An Ethiopian Feast – Gastrokid Global Feature

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When I lived in New York I loved eating at Ethiopian restaurants. That love of the spicy comfort food served ingeniously on an edible bread tablecloth only increased when I visited Ethiopia and ate great food in the ancient town of Lalibela.

So what could be difficult about trying to replicate an Ethiopian feast now I live in Wales, right?

Most of the food eaten in Ethiopia is very similar to what our family eats every day – beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes, carrots, lentils, e.t.c. but there are few differences. Firstly Ethiopian food features a super-spice mix called Berbere. And to make the spongy Injera bread that is the foundation of the meal, you need a special flour made from Teff, only found in, you guessed it, the highlands of Northern Ethiopia.

I’d already committed to cooking this feast for a group of friends – the kids would sit this one out – so I started sourcing my ingredients. Let’s just say it was a challenge but, after a mercy mission from my friend in Rome who arrived for a visit with a package of Berbere, and an online delivery of Teff I was ready to start.

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Here’s the menu I put together for six people.

Doro Wat – the national dish
Shiro Wat – a spicy split pea stew
Yetakelt W’et ( spicy mixed vegetable stew)
Kitfo – Ethiopian steak tartare
IAB cheese
A simple tomato and onion salad
Injera – Ethiopian teff pancake bread

The preparation started 24 hours before with making the Injera batter.

I needed:

3 cups of Teff flour
3 cups of plain flour
1 tablespoon of brewers yeast
5 cups of warm water

I mixed the flour and yeast together in a large bowl then slowly stirred in the water. It should have a smooth but not too runny consistency. I covered it with a towel and stored in a warm room (70 degrees F) for 24 hours.

Fast forward to the next day…

It was an all-afternoon preparation that started with making one core ingredient – Niter Kebbeh, a spiced clarified butter that provides the base for most dishes.

You’ll need:

  • 2 lb. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick (approximately 1″ long)
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Here’s how I made it:

I melted the butter slowly over medium heat in a large saucepa, bringing it to a boil before adding the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. I reduced the heat and simmered uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes. With the milk solids on the bottom of the pan I poured the clear liquid into a heatproof container.

This clarified butter would be the base for most of the other dishes.

Shiro Wat

I made this split pea stew at the same time as the Yetakelt W’et (below). Ingredients I needed for six people:

  • 2 Onions, chopped
    3 Garlic cloves  crushed
  • 1 inch of Ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Niter kibbeh (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon  Turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 lb Split Peas
  • 4 c Water or Stock 
Salt & Pepper to taste

First I pureed onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Then I added the turmeric, paprika and cayenne pepper to the Niter Kibbeh over a medium heat and stirred rapidly to color oil and cook spices through. Then I added the onion puree and sautéd on medium heat untilonion loses its raw aroma, about 5-10 minutes. Next came the split peas and the water.  I brought it to a boil then simmered the stew over a low-medium heat for 1 hour, adding water periodically to keep it from drying out.

Yetakelt W’et ( spicy mixed vegetable stew)

Ingredients for 6

 

  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves  crushed
  • 1/4 cup Niter kibbeh (see above)
  • 2 teaspoons of Berbere
  • 2 teaspoons of  paprika or pimenton
  • 1 cup of Green beans; cut into thirds
  • 8 Carrots; chopped 
6 Potatoes; cubed
  • 4 turnips, cubed
  • 1 can of Tomatoes; chopped
  • 1/4 cup Tomato paste
  • 2 cups of water
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parsley; fresh, chopped

I sautéd the onions, garlic, berbere, and paprika in the Niter Kebbeh for 2 minutes. Then I added the beans, carrots, potatoes and turnips and sautéd for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Next came the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and the vegetable stock. I brought all to a boil then simmered for 15 minutes until all of the vegetables were tender.

I put this dish aside to heat up later just before serving when I would add salt and pepper to taste and mix in the parsley.

Now I was ready to make the signature dish, Doro Wat. For six people I needed:

 

  • 8 Chicken legs and thighs, skinless — 2 pounds
  • 1 Lemon, juice only
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves  crushed
  • 1 inch of Ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Niter kibbeh (see above)
  • 2 tablespoon – Paprika
  • 3 tablespoon of Berberé (if this is too strong you can add more water and tomatoes to dilute)
  • 1 cup of Water
  • 1/4 cup of Red wine
  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to to taste
  • 6 Hard-boiled eggs

How to make it:

First I marinated the chicken in the lemon juice for 30 mins in the fridge. I thinly chopped the onion, ginger and garlic and sauteed the mixture in the Niter Kibbeh clarified butter. When the onions were soft and brown I added the spices and then the water and the wine. I brought the mixture to the boil before reducing the heat so the sauce could simmer. When the chicken had marinated for 30 mins I added it to the sauce and cooked over a medium heat for 40 mins or until the meat is close to falling off the bone. Then I added the hard boiled eggs and cooked for a few more minutes.

That was the end of the long-prep dishes. Next came the salad and the Iab cheese (a crucial accompaniment to help navigate the spice of the other dishes). The salad is simple, just chop tomatoes and onions (but rinse the onion in cold water after chopping to take some of the tang out of it).

For the IAB cheese, I had to approximate and followed a recipe I found at this site:

  • Cottage cheese, small curd — 2 cups
  • Plain yogurt — 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice — 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper — to taste

I mixed the  cottage cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a large bowl and used a wooden spoon to stir together and lightly mash the cheese curds. Then I refrigerated until I was ready to serve.

Kitfo

The Ethiopian steak tartare is simple but needs to be prepared just before serving.

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 pound of fillet tail (it’s half the price of fillet mignon and just as good)
  • A healthy dribble of Niter Kibbeh
  • 1 tablespoon of Mitmita spice

Aha, I hear you say. What is this Mitmita? Essentially its ground hot red chile mixed with cloves, cardomon and salt.

I made it earlier in the day this way:

  • 15 hot red chiles,
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of cardomon powder
  • pinch of salt

The chiles need to be dried and ground into a powder (consider co-opting a coffee grinder for this arduous task) then combined with the other ingredients.

To prepare kitfo: chop or grind the steak into tiny pieces. Add the Mitmita and the Niter Kibbeh. Stir together and serve with the IAB as an accompaniment.

Finally it was time to make the injera.

I rescued my fermenting batter mixture and gave it a good stir. It should have the consistency of buttermilk pancake mix so if it is too thick add a little more water.

I heated a large non-stick skillet and added a drop of vegetable oil. Then, with the help of some of my more adventurous dinner guests, I added a thin layer of the pancake mixture to the pan. Disaster: the injera just stuck to the pan.

So we experimented and got the pan smoking hot before trying the next one. It was much better, getting the little air bubbles that make well-made injera so soft and spongey.

When I’d made 10 good injeras (having thrown out six disasters!) we were ready to eat.

I served all the dishes on top of four large injeras with the other six used as “cutlery” to eat the food, before we polished off the sauce-soaked injera on the serving plates.

I was exhausted but happy……

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One Response to An Ethiopian Feast – Gastrokid Global Feature

  1. Joan Weytze says:

    Thanks for this Ethiopian feast post!

    I’ve been successful making injera using kefir instead of brewer’s yeast. :-)

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