Oh yes, it took some time to finish this post. But now, finally, it is here, hopefully inspiring you to expand our culinary experiences like I did.
Rather by accident I first came into contact with ethopian food in the hidden Addis restaurant in London. I wanted more! I especially wanted to create these unique flavours myself at home. So I started to read a bit about african cuisine in general an ethophian culinary culture in particular. Finally I started to cook my own little ethopian meal.
Similar to the Indian thali, a typical ethopian meal as well consists of a variety of dishes served in small portions together with bread – or to be more precise: upon the bread. It usually is a balanced combination of meat, vegetable and legumes, often stews (alicha or wat). The spices used are similar to northafrican, oriental or indian cuisine with one not unsignificant difference: The spices are – especially in meat dishes – combined with the flavour of wine or beer, which creates a whole new taste. A special component is the hot chili pepper based spice mixture berbere.
For my little two-person-meal I like the combination of beans, lentils and chicken stew (doro wat). The latter is said to be the ethopian national dish, at least it is probably the most known ethopian food.
But first of all it is the famous injera bread which makes the difference and gives the ethopian meal as a whole a totally unique flavour. Actually, injera is more of a pancake than a bread – to be precise: a sourdough pancake. It is made out of a yeast-risen batter that is fermented from two up to several days, depending on the recipe. The result of this fermentation is a slightly sour taste and the typical spongy texture (See it in the picture?!). For people not familiar and not used to this taste, I would suggest to prepare the sourdough starter not more than one or two days in advance. It is usually made with teff flour (perhaps familiar to celiacs because it is gluten free). If you can’t get hold of some of this flour, you can as well use normal wheat flour or – as I prefer – a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour. Traditionally injera is baked in a big clay plate. To adjust the recipe to european facilities you should use your biggest teflon pan including a lid. It shouldn’t be too hot and baked – with closed lid – only for a minute, just until the top of the pancake is dry. Here‘s a video that shows the traditional way of preparing and eating injera.
Traditionally the different dishes are served upon the huge injera bread. That means “you eat the tablecloth“. Injera is also used as eating utensil: You tear apart a small piece of it and scoop the stews for eating. Its spongy texture thereby turns the injera into a reservoir for all the great juices and flavours. When all injera and stews are gone, dinner is over… and you may want to wash your hands.
Injera (ethiopian flatbread) – start preparation two days in advance
ingredients: 120 g wheat flour, 80 g buckwheat flour, 2 teaspoons dried yeast, lukewarm water
preparation: Stir together flour, yeast and water till you have a batter with a consistency a bit thicker than pancake batter. Preferably you do this in bowl with a lid, because now this starter will be given 2 (or more) days for fermentation. The result is the mild sour taste of the injera.
Before baking injera, add another 1/2 cup lukewarm water to the batter and let it rise for another 30 min. Then try to get hold of your biggest baking pan which has a lid. Heat up to a medium temperature and bake your batter into flat pancakes, using about one dipper of batter for each pancake. Pour batter into pan starting on the outside and going in circles to the center. Bake the injera only on one side with closed lid for about a minute. The closed lid is important to actually steam the injera. The top should be dry and have its unique spongy texture.
Keep the baked injera warm in the oven at low temperature, stacking them with a sheet of baking paper in between to prevent them from sticking together.
TIP: If you leave over a few tablespoons of the batter, you can store this up for over a month in your fridge and use it next time as a starter for the new injera batter.
Doro Wat (ethiopian chicken)
ingredients: 4 chicken thighs (about 500 g with bones), 2 eggs, 2 big onions, sliced thinnly (1 1/2 cups), 3 teaspoons berbere, 1 teaspoon black cumin seeds, each 1/4 teaspoon grounded cardamom and ginger, 1 teaspoon tomato purée, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 cup red wine
preparation: Roast onions in a hot pan without fat until they’re soft. Add tomato purée, berbere and a bit of water and stir fry for about ten minutes. The hot berbere spice will gettinger milder thereby. Add other spices and chicken. Stew for about 1 hour, until the chicken meat is soft and falls off the bones. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile in another pot boil 2 eggs until hard. Let them cool down and peel. Add them to the stew a few minutes before serving. Serve warm.
Yemiser Alicha (red lentils)
ingredients: 70 g red lentils, 1/2 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, each 1/4 teaspoon grounded cardamom and ginger
preparation: Wash lentils. Heat oil in a small pot and sauté onions until transparent. Add spices and lentils for a minute or so and than cover them with water. Reduce heat, close lid and simmer for about 15 minutes until the lentils have become a rather thick mash. Occasionally check if there is still enough water, maybe add some more. Serve warm.
Yefoselia Atkelt (green beans with carrots):
ingredients: 120 g long beans, 1 carrot (about 120 g), 1/2 chopped onion, 1 tomato, 1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds, dash of cardamom and ginger
preparation: Wash beans and cut into halve. Wash and cut carrot into sticks about the same size as the beans. Dice tomato. Heat oil in pan, roast onions and add beans. Stir fry beans until they’re half-cooked. Add carrots, tomato and spices and stir fry for another 10-15 minutes until beans and carrots are cooked. Season with salt and serve warm.