is no difference in Albania between groshe and fasule. It's the gheg and tosk words for the same white beans. In my family, my gheg grandmother called them groshe, my tosk grandmother called them fasule. Groshe very likely comes from the slavic languages, and fasule very likely comes from the turkish fasulye.

Lentils in Albanian are called thjerr√ęza.

And a comment to the blogger, your Albanian friend was probably too vain to tell you his recipe. The truth is you can vary it as you wish, as long as you respect the fundamentals of it: soaking overnight and slow cooking for the beans (until tender and fully combined with the rest). I only make vegetarian groshe/fasule, but the taste always changes depending on whether I decide to add hot pepper, paprika, chard, kale, carrots, tomatoes or tomato sauce, etc. The taste and texture will often vary depending on the type of bean you use. I love the baby lima (and the big lima) variety, for their amazing texture (they cook faster as well) and the high amount of protein the baby variety has.