Albanian chef Lavdije Shehu won the first prize at this year’s Festival of International Gastronomy in Naples, Italy (11-26 July). She won the trophy for two traditional Albanian dishes over selections from 26 countries, including Indonesia, Brazil, Italy, Morocco, and Mexico.
As a result, Albania won the right to host the next year’s competition. The festival aims at judging the typical cuisines of various countries by paying heed not only to the elaboration of recipes but also to the use of certain ingredients from their countries of origin.
The restaurant “Sofra e Ariut” (Bear’s Table) represented Albania at the Festival. Its chef, Lavdije Shehu, prepared the dishes and presented them to the Festival’s jury.
Shehu told Southeast Europe: People and Culture that besides cooking techniques, Albania attracted interest due to the use of organic products. “We are blessed to use organic products. I brought the ingredients for the tavë kosi and fërgesë tirana with me to Italy, including the lamb meat, eggs, yogurt, milk and curd. They [the jury] were so surprised when they saw and tasted the products,” Shehu said. In her opinion, sticking to the old tradition when it comes to cooking is what makes the difference.
What were the major ingredients and herbs you used in preparing the traditional dishes?
I used garlic and red and black pepper for the fërgesa. As for the tavë kosi, I used lamb meat, eggs, yogurt, flour, and rice.
One of the elements garnering Albania’s dish in this event was the characteristic raki (liquor distilled from grain, grapes, plums, etc., from southeast Europe and the Near East) from the restaurant “Sofra e Ariut.” What is so special about it?