Location: Eastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula
Population: 1.9 million
Geography: A landlocked country of mountains and plains
Language: Albanian, Serbian
Signature flavours: Cabbage, meat, parsley, garlic, onion
One thing I like about the Wooden Spoon Wanderer project is that it expands my thinking about places that might have previously been reduced to one aspect in my mind. This is especially true of places we know mostly because of the misfortunes the local populations have suffered. I had heard of Kosovo before, but only in the context of the terrible war that was waged there through the 90s. Kosovo and its people, of course, are much more than one chapter in their history.
It was tricky to find recipes from Kosovo itself. I was able to gather a list of foods they enjoy there, but not recipes specific to the country. Admittedly, I ended up working from Albanian, Croatian, and Bulgarian recipes, but since the whole region shares many culinary aspects, I hope my creations are close to being authentic.
Tarator: A yoghurt-based cucumber and garlic “soup” similar to tzatziki.
Prep and cooking time: 10 minutes
Purrenik (Leek Pie): A simple Kosovan leek tart, with layers of dough and leeks.
Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes
Sarma: Cabbage rolls baked in tomato sauce and filled with a mixture of meats, rice, and spices.
Prep and cooking time: 2.5 hours
The Shopping List
I barely had to shop at all for this assignment. Most of the things I needed — onions, tomato, eggs, flour, cucumber, garlic — I already had at home. All I needed was a big cabbage and a leek and I was in business.
I started the sarma first, since it needed almost two hours in the oven. I really enjoyed making the cabbage rolls. Something about folding one food into another was very satisfying. The multiple steps and the (rather) laborious process of readying the cabbage leaves for wrapping made this one of the more complex recipes I’ve attempted for this blog.
Once the sarma was bubbling away in the oven, I made the leek pie, which while simple to make, was a bit fiddly in terms of cooking all the way through.
The tarator is just chopping and mixing, so that was done last. Eric and I really enjoyed all three dishes together. The sarma is hearty, doubtlessly the soul of the meal. The mild-flavoured leek pie was complemented perfectly by the sharp garlicky-ness and salt of the tarator.
Now, when I think of Kosovo, I will also think of tarator, which locals enjoy especially during the warm summer months, and of leek pie, rising in a Kosovan oven somewhere, and sarma, cooling in the centre of a family’s dinner table, like it did on ours today.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.