International Chef: Exploring the Kosovar Cuisine

Quest University Canada’s goal is to celebrate and integrate the broad spectrum of students’ cultural backgrounds into the daily life on campus. There are numerous language forums, shared festivals, and international discussions, and each student has the opportunity to lead and participate in different cultural events on the Quest campus and in the Squamish community.

A way to share our diverse cultural backgrounds is to integrate different cuisines in our cafeteria. Over the past couple of years, many international students have come together several times within the school year and prepared a dish that is a staple, a tradition, or is simply popular in their home countries. This event has consistently been very successful. So far, I have been part of the organizing and preparing committee of three dishes – from Brazil, Egypt, and the latest one, from Kosovo.

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Feijoada Brasiliera – the first dish that I helped make as part of the International Chef, with my friends Farrah, Barbara, Nico, and Raoul.

 

Since we had never prepared a dish from Kosovo before, a few months ago we began the planning of making a dish specifically from this country. However, due to several reasons, we decided to make the dish in February. This worked perfectly since this International Chef, with the Kosovar theme, took place only a couple of days before the Independence Day of Kosovo (February 17th). For those of you who do not know, Kosovo is a small, landlocked country in South-Eastern Europe, which borders Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia. The Kosovar cuisine is the perfect combination of two world-famous cuisines: Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern. I am guessing it is not hard to imagine how good it must be!

Since I am from Kosovo, we decided that the planning of what dish to make and what ingredients were needed was going to be dependent on me. After having a couple of phone calls with my mother and a few relatives, I decided to make Burjan me Mish (Biryani with Beef). This dish consists of spinach and rice, beef, pickled vegetables, fresh bread, and Balkan style yoghurt. Burjan me mish is very special to me since it had always been a staple on my house, I am pretty sure that it was one of the only dishes that everyone in my family liked. In addition, my grandmother was a professional at making it, many relatives when asked what they would like for lunch, would always ask for my grandmother to make her famous Burjan me mish.

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Burjan me mish consisting of rice and spinach, beef (or grilled vegetables), picked vegetables (a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers), bread  (toasted and brushed with some oilve oil and garlic), and Balkan style yoghurt with mint leaves.

This dish is not hard to make; however, it requires several steps that take time to complete. First you have to cook the beef, which tastes the best when boiled. Should the cook decide to make a vegetarian option, then large zucchini and eggplant pieces are grilled. We made both versions. Afterwards, spinach leaves must be cleaned thoroughly, stems must be cut, and also the spinach leaves must be cut in very small pieces. Afterwards, rice and spinach are cooked together with several spices such as Hungarian paprika, garlic powder, salt and black pepper, cinnamon, and a little bit of cumin. The pickled vegetables can be bought ready made in the grocery store; however, with the help of the cafeteria employees, we decided to make them. The bread is usually in the form of a baguette, which is baked with a little bit of olive oil and garlic. We bought the yoghurt ready made this time; however, my grandmother always used to make it at home.

 

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Farrah and I making the spinach and rice portion of this dish.

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I was quite worried whether this dish was going to taste as good as it did when my grandmother used to make it. However, after finishing it, I was really happy to realize that it tasted just as good. We sold more than 100 dishes as part of the Sunday night dinner special in the cafeteria, and received some amazing comments from many Questies. This made me very happy especially because this dish has such a high importance for me. Sharing it with the Quest community was a very special experience!

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I am very thankful for all the help that I received from my friends Farrah, Maria-Jose, Stephan, Drenusha, and the employees of Black Katz Catering Company. This dish would have not reached the success it did had it not been for their never ending hard work.

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