I-ATE Term of the Week – Albanian Tavë Kosi

October 19, 2019 10:15 am

Albanian Tave Kosi is a simple recipe of baked lamb and yogurt with rice, seasoned with oregano and garlic that originates from the Albanian city Elbasan so also known as Tavë Elbasani.

The history of this dish is said to go back to 1452 when Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II was staking a siege of Kruja (city in central Albania) where Albanian leader Skanderbeg was holding out Ottoman advances to the west. It is said that the local cooks were marinating lamb meat in yogurt to serve the sultan during the siege. Then instead of throwing the spiced yogurt away, the cooks were using the leftover grilled lamb and yogurt to create a casserole known nowadays as the famous Albanian Tave Kosi (Tavë Kosi).

It is also said that this dish was served to Ismail Qemali during his visit to Vlora when he was heading to declare Albania’s Independence in 1912. So this lamb yogurt casserole is not only delicious, traditional but also historic for Albanians.

As a result of being “passed around” from one Empire to the next, there have been many different (strong) influences on overall Albanian cuisine, particularly those with a Mediterranean flair.

Despite all the influences, Albanian cuisine still relies very much on what’s locally available within national borders. A fertile climate, very favourable soil and neighbouring coastlines to the Adriatic Sea have given the country a built-in advantage vis-a-vis the quality and diversity of ingredients available to the cuisine. Even as a “melting pot” of influences, local Albanian dishes – especially those made with the freshest of local ingredients – are still very distinguishable from the rest.

Linguistically, the meaning tavë kosi lies in its (translated) name. The word tavë in Albanian translates into English as “casserole,” and the word kos refers to the yogurt made from goat’s or ewe’s milk. Therefore, tavë kosi is a yogurt-based casserole dish.

The main ingredients needed for a true tave kosi are: eggs, meat and a little bit of rice. Every meal in Albania requires at least one meat and some fresh vegetables, and tave kosi easily covers the meaty requirement. From there, additional aromatic (and typically Mediterranean) ingredients like garlic, oregano and other herbs can be added as well.


Tavë Kosi. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tav%C3%AB_Kosi Accessed October 18, 2019

 Albanian baked lamb with rice (Tavë kosi). BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/albanian_baked_lamb_with_92485 Accessed October 18, 2019

Tavë kosi me mish qengji ( Tavë Elbasani). Top Channel, 2018 http://top-channel.tv/2018/04/04/tave-kosi-me-mish-qengji-tave-elbasani/ Accessed October 18, 2019

Lamb Yogurt Casserole – Albanian Tave Kosi, 2019 https://mediterraneanlatinloveaffair.com/lamb-yogurt-casserole-albanian-tave-kosi/ Accessed October 18, 2019

Written by Argita Shemaj 

Communication trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She holds a MSC in Computer Science from the University of New York in Tirana. Argita finished her BS degree in Telecommunication Engineering and has hands on experience in website design, database development and digital marketing.

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