01 September 2010

1 September - Saint Giles; King Zog; Leek Casserole

"Fair on September 1st, fair for the month."  And it is slated to be exceeding fair, in fact, very hot fair, here in the Smallest State.  Thankfully, the high temperatures are not accompanied by any noticeable high humidity - making an afternoon sojourn in the shade of the venerable fir tree something to delight in.

Today is the memorial of Saint Giles, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, patron of beggars, cripples, lepers and epileptics, and invoked against mental issues such as panic, madness, and nightmares.

By taking an arrow (in his leg) meant for a fleeing deer, and refusing to have the wound tended, he became the patron of cripples.  The deer is usually found in representations of the saint.  (You'd think this would make Giles the patron of hunted animals, but no.  However, there is no patron listed for them, and so Giles will do quite nicely.)

Hospitals and houses of refuge for the above listed unfortunates were built under his patronage, most specifically outside of city walls, as lepers ('leprosy' could cover a whole host of skin ailments in the Middle Ages, at least in the eyes of the terrified beholders) were not allowed to enter communities. Devotees of Ellis Peters' Cadfael Chronicles will recognize the name of - and application to - the small hospice outside of Shrewsbury which figures, sometimes prominently, in several of the books.

Prayers for those afflicted in mind and body, along with donations to organizations which help them, would be a good way to celebrate Saint Giles.

On this day in 1928, Albania became a kingdom with the accession of Zog I (born Ahmet Muhtar Bei Zogolli) to the throne.  Now, his was an adventurous life, worthy of Hollywood!  Born into an aristocratic family, he was in turn Prime Minister, then President of the Republic of Albania, then constitutional monarch of the Albanians, fortunately managing to survive several assassination attempts along the way.  Indeed, in one such attempt, he returned fire on the assailant!

He seems to have been quite good for the country, but could not withstand the increasing Italian encroachments following the depression of the 1930s, and fled with his family into exile in 1939, two days after his son was born.

Albanian recipes are still not heavily represented on the Internet, which is a pity, because just reading the ingredients of the recipes told me that the Albanians make Good Food.  The recipes are easy to understand, use local and readily available ingredients, and can be adapted to suit your own local ingredients.  The flavors won't be exactly the same, but that is what makes noshing away from home such a delightful adventure.

Since I love leeks, I tried the following, which you can find here:


For 4 servings:
2 lbs leeks (about 5-6 medium leeks) (remember that leeks are onions, and cook down amazingly. Two pounds of leeks might seem a lot, but don't worry - they won't seem a lot at serving time)
1/2 cup oil (divided - you will saute the leeks in part of it, and the remaining ingredients in the rest. However, I found that oil to cover the bottom of the pan with each saute was enough.)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb ground meat
(Beef stock.  The original recipe doesn't list it in the ingredients, but it is added in the instructions.  I sprinkled on a teaspoon of beef bouillon granules and added 1/4 cup of water)
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Mild red pepper (I wasn't sure what this meant - a red bell pepper?  Most of the peppers I know of are hot.  For this recipe, I took a chance and used a rounded teaspoon of sweet paprika.)
Salt, pepper (the usual salt and pepper to taste.  I feel that I can always add more to my portion, so for this I started with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 of ground pepper)

Cut off the green leaves from leeks; wash and cut leeks slantwise into 1-inch slices.  Saute in a little oil, and place in a baking pan.

Saute onion and ground meat in remaining oil.  Add beef stock, tomato sauce, red pepper, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Pour meat mixture over saute'd leeks.

Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees F.  (in the middle of the oven).   Serve hot.

Dessert is BAKLLAVA, but because I have not been initiated into the mysteries of phyllo, dessert comes tonight from a local bakery.

There are other good recipes to be found here and elsewhere on the Internet: Byrek me spinaq (Spinach Pie); Iani me Fasule (Bean Soup); Qofte te ferguara (Fried Meatballs); and Kurabie (Cookies).