According to the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Places to Visit (2011), the number 1 destination in Europe is Albania. Not, to be completely honest, the first time I read this it was a bit of a surprise – out of all the places in Europe, I can’t see why that would be number 1!. Even for us, aiming to visit every European country, Albania is not top of our list (Though Max has a rather cunning trip planned which involves travelling around Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo). However, when we do go, this is one of the places that I want to go to – Lake Ohrid, one of the deepest and most beautiful lakes in the Balkan states.
Fact of the day: Albania has the (slightly dubious) accolade as being the first atheist state in the world, when organised religion was outlawed and heavily suppressed in 1967. Religion has started to be reinstated since the regime change in 1992, but it still enters on a list of the least religious countries in the world.
This cake is inspired by the dessert Kabuni (a dish similar to rice pudding), though with a few notable exceptions – though I’m sure that not many of you will complain about the fact that I am not cooking the rice initially in mutton broth. It is a rice cake, flavoured with raisins, cinnamon and ground cloves. If I’m being totally honest, the cake recipe is not Albanian, instead I have adapted an Italian recipe to mimic the Albanian dessert. The recipe is taken from Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (Internet Link here), though there have been quite a few adaptations, for a start taking out the title ingredient… The result is a delicious, slightly chewy cake, which is great cut into squares for easy access.
- 1.7 litre/3 pints milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 200g/7oz sugar
- 300g/10½oz arborio rice
- 5 large free-range eggs, separated
- 40g/1½oz raisins
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease and line a 10in tin. Set aside for later.
Heat the milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the rice, cooking for about 25 minutes until the rice is al dente (with a slight bite). Add more milk if necessary to achieve this texture, and stir regularly to ensure that it does’t stick to theYou are looking for the liquid to have reduced, but for the rice to still be creamy – think rice pudding. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.
Whisk the egg yolks until they are thick and creamy. In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks – this will take a long time so be patient! Stir the egg yolks into the rice mixture before gently folding in the egg whites. Stir in the raisins and orange zest and bake for 1 hour. Remove and serve either hot or cold.