supper tonight – 4.12.12 – an Ethiopian feast!

I mentioned a while back that I was reading the book Cutting for Stone (which, I’m ashamed to admit, I still haven’t finished–things really have been busy around here!).

Anyway, my book club meets monthly, and last Thursday it was my turn to host the group for dinner and conversation about the novel. The story is set mostly in Ethiopa, so I decided I would try cooking some native dishes for us to enjoy.

We have one vegetarian in our group, so my search centered around recipes that she could enjoy with us, and except for the chicken stew, the entire meal was not only vegetarian but also super-easy to veganize. Also, each individual recipe was quite easy, though cooking all of them in a few nights proved a bit of a challenge. 🙂

I quickly figured out that before you can cook Ethiopian food, you need two key ingredients:

  • Berbere: a spice mixture that combines the heat of dried chiles with the cozy warmth of all those great pumpkin pie spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)…not to mention a couple of ingredients that I had to shop for (fenugreek, cardamom pods).
  • Nit’r qibe: a spiced butter that aromatics are usually cooked in before other ingredients are added.

So, my first task was making big batches of berbere and nit’r qibe, because almost every recipe I found called for one or both, and I figured they might be good things to have around the house for future cooking adventures. And let me tell you, I fully intend to keep both of these in stock at all times, because they’re really damn good.

I also went ahead and mixed up dough for injera, the traditional Ethiopian sourdough flatbread that customarily serves as both dish and eating utensil. I still planned to provide plates and forks to my guests, but thought the bread would be good for sopping up all the stews and veggies I was making. If I were Ethiopian (or had access to a really good African grocery), I would’ve used teff flour, but I had no idea where to find that, so I followed this recipe instead.

Well, my injera dough was nice and thin like crepe batter, just like the recipe said. My pan was nice and hot, a solid medium-high, just like the recipe said. My dough spread thin and got nice and bubbly on top, just like the recipe said.

But  (why is there always a “but”?) somehow, despite being less than tortilla-thick, my bread was sticky and doughy in the middle no matter how done the outside was.

So, I scrapped that kitchen disaster and got Micah to implement the back-up plan, a mixture of white and brown basmati in the rice cooker. Not the traditional starch for an Ethiopian meal, but it was perfectly fine.

What did we eat with our not-so-Ethiopian rice?

The finished feast:

clockwise from 9:00 - fosoleay, atar alecha,
doro wat with hard-boiled eggs, misr wat,
gomen wat (plus rice in the middle)

Not only was dinner delicious, but we enjoyed a yummy pre-dinner snackie called dabo kolo. These are spicy little peanut-sized nuggets, kind of like a cracker. They’re traditionally fried, but mine were baked per the recipe I used and still ridiculously addictive! In fact, we kind of ate them all before I could snap a photo. But this is what they look like:

well, okay, these are much prettier than mine turned out!
(image from abreadaday.com)

Finally, I was at first saddened to learn that Ethiopia doesn’t really have a traditional dessert. But I did read about a traditional layered fruit drink that sounded light, sweet, cool, and pretty much perfect for ending our hearty, spicy meal. So I made my own version with pureed honey-sweetened avocado, mango, and strawberries:

So thick, you have to eat it with a spoon. The avocado at the bottom was the best part!

Micah and I are still enjoying the leftovers from this delicious feast, though I’m sad to say we’ve already devoured the dabo kolo snackies as well as the entire batch of split peas, so I need to make more. Soon.

I knew nothing about Ethiopian food before last week, and I have no idea if my dishes would pass muster with the natives, but I do highly recommend all of these recipes if you’re eager for some culinary globe-trotting. 🙂

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Categories: places, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “supper tonight – 4.12.12 – an Ethiopian feast!

  1. I adore Ethiopian food! What a great meal you cooked up! And that dessert? Best colors ever. It looks so good and refreshing. Mmmmmm! Bookmarking . . .

    • Having never cooked or eaten Ethiopian food before, I was a tad apprehensive about making this much of it–for company, no less! In the end, the recipes were not only delicious, but easy enough to cook again and again. Which I will. 🙂

      • I would never have known that you had never had Ethiopian food before because your meal really looks amazing! It’s always great to be able to add something new to your repertoire.

  2. This is so impressive! Ethiopian food is not an easy cuisine to make, especially when you’re making several dishes at once! Everything looks delicious

    • Thank you! I had to make it over several evenings–there was no way I could’ve done all these recipes in one night. But doing a little at a time made it manageable. Have you cooked much Ethiopian food before?

      • Never, I just know that there are lots of spices and a lot of slow cooking involved… I do love Ethiopian cuisine though, maybe I’ll give it a try now 🙂

  3. The number of different spices is kind of overwhelming. But if you make a really big batch of berbere, you can keep some in your spice cabinet instead of having to cobble together all those ingredients each time. While some of the individual recipes are time-consuming, they’re actually pretty easy (saute onions in spiced butter, add stuff, simmer for a while). You should definitely give it a try!

  4. I’m so impressed you attempted injera! Doro wat! Love that. Have had it a a few times but never tried making it myself. I looked up the spices for berbere, what a lovely blend. Might just have to add that to my spice rack. Dabl kolo look like a really nice snack to try to make too. Sounds like you had a memorable week.

    • Ha, the injera was a disaster! I still have a big bowl of sourdough in my fridge, too, and I have no idea what to do with it now. Maybe add more flour and turn it into regular bread….?

      In any case, I’m pretty sure berbere could make just about anything taste amazing. The sweet spices in it even make me think it could be good in dessert! (Which might turn into yet another disaster…I’ll share the results if I give it a try…)

      • Look forward to hearing about your further adventures in the kitchen!

  5. Wow, I’m impressed that you can make Ethiopian dishes! I’ve been to an Ethiopian restaurant once many years ago when an Ethiopian student of my husband invited us to dinner. I really enjoyed that experience which also included eating by hand. I would love to try cooking Ethiopian dishes one day though I should first become familiar with the herbs and spices. 😉

    • I’m going to suggest making just a couple dishes at a time instead of as many as I made, unless you’ve got a nice, long day with nothing to do! 🙂

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