Albania,  Countries,  Recipes

The National Dish of Albania: Tavë Elbasoni; A Recipe

Tavë Elbasoni ( Tavë translates to “casserole” and Elbasoni to “sour”) AKA Tavë Kosi is lamb meat in a yogurt sauce. To be honest, in one of my language lessons on ordering in a restaurant, Tavë Elbasoni was referred to as a specialty or traditional dish in Albania but, at the time, didn’t realize that it was considered the National Dish of Albania.

As many of you know, I recently had some minor surgery, and Sedata, my language teacher and friend schooled me in another cultural lesson of Albania and that is to bring food to the home of a mik (friend in Shqip) who isn’t well, similar to the practice in the United States. One of the items she brought was Tavë Elbasoni. Me, with the inquiring mind, of course, had to look it up and see what was in it and how it pertained to Albania. Quite the story I found!

It seems that my town is part of the history of this national dish in that in 1912 when the Founding Father of Modern Albania, Ismail Qemali, returned to Vlora, his place of birth, he insisted that the dish of Tavë Elbasoni be served to him. And, it is for this reason, that many, when celebrating Independence Day in Albania, serve this dish as a remembrance of a more repressed time.

Making this national dish is not difficult and is quite delicious. Because yogurt is the main ingredient, if you are lactose intolerant or sensitive, you might want to take a Lactaid tablet before consuming it.

Before you begin preparation, pour yourself a glass of wine, and in the words of Julia Child; paraphrased for my purposes ‘I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food.  The best way to execute a recipe is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of your project. Bon appétit.’

Tavë Elbasoni Ingredients:

2 lbs lamb leg with bone roasted lamb shoulder or leg steaks
2 tbsp flour
3 cloves minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp salt divided between the meat and the yogurt sauce
½ tsp black pepper
5 cups yogurt
4 eggs
4 tbsp butter cubed

1.)  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.)  After slicing the lamb into bite-size pieces, place the pieces in a 4-quart pot. Add the minced garlic clove. Add water until the meat is covered. Boil the lamb on medium heat until the broth reduces to 1 cup. When duplicating this recipe, I added a beef bouillon cube to the water and a couple of splashes of red wine.
3,) Right before the broth reaches the point of reduction, season it with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and one teaspoon of black pepper.
4.) Remove the pot from the burner and let it cool for 10 minutes.
5.) After the lamb is cooled, place it in a baking dish.
6.) In a separate bowl whisk together the broth and the flour until the mixture is smooth as if you are making a roux.
7.) Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the eggs, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and yogurt. Continue to whisk them together until your sauce is smooth and creamy. If you want a thicker sauce, add an additional egg as the eggs bind the sauce.
8.) Using a whisk, mix together the yogurt sauce and the lamb broth mixture. Pour the sauce over the meat and place the butter cubes on top. Season it with black pepper and bake it in a preheated oven for about one hour or until golden and bubbly. As always, baking time varies depending on your oven.

This dish is absolutely delicious and again, considered a national dish of Albania. Embrace the cuisine culture of Albania!

Until next time friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live!”



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