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Pispili, Albanian cornbread with leeks and feta cheese is a delicious snack or side dish for your small group.

 

The women spread supper—a large bowl of cheese melted in butter, into which we dipped our maize bread, and very good it was.

~ Edith Durham, High Albania

 

Cornbread in its essence — flour, cornmeal, and butter — already qualifies as a world-champion comfort food. When you bite into a piece just out of the oven, it tastes like home.

So how, you may be asking, could a gal improve on that?

You could try making some Pispili.

Pispili is a cornbread brimming with leeks and crumbly feta cheese. It hails from Albania, a country in Southeastern Europe.

 

Albania landscapes offer plenty of green as well as mountains. Image is iron and wine Albania by Thomas Maluck, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0.

Have you ever tasted Pispili or visited Albania?  If either the food or the location seems unfamiliar to you, no worries: that’s a situation that is about to change.

This pispili recipe is:

  • Your opportunity to re-create a familiar food in a way that will surprise and delight your people.
  • An introduction to both Albanian food and Albania, where they speak a language unlike any other in the world.
  • A keeper. (For ease-of-preparation, appeal, and versatility, it wins the gold star.)

As crowd-pleasers go, you can count on Pispili to do the job because, well, cornbread

But wait, there’s more😉.

This cornbread also delivers the salty pop that comes with feta cheese. And once you add in leeks as a bonus, you get an unexpected combination your people will respond to by reaching for seconds and leaving your table well-satisfied.

Pispili is real food, for people who travel hard and live hard.

TRAVELING HARD IN ALBANIA

When you consider Albania’s geography and the lifestyle of many of its people, it’s no wonder this was the nation that created the dish.

For one thing, Albania is among the most mountainous countries in the world. Hills lie everywhere and mountains — many with peaks over 7,000 feet — cover more than half of it.

As a result, travel can be difficult. That a high number of roads lack pavement adds to the problem .

In fact, in some areas of Albania, it can take up to seven hours to drive 50 miles!

LIVING HARD IN ALBANIA

Many Albanians work family farms where they still thresh their crops by hand and roam pasturelands with flocks of sheep.

 

 

Flock of sheep in Albania, land of Pispili. Image is Libohovë, Albania, 1998 by Paolo Benegiamo, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shepherd and his sheep in Libohovê, a town in Southern Albania. Photo by Paolo Benegiamo, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0.

Come lunchtime, a chunk of Pispili, a cheese and veggie-infused cornbread, hits the spot.

 

A SLICE OF PISPIPI IS LIKE A TOUR THROUGH ALBANIA. 

You’ll find, in this one dish, some of the very best foods each region of this ancient country has to offer. These include: 

  • Leeks that grow in variety all over Albania.
  • Corn, the staple food from the mountainous North.
  • Eggs, from Central Albania, where both poultry and fish from the Adriatic Sea are plentiful.
  • Feta cheese, from Southern Albania where dairy farms rule along with olive and citrus groves.

 

Outdoor fruit stand in Berat, Albania -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, arguably, that nation's prettiest city. Image is Berat, Albania by Jasine Halki, CC-BY-2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit for sale in Berat, one of Albania’s prettiest cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Jasine Halki, CC BY-2.0.

 

 

HOW TO PREPARE  & SERVE PISPILI

 

Pispili shines as dish for group gatherings. It’s only 45 minutes from prep table to exiting the oven, steaming hot, ready to be sliced, and pounced upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pispili travels well for picnics, potlucks, and other group gatherings — this dish delivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, you could bake a small pan all for yourself, too. Then have a generous slice with, say, hot soup one day and a dish of stew the next until it’s all gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good plans both. So let’s get cookin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe comes from the kitchen of Donika, the writer & chef in charge at her blog, When Feta Met Olive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donika is Canadian-born, but her ancestry is Albanian and her ties to those Albanian roots are strong. Many of her recipes are old family favorites; this recipe for Albanian cornbread with feta & leek is one of these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pispili ~ Feta & Leek Cornbread

Donika
Albanian cornbread with feta and leek ~ Pispili
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Breakfast, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 12

Equipment

  • 9" x 13" baking pan/dish (or pan of similar size)
  • whisk
  • wooden spoon or spatula

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • cups flour
  • ½ cup fine corn flour
  • 1-2 sticks leek depending on the size
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400F, grease a 9" x 13" pan or a pan size close to that.
  • Prepare leeks, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and rinse.
  • Mix eggs, yogurt, and oil in a bowl; add the cornflour into the egg mixture and whisk together; let sit for 3 minutes.
  • Sift together the flour, pepper, salt and bang powder with a whisk; add flour to the egg mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Add the leeks and feta cheese; combine with the wooden spoon or your hands.
  • Or you can add the leeks and feta cheese to the egg mixture first, then add in the flour mixture.
  • Pour over in pan and press evenly across pan.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares. Enjoy warm.
Keyword cornbread, picnic food, small group, teatime snack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 TRICKS YOU CAN USE (THAT I LEARNED MY FIRST TIME MAKING PISPILI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The recipe doesn’t specify a type of yogurt to use. So I chose a non-fat plain Greek yogurt and happily discovered that its thick consistency produces sublimely creamy results.
  2. You can save a few dollars by crumbling a pack of feta cheese yourself rather than buying it pre-crumbled. Crumbling feta is easy: Place the pack in a bowl and jab it a few times with a sharp and wide-ended kitchen tool (I used a handheld chopper.) And just like the “extreme ways” Moby sings about at the end of the Bourne movies, your pack of feta will fall apart.
  3. When the time comes to “pour” the batter into the pan, don’t worry if it’s so dense that you have to help it get there with a spoon. (At first, I thought: Oh, no, I’ve made it too thick!) Just continue following the directions and press the batter evenly across the pan with your wooden spoon. And you’ll have a finished dish that both looks and tastes terrific and is deliciously moist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, maybe you’re thinking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This all sounds good but — isn’t feta cheese kind of strong?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But even if you’ve thought of feta cheese as having too strong a taste in other dishes — as I have (and do) — you may still end up liking this dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, once you catch yourself and some of your peeps reaching for seconds, you may have to rethink your ideas about feta entirely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes this recipe special?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic in Pispili cornbread lies in the balance between the feta cheese tang and the sweetly savory leeks. It’s a yin-yang thing, Albanian-style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you serve it at a picnic, as a snack, or a side dish, Pispili is simple to prepare fare that is also easy to love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing for sure: if you’ve never been to Albania or tasted Albanian food, a slice of Pispili will be a tasty (and filling!) introduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But enough talk about cooking. Let’s cook Albanian already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slice of Pispili ~ cheesy Albanian cornbread atop a cream-colored dish.