The ingredients in this dish – lamb, butter, oregano, garlic and yoghurt – speak of Albania’s Mediterranean cuisine. Also known as tave Elbasani, after the city in central Albania where it originates, this comforting classic is popular throughout the country – it’s the meal you’d ask your mum to make, the one that reminds expats of home. Chunks of tender, garlicky lamb and rice seasoned with oregano are covered in a yoghurt topping, and then baked until it forms a golden, creamy cheese-like crust.
- 100 g butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1.2 kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 5 cm pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 55 g (¼ cup) long-grain white rice
- ¼ cup oregano leaves
- 50 g (⅓ cup) plain flour
- 650 g Greek style-yoghurt
- 4 eggs
- green salad, to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drink match 2011 Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir, Martinborough, NZ ($30)
Heat 20 g butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Season lamb, add to pan and cook, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until golden. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until golden, then add 200 ml water. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until lamb is just tender. Drain off liquid leaving 150 ml, stir through rice and oregano. Season and then transfer to a 3 litre capacity baking dish. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat remaining 80 g butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Set aside.
Whisk together yoghurt and eggs. Season, then whisk in flour mixture until smooth. Pour over lamb, smooth surface and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and meat is tender. Serve hot with a green salad, if desired.
Photography by Brett Stevens. Food preparation Phoebe Wood. Styling Kristen Wilson.
As seen in Feast magazine, July 2014, Issue 33.