So why Ethiopian? Aside from being delicious, Ethiopian food is unique and tends to be less available in restaurants than foods from other regions of the world so fewer people have experienced these flavors. Also, it can be very vegetarian and vegan friendly. I would like to share a few of these things with you!
First, Ethiopian foods are typically served atop injera bread. The injera is a sourdough (fermented dough) bread is made from teff flour that is used in place of eating utensils. Small pieces of the bread are torn off and used to pick up bites of food, traditionally with the right hand.
Did you know...? Teff is the world's smallest grain but it packs a big nutritional punch. It is an excellent source of iron, protein, and fiber. Just one serving (1/4 cup dry) contains 20% of the RDA for iron, 6gm protein, and 6gm fiber (8% calcium too). The lentils and split peas used in many Ethiopian dishes are also excellent sources of protein, iron, and fiber.
I didn't have teff flour, so I processed a small amount of teff grain in my VitaMix to make flour (1/2 cup teff made about 3/4 cup flour).
3 cups self-rising flour (or 3 cups all-purpose flour plus 4 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 1/2 tsp salt)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup teff flour
1 Tbsp dry active yeast
3 1/2 cups warm water
- Combine all of the ingredients except for the water and mix well. Add the water and mix until well combined. Cover and let sit for 3-6 hours (for traditional sourdough, the dough is let rest for 3 days).
- After the rest period, stir the dough again to incorporate any liquid that may have separated. Add the dough to a blender 2 cups at a time along with about 1/4 - 1/2 cup water and blend to mix for a few seconds. The dough should be very thin- thicker than crepe batter but thinner than pancakes.
- In a non-stick skillet heated over medium heat (no oil), pour the batter 1/2 cup at a time. Move the pan in a circular motion to spread out the batter so that it is no more than 1/8 inch thick. Cover the pan and let the injera cook until it is cooked through (don't flip). Remove from the pan and stack the breads as they are made. They will initially be a little crispy on the bottom but will soften up.
Misir wat (wat or wot is a stew and misir wat is a common lentil stew that is seasoned with traditional berbere spices):
I made my own berbere using:
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
1 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp cardamom
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne
¼ tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
Squash tibs (tips are sauteed veggies or meats):
Kik wat (a stew made from yellow split peas):
Sauteed greens (I used turnip):
Put on some Ladysmith Black Mambazo, get out your copy of The Ladies #1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, pour the African red bush (rooibos) tea, and dig in...with your hands, of course!
I really love the ceremonious nature of traditional dining in other cultures. I am also fascinated by traditions such as the Japanese tea ceremony. In Ethiopia, one very simple such ritual is goorsha, which is an act of friendship. During a meal, a person might roll a piece of injera bread in sauce and place it in a friend's mouth. The larger the goorsha, the stronger the friendship. Amesege'nallo' (thank you)!
If you have the chance, I encourage you to expand your horizons and give Ethiopian or other new-to-you foods a try. After all, life is too short for frozen pizza!