This may, quite conceivably, be the first Albanian recipe I've ever tried - and if it is representative of an Albanian's cuisine, count me in!
I found the original recipe on The Recipe Queen's blog, along with the Paprika Chicken from last week. In fact, this is representative of the worth of having food blogs around in the first place, as had I have found the recipe without a photograph or explanatory piece of writing, I'd have probably passed it by. As it was, the photograph caught my eye to begin with and upon reading the explanation, it intrigued me and got my saliva glands working. Always a good sign!
I had a couple of reservations as regards the recipe. Firstly, I had taken note of the "brothy" nature of the gravy/sauce and as I'm sure you all know by now, Hubby isn't all that keen on "brothy" recipes. The second worry was that it might be too gentle a flavour. The ingredients are all fairly flavoursome, but there was nothing there that could provide a "punch", so I was concerned that Hubby's jaded tastebuds (after a lifetime of smoking - but he's just celebrated his 2nd year of being smoke-free! Yay!) might not register such delicate flavouring. All of which might have you thinking "that Hubby is a picky wotsit", but everyone has their likes and dislikes and it's pointless my putting together a recipe that I'm absolutely sure he won't like. So, adaptations need to be made.
In fact, the adaptations I made were simple. I added 3tbsp of flour to the sauce/gravy, which thickened it up a treat. Where the flavours were concerned, the simple addition of a shake or two of Worcester Sauce and Tabasco provided the lift to the flavour range that made the difference between "meh!" and "ooooh, yum!".
The original recipe also asked for either carrot or red pepper to be used. Because Hubby so enjoys his red pepper and I really like carrots, I used them both. I also had some leftover asparagus (from the risotto which got bumped off of the menu list) which I cut into two and added. I haven't included the asparagus on the ingredients list, because it was simply using up a leftover. I suspect that the recipe for Tave Me Presh is probably another one like Cottage Pie, in that there are many different versions and you could pretty much include any vegetable you really liked. I apologise to all the Albanians out there, if my version has strayed from the traditional - but we liked it a LOT.
In fact, I liked it so much that I had the last portion for lunch today - and I can confirm that it was just as buttery and delicious as it had been yesterday.
I give the recipe, as I made it, below. My method differs a bit from The Recipe Queen's, as I don't have a pan which will transfer easily to the oven. Hence all the cooking and decanting! If you aren't so bothered at having a thick sauce, then either refer to The Recipe Queen's recipe on her blog, or just leave out the flour!
UPDATE : It is now May 2014 and I have cooked this several times since that first go. I absolutely love this dish and every time it comes out as soothing and satisfying as the first time. Whether you include asparagus or mushrooms, so long as you include the leeks, red pepper and carrots, you just can't go wrong.
TAVE ME PRESH (a.k.a. Baked Mince with Leeks) Serves 4
75ml olive oil
4 leeks, cut into 2.5cm logs, then cut into half
1 onion, roughly chopped
450g lamb mince
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into squares
1 carrot, peeled and chopped diagonally
500ml vegetable or lamb stock
a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce
a shake or two of Tabasco.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 190deg C (fan).
2. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the leeks over a low heat until soft, but not browned. Decant into a casserole dish.
3. Heat the remaining oil in the pan and cook the onion and red pepper until the onion is transparent, then decant that into the casserole dish.
4. Place the mince and carrots into the frying pan and fry on a high heat until the mince is browned and beginning to caramelise. Tip the pan and drain off the larger part of the oil, leaving some behind.
5. With a slotted spoon, decant the mince and carrots into the casserole dish.
6. Add the flour and tomato puree to the pan, soaking up the remainder of the lamb fat. Cook for 2 mins or so, or until you see the flour start to turn golden.
7. Add the stock, little by little, stirring or whisking as you go until you have a lump-free sauce. Bring to the boil, season to taste and add the Worcestershire Sauce and the Tabasco.
8. Decant into the casserole dish and give everything a good stir. If you are adding mushrooms, now is the time to mix them, quartered, into the casserole. Cover, then place into the oven and bake for 1 hour. If you are using asparagus, cut them into one inch pieces and stir them in with 30 minutes to go.
Serve with lovely buttery mashed potato. Comfort food at its absolute best!