Saturday, February 8, 2014

An Ethiopian feast!

Hello world! I am back! I never stopped cooking but have had so much with university, as it is especially challenging studying in a language so new to me -- Swedish! I have to study double the amount of my peers and it does take a toll on me sometimes, but when I come home, I spend hours cooking because a healthy feast always comforts.

Ethiopian cuisine has always been an enigma to me. Here in Stockholm there are some wonderful Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants like Abyssinia, Jebena and Gojo. It is always a treat to eat their food as it's so delicious and so familiar somehow because they use spices similar to Indian cooking but also so different. I really wanted to be able to cook these dishes at home and loved taking on the challenge.

For one thing, injera! This delicious savory pancake is fermented and therefore has that familiar sourdough flavor and is essential in enjoying the stews because it provides a distinct sourness and also offers the benefits of eating fermented foods like an increased iron absorption for vegetarians, reduced cholesterol and better digestion. Eaten without injera, one could almost call the stews Indian.

But it's not Indian because an essential spice blend is required called berbere. It's a dark paprika red blend consisting of numerous spices. I'm afraid I haven't reached the level that I can create my own berbere so I buy it ready made. Luckily, I found it at Taj Mahal Asian store here in Stockholm and it creates that distinct Ethiopian/Eritrean flavor.

Last term, I had the pleasure of meeting a girl at school whose parents hail from Eritrea and she was kind enough to lend me her mom's Eritrean cookbook! You can imagine how excited I was to read that!!! Thank you Johanna! I dove in and copied some recipes that helped me get closer to my goal of creating these dishes at home!

The book provided a recipe for injera based on the ingredients that can be found in Sweden, like wheat and corn flour, which is great! But as I had the fortune of buying a bag of teff flour while in California last summer, I decided to go for the traditional teff injera. Teff has been used in Ethiopia/Eritrea for ages but is only just getting attention that it truly deserves. It is rich in calcium, iron and protein and is also gluten free! While I wanted to keep this recipe gluten free, I didn't have enough teff flour to make a large batch, so I blended some whole rye flour into the mix. Also, the sourdough used to start my injera is also made from whole rye flour so my injera is a blend of teff and rye. I am very satisfied with the results because it created a very dark and sour injera, a perfect accompaniment to all the stews.

This feast took about 2 hours to prepare, which is a long time for many, but it's so worth it for a special occasion. I hope you give these recipes a try and let me know how they turn out for you!

Serves 4-6

100g active rye sourdough starter
200g teff flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 tsp salt
1. In a large bowl, mix all the flours and sourdough starter and add enough water to create a thick pancake batter. Ferment for 3 days, stirring twice a day. 

2. The batter is ready when it is active -- you will see large bubbles and it may be puffy. Add a teaspoon of salt right before making the pancakes and adjust with more water if needed. The consistency should be thick like heavy cream. 

3. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron pan on medium heat. Pour a ladle full of batter and spread around the pan very quickly to distribute evenly. As soon as the pancake develops holes throughout, cover with a lid and allow to steam until the surface is cooked and no longer wet. Then take off the heat and keep warm in a tea towel. Repeat with the rest. 

Miser Wot - red lentil stew

1 T butter
3 cloves
3 cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 large onion
1  1/2 tsp ginger
1 T garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 T oil
2 T tomato paste
2 T berbere
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed

1. In a saucepan, brown onion in butter and whole spices (cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick). Then add garlic, ginger, turmeric, berbere, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Then add the rinsed lentils and a cup of water and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, adding water as needed. Salt towards the end.

Shiro - powdered chickpea stew
(inspired by Marcus Samuelsson's recipe)
1 small onion, puréed
2 T oil
1 T tomato paste
1 T berbere
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan), sifted
1-2 cups water

Heat a pan and add the pureed onion and allow to brown, stirring occasionally. Then add tomato paste, oil, berbere and cook for a minute, then gradually add the chickpea flour and allow the flour to toast well. Then gradually add water and whisk constantly for 5-10 minutes until it's no longer raw-tasting. Salt to taste. (If the stew is lumpy, just blitz in a blender with additional water. The consistency is that of a thick sauce.)

Kik alicha - yellow split pea stew
1 T oil
1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove
1/2 T ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup dried yellow split peas (or chana daal), soaked and boiled until just tender

1. Heat oil in a pan and cook onion until soft. Then add garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds. Lastly add the yellow split peas and simmer with about a cup of water until Chana is nice and tender and begins to slightly fall apart.

Fasolia - carrot/green bean braise
inspired by Enat Ethiopian restaurant's recipe

1 T oil
1 small onion
2 carrots
1 T tomato paste
1 t berbere
1 garlic clove
1 cup frozen green beans

1. Heat oil in a pan and cook onion, garlic, tomato paste and berbere, then add carrot and water and cook until carrots are tender. Salt. Add the green beans last and cook for 5 minutes or until it looks saucy. 

Gomen Wat - braised greens
1/2 T oil
1 small onion
1 small garlic clove
A large handful of kale or other greens

1. Heat oil in a pan and cook onion and garlic until soft, then add the greens and about a tablespoon of water and cook until just wilted. Add salt and pepper. 

1 comment:

  1. Incredible! I can't believe you made the injera from scratch! I'm not sure I am that ambitious, but I will definitely try cooking up some of the lentil and veggie dishes. You are amazing! I love your posts.



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