Archive for February, 2010

one spectacular Ethiopian feast!

Since my visit to Africa over the summer, I’ve been pretty much wholly obsessed with Ethiopian food. Where to find it (or rather where to find the traditional kind), how to make it, etc. After a few months of flirting with the idea, I finally had some friends over and made a full blown Ethiopian feast. My menu included: Gomen (Collard Greens), Miser Wat (Spicy Red Lentils), Yetakelt We’t (Vegetable Stew), Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Peas), and of course, homemade injera. Injera is a light, sour, spongey crepe made from fermented teff flour, and contains more calcium than milk, as well as 100% of one’s daily iron requirements, boron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, protein and fiber. It’s also gluten-free. My injera tasted absolutely nothing like it did in Ethiopia, or in any Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to for that matter, but I still thought it was great. It was denser and tasted wheatier, or maybe just healthier, than the other forms of injera I’ve had. Probably because most injera is cut with white or whole wheat flour, and is probably fermented for longer. I let mine sit for 2.5 days; the recommended fermentation process lasts 3-4 days. I would have let it sit longer but I was worried it would be too sour, and I didn’t want to scare away my adventurous friends.

Just some of the spices I used. Clockwise: cumin, hungarian paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom pods, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, cloves, allspice. Not pictured: yellow curry powder, Hana Jeera (a special spice blend my Indian friend’s mom made, and shipped over from India. I try to use it sparingly, as I don’t want to become too dependent on it. It’s really, really good.), garlic, salt and pepper.

I started making 2 kinds of dal, Miser Wat and Kik Alicha.

First I sauteed some onions and garlic, and threw in the cardamom pods (bruised) and cloves. After a few minutes I added all of the remaining above mentioned spices, in varying quantities which I really didn’t measure.

Once the onions were nicely caramelized, I removed the cardamom and cloves. Sometimes I find those flavors overwhelming. Plus, lately I’ve been having weird experiences grinding my own spices. They’ve been tasting bitter, I’m not sure if that’s from my coffee (spice) grinder or what, but it’s been a horribly disappointing situation that I didn’t want to risk replicating today.

I pureed the spicy onions, kind of like Niter Kibbeh but I didn’t want to strain anything through cheesecloth, so I pureed it. It worked phenomenally; I think I’ll be pureeing onions like this every time I make dal from now on. It made the finished product so creamy and flavorful.

The dal cooking away. The above Yellow Split Peas, or the Kik Alicha, I wanted to keep a little on the mild side, just nice savory and warm flavors. So I added a good amount of poultry seasoning, cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as a couple teaspoons of the Hana Jeera. The Miser Wat, the Spicy Red Lentils, I wanted to be really tomato-y and acidic, so I added 3/4 a can of fire roasted tomatoes, a little tomato paste and lots of fresh ginger. When both dals were about done cooking, I added in the pureed onions and let all the flavors blend together on low heat for about 20 mins or so. That was Day 1.

And this is what my counter looked like after Day 1.

The teff flour after 2.5 days of fermentation. Not as bubbly as it should look, but then again I really didn’t know what I was doing. Looks pretty appetizing, huh???

I tested the batter out, making one tiny injera. It was quite delicious.

So on Day 2 I guess I completely forgot about taking pics of the dishes in progress, but that’s probably because people were over and I get distracted easily. But I made some collard greens and a cabbage, carrot, potato stew, with the list of above mentioned spices. I kept the collards and veggies moist and steamy by continually adding shots of vegetable stock to the skillets. If you’ve never made long-cooking veggies that way, try it immediately. Even if you’re just cooking down onions, the veg stock adds a ton of flavor. Then I made some regular-sized injera and piled it high with the food I’d spent 2 days slaving over (exaggeration, this meal was not hard to make). I also made a chili oil with hungarian paprika, chili powder, lime juice and some tomato water from that can I used earlier.

You must eat with your hands when eating Ethiopian food. You must!

Actually it’s customary to feed your friends in Ethiopia, as you see Jeff (the US Mobilization Director for the Global Hope Network, that humanitarian group with which I volunteered over the summer) engaged in with our friends Alex and Kimfe.

And since I’m breaking out the Africa pics now here is one more of me with some of the super awesome kids from the village of Hruso, where we helped build a school. Discovering my love for Ethiopian food while over there was merely a nice little take-away from the experience, but it doesn’t even compare with the affect the Hruso people had on me. But I can’t get into that without getting all emotional and nostalgic, so back to the food: if you don’t want to go through all the trouble of making your own Spectacular Ethiopian Feast, try going herehere or here. All amazing restaurants. A bit of a hike from the LV, but think of it as an adventure.


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