This recipe from Kelmend is traditionally reserved for special guests, and only the matriarch of the household was supposed to prepare it. This was my mother’s favorite dish, and my grandmother on my father’s side would make it for her every time she visited. Our grandmothers had the magical ability to make every member of the family feel special by always preparing everyone’s favorite meal. They didn’t show their affection through their words, but their love was obvious in their actions. I once tried to make this dish for my husband, and although it wasn’t quite the same as when my grandmother made it (I was a bit too stingy with the butter), it was still delicious.
The secret to success when making djathe i ziem is in the quality of your ingredients. There aren’t many ingredients in this recipe, so it is of great importance that the cheese, butter, cream, and corn flour are all the best that you can find if you want this dish to be a success. The corn flour needs to be coarsely ground, and you cannot skip toasting it—this step adds so much flavor! The cheeses should be at least three-days old, preferably aged longer, and preferably made from mountain goat milk or raw milk. If you cannot find this style of Albanian cheese, some substitutes that also work well are kefalotyri, parmesan, kasseri, and Asiago cheese. A combination of two of any of these cheeses should work well. Ghee is preferable to butter, and if you can get to an Albanian shop look for kaymak instead of using heavy cream from a typical grocery store. By paying careful attention to the ingredients, you can create a dish close to what our grandmothers used to make.
Enjoy this soul-warming food at any time of day! We hope that you love this immensely satisfying and comforting dish as much as we do.
- ⅓ cup ghee (or unsalted high-quality butter)
- 1 cup coarsely ground white corn flour
- ⅔ cup kaymak (or heavy cream)
- 1 cup grated kashkaval cheese (or similar cheese, such as Parmesan or kefalotyri)
- 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese (or kasseri or mozzarella cheese)
- Honey, for garnish (optional)
1. Melt the ghee in a deep frying pan.
2. Add the corn flour and stir, gently, for several minutes, until the flour becomes golden brown.
3. After it has browned, the butter and flour mixture will begin to separate. At this point, add the kaymak and let it come to a boil, stirring constantly.
4. Slowly, one small handful at a time, add the cheese. Continuing to gently stir until all of the cheese has melted and the mixture has become smooth. The butter will rise to the top.
Serve immediately, with a drizzle of honey.