I spent my newlywed years in Kosovo, so the country will always have a special place in my heart. And, of course, my stomach. I have many favorite recipes from the region, but peppers and cream (or in Albanian speca me mäze) is the easiest to make abroad. It only takes 30 minutes to throw together, and it’s great for capturing the spirit of Albanian hospitality.
If you’ve never had Balkan food before, you’re in for a treat! They’re masters of comfort food that is somehow fresh and rich at the same time. In this recipe, crisp peppers mix with farm-fresh cream to make a cozy dip.
Serve it with French bread or pita for the perfect appetizer.
Ju bëftë mirë!
Albanian Peppers and Cream (Speca Me Mäze)
This is one of my favorite dishes from Kosovo. Peppers are charred, then simmered in a salty cream sauce until fall-apart tender.
Serve with fresh bread or pita for dipping. To make a meal of it, add a shopë salad: tomato and cucumber tossed with feta.
- 4 banana peppers (or Hungarian wax peppers if you want it spicy)
- 16 ounces sour cream
- 2 tsp salt
- 4-8 ounces feta (optional)
Place whole peppers in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the peppers occasionally and press into the pan with your fingers or a spatula until all sides are seared. Flatter, less-curved peppers make this easier.
Alternatively, you can char the peppers directly on the burner (gas stoves work perfectly for this) or a grill.
The skin on the peppers will pop and turn brown and flaky. Locals tend to scrape off the browned skin, but I usually keep it. The char gives it extra flavor.
Once the peppers have sear marks all around, add sour cream to the pan and stir. Add salt to taste. Spoon the cream over the peppers, covering them as much as possible.
Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
At this point, your peppers should be soft enough to break apart with a spatula. If you plan to eat family style, you should cut the peppers into bite sized pieces. Alternatively, you can serve one whole pepper to each person.
If you want to go really over the top, sprinkle the peppers with feta (or the cheese of your choice). Broil in the oven 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and slightly charred.
Notes for dietary restrictions: This recipe is naturally gluten-free! For dairy-free, substitute vegan sour cream or make your own: blend 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked overnight), 3/4 cup water, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast, and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth. Cook with peppers as directed.
This recipe was originally published by my friends at Awaken Magazine. They have since closed down their website, so I thought I’d republish it here.
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Top photo: Sound_Gene, Creative Commons
Recipe photo: David Bailey, Creative Commons