The cuisine of special nations has preserved the culinary antique traditions and at the same time, has enriched them with the experience of the culinary art of the other peoples. The direct geographical and historical adjacency has made it possible for them to have a significant influence on economy, culture and particularly on the lifestyle…
However, apparently, the influences of the culinary art are more sensitive, because the climatic and geographical conditions make it possible for these people to produce the same food products massively. The tradition of the Albanian cuisine, the traditional and the cultural values, as well as the hospitality of our nation originates from ancient times.
Albania is one of the most ancient countries of Europe and there are tracks of both oriental and western cultures and culinary art as a border between the east and the west.
The very favourable climatic conditions of the country create the opportunity for the cultivation of almost all the types of agricultural products. The variety of the vegetables and fruits is particularly of a significant amount. They are a daily-life article and are consumed naturally in the form of separate food, with meat or as canned food.
The favourite vegetables are: tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, okras, potatoes, cabbage, onion, garlic, bean sprouts, beans, cucumbers, etc. They are most commonly fried and boiled on a low fire as well as baked in an oven.
Among the dishes prepared with pods, the most popular and traditional ones are the beans; they are very delicious cooked in a clay container. They are used to prepare several dishes, cooked with other vegetables or with meat, and in special areas they are used even to prepare pies. The pea and the string beans are also used in delicious dishes.
A series of foods are prepared with the same technology, even though they contain different ingredients. Thereby, the following food groups have been highlighted as they are found in all the peoples of the Balkans: fried cheese and curds, dishes prepared in casseroles, pickles, stuffed grape leaves, steak, chopped steaks, meatballs, etc. Mixtures of vegetables, musaka, meatballs are dishes adapted from the oriental cuisine.
The characteristic form of all the types of food in our country is that they preserve maximally the natural features of the foods that are generally used, their colour and smell.
The olives, which are prepared in different ways and are preferred separately, as well as an addition to several other foods, are particularly favourable. The olives of the region of Berat are used on the table as they are big and have a low percentage of fat.
The olive groves in the region of Vlora, of the coastline of Himara, Borsh and the surroundings of Tirana (Preza, Ndroq) have a high percentage of fat, therefore they are used for the production of natural olive oil. These regions use it even for cooking and also supply entire Albania.
A significant role regarding the quality of food tasting is played by the seasonings and the spices. Our kitchens are characterised by the hot seasonings, spices, sour taste of lemon, tomato, vinegar or yoghurt.
In the traditional dishes, the hot flavour from the almost inexistent up to the strong spicy one is benefited from the use of garlic or hot pepper. Even the local aromatic seasonings such as parsley, mender (mint and spearmint), dell, bay leaves, basil, celery, rosemary, etc. are preferable. The mixture of different seasonings in one dish is not practised. One spice is preferred for every food, being in harmony with the natural aroma of the main product. The amount of the spices is determined pursuant to the regional traditions and the individual tastes, therefore their amount is not noted in the recipes but just their use in the relevant dish.
Milk, dairy products and eggs are widely used, being daily food. Yoghurt is an irreplaceable albuminoidal food, with a significant biological value and very good aromatic values and taste. Apart from being consumed naturally, yoghurt is consumed as a supplement for lots of foods, dough and cakes. Another dairy product is even dhalla (yaran), which is consumed with pleasure through all the seasons, particularly during the hot summer days. The cheese is organized in different types according to the milk from which it is produced. The famous white cheese, particularly the southern one, made from the milk of the sheep has a considerable place in our kitchen.
The variety of the desserts is also very rich. The desserts with milk, creams, fruit juices, the desserts with sherbet (baklava, sheqepare, kadaif), hashuret, syltiash, etc. are used. Also, another common dessert is hallva and hasudja.
Boza, produced mainly in the northern part of the country (Kukes), is very popular. Its raw material is corn and it is used as a refreshing drink during summer.
The abundance of fruits in some seasons makes them preferable as a dessert mainly fresh but even as compost, juice or jam. The favourite fruits are: apples, cherries, peaches, pears, watermelons, melons, figs, grape, lemons, oranges, apricots. The fruits with a shell like the nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, at are consumed was fruits but they are also used in desserts.
Our country has a tradition even in the production of the alcoholic drinks. The traditional alcoholic drink is raki produced from the grape. A very popular and overrated raki is the one produced in the artisanal way from the vineyards in the area of Skrapar and Permet at the southern part of the country. In the areas with a cold climate, such as in Dibra, Korca and Pogradec, even the production of wine from plums (shliva) is popular.
Viniculture and wine production have a very old tradition. The art of wine processing in our country has been popular since antiquity. It flourished at the south-western Balkan coasts three thousand years ago. Illyrians had an ancient tradition in the cultivation of grape and the production of wine. The archaeological findings in Lin (Pogradec), Tepa (Elbasan) and Zgerdhesh (Kruja) refer to the antiquity of the vineyards cultivation.
In these areas, different containers, used for wine, have been found. As the old geographer Straboni would describe Iliria, he would state: “This country is warm and fertile because it is full of good olive groves and vineyards. The Illyrians used to export wine to Rome in wooden containers”.
With regard to the development of the Vineyards, there is other evidence such as the coins of Dyrrah and Apollonia as well as the amphora which used to be exploited for the transportation of wine. They were found in the Illyrian graveyards of Çimanka in Kukes, in the Illirium castle of Xibri (Mat) as well as in the Illyrian town of Gajtan (Shkodra). During the Byzantine ruling (VIIVIII century), the viniculture became the main economic activity, where wine would bring incomes from the export.
Today, in our viniculture, the range of the varieties of grape has increased, creating an opportunity for the production of different types of red and white wines. Among the red wines, we can mention:
Shesh i zi (Tiranë Durrës)
Kabërnet and Merlot, (Berat, Lushnje, Përmet, Vlorë etc.)
Kallmet (Shkoder Peshkopi)
Pino Nero and Mavrud (Leskovik, Shkodër, Lushnje)
Among the white wines, the following are mentioned: Shesh i Bardhë ( Tirana), Riesling ( Durres) etc.
Among the alcoholic drinks with colours, we may mention Konjaku Skenderbeg, which has won prizes in international competitions.
The geographical position of our country creates the opportunity for the cultivation of all the types of fruits and vegetables and it also favours the variety of the livestock of almost all the types, such as the soft and wild one, including even the variety of the domestic and wild poultry. This is the reason why Albania offers something more and more specific, traditional, part of the daily life, something that is provided through the cuisine of our country in all its regions.