Menu de ja vu - that's how a chef in Montenegro described what one finds when you visit any of the restaurants in the Balkan region.
What he told me is not entirely untrue - the options are a bit samey across the region. Along coastal Montenegro the cuisine is heavily influenced by Italy with lots of seafood risottos but the further inland you go you get more of a Turkish flavor - like cevapji smothered in kaymak. And then there are the regional specialties like the delicious red pepper and eggplant paste ajvar and the ubiquitous shopska salad made with white Bulgarian cheese and chunks of cucumber and tomato. You can't really visit any Balkan restaurant without at least one of these dishes cropping up on the menu. (Not necessarily a bad thing - I will happily eat all of the last three anytime I see them on the menu.)
But there was one kind of cuisine that was a bit different that I would like to discover more of - Albanian. When visiting Kosovo this summer, several restaurants in the capital featured Albanian cuisine - rich, yogurt-laced meat stews baked in clay trays, crusty bite-sized meat pies, and my favourite - fli.
Fli (of flija) is popular in Kosovo on account of the sizeable Albanian population in the country. The layered pie-like dish is made of multiple thin crepes interspersed with watered down kaymak. It's unbelievable that something made from such humble ingredients such as flour, water, ghee, salt and yogurt can taste this good. But then I guess, all forms of bread and crepe are little culinary miracles.
I first came across fli at a quaint little restaurant perched on the hills surrounding Pristina called Country House. It isn't the easiest restaurant to get to but is well worth the trip for a leisurely lunch on a sun-dappled verandah overlooking peaceful rolling green hills. This was my first taste of Kosovar Albanian cuisine and the country's excellent local wine, and it left me wanting more.
I looked into how fli was made when I got back from my trip and came across this video. I love the way they use the batter in a bottle to make the alternating layers of crepe :)
I am definitely going to have a go at making fli. I think a Balkan-inspired meal is on the cards - now all I need is a nice bottle of some Kosovan wine!
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