Albania: Tave Kosi ðŸ‡¦ðŸ‡±


On paper, Albania has the potential to be home to one of the world’s great cuisines.

It’s at that cultural crossroads sweet spot occupied by precious few other places, a meeting point between Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, the Christian and Muslim worlds, Italy and Greece.

While the lamb is browning, assemble spices. This is an easy way to keep this as a relatively orderly dish.

Yogurt, spices, eggs, lamb… quite the combination.

So I was looking forward to trying Tave Kosi, a yogurt-and-lamb casserole that seems to, by consensus, be Albania’s national dish. A simple recipe with only a few ingredients, I was more curious about the texture than the flavor.

I wound up impressed by both.

The fresh nutmeg was the cadence of the dish, setting the beat for everything else. The lamb, which I marinated for a few hours before dinner, was the bass line – a musical tone to carry us forward.

Cover the lamb with the yogurt sauce.

Cover the lamb with the yogurt sauce.

But it was the tartness of the baked yogurt that was the real surprise, adding a refreshing, lemony flavor to the dish.

As for the cultural crossroads element? The lamb provided a quintessential Muslim-world flavor, but the yogurt casserole added an element of weight not often found in dishes from Muslim countries.

The backbone for this dish was sourced from Saveur. 🇦🇱

  • Marinade:
  • Equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, enough to cover the lamb in a bowl
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 3 Tb salt
  • 5 Tb butter
  • 1/2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 lb. lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup long grain white rice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tb oregano
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/4 ts freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  1. Marinate the lamb for at least 1 hour, up to 4.
  2. Heat 3 Tb butter and the oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Season lamb with salt and pepper and toss with 1/4 cup flour.
  4. Brown the lamb in the butter.
  5. Add rice, garlic, and 3/4 cup water; boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes
  7. Stir in oregano, salt, and pepper and transfer to a baking dish
  8. Heat oven to 375°. Melt remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.
  9. Whisk in remaining flour; cook until smooth, 2 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat; whisk in yogurt, nutmeg, eggs, salt, and pepper until smooth.
  11. Pour yogurt sauce evenly over lamb mixture. Bake until golden and the lamb is tender, 45–60 minutes.
Finished tave kosi. Emily was napping on the couch so I couldn't really do a proper plating.

Finished tave kosi. Emily was napping on the couch so I couldn’t really do a proper plating.

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