Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's Eat Ethiopia!

Ethiopia was the next stop on our around the world meal adventure. A bit more exotic and adventurous than Italy, the Ethiopian food intrigued some of us and turned others off. We sponsor a little girl through Compassion who lives in Ethiopia. Taking part in a traditional meal from her culture helps us connect to her and break the boundary of all those miles we live apart. I think it is so cool to be able to try new things that are not very new to many people who live on this earth.

An Ethiopian meal normally is made up of a meat stew, cheese, raw salad, several vegetable stews, and bread. The national dish is doro wat, a slightly spicy chicken stew. I made this along with a lentil stew, cooked shallots, a tomato salad, Ethiopian cheese, and injera.

I wanted to go down the authentic route, so we ate the food without utensils or plates. (My mom wiped down the table very well before we did this.) Injera is the staple flatbread of Ethiopia. All the food is traditionally placed on top of it. Pieces of the bread are pinched off (with the right hand only!) and used to scoop up the various meats, vegetables, and other dishes. I had a lot of fun eating the Ethiopian way, but Sydney said she would rather just stick with a fork. Traditionally, injera is made with teff flour, a grain similar to millet. You will have a hard time finding teff here, so I used wheat flour.


Makes 6
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups carbonated water
2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the carbonated water until a batter forms similar to pancake batter. Preheat a large nonstick pancake pan over medium heat. Wipe oil on it with a paper towel. Scoop ½ cup of batter at a time onto the pan and spread it out into a large circle with the back of a rubber spatula. Cook each side of the injera for a minute or two, or until golden brown. Serve immediately, or store in a warm oven in between layers of paper towels until you’re ready to use them.


Iab is the traditional Ethiopian cheese served alongside spicy dishes to help cool them off. It is really similar to cottage cheese, but is a bit drier because you drain it. My mom loved this cheese even though she is not a cottage cheese fan. She wrapped her injera around the chicken, lentils, and cheese like a taco. I liked the slight lemony flavor it brought to my "plate".

Makes 2 cups
2 cups cottage cheese
¼ cup yogurt
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon zest
Dash of salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Place the mixture in a cheesecloth and hang to drain over a bowl. Pour off the drained liquid and serve.

My cooked vegetable side was shallots, and my raw salad was made up of tomatoes and black olives. I really liked the shallots, and my dad said he enjoyed the salad.


Tomato and Olive Salad
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup black olives
¼ cup pickled sliced jalapenos
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

Toss all the ingredients together. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.



Cooked Shallots
Serves 6
6 large shallots
1 tbsp oil

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes.


"Wat" means stew, and "mesir" means lentils, so "mesir wat" is a lentil stew. I made this vegetarian dish not so vegetarian with chicken broth, but you could always sub in vegetable broth to make it meat free. My mom and I really liked the lentils, but I think the look of them put the rest of my family off.

Mesir Wat
Serves 6
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground mustard or turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 onion
1 clove garlic
8 ounces lentils
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Puree the onion, garlic, and ginger together in a food processor. Heat the oil in a pan with a lid over medium heat. Whisk the seasonings into the oil, stirring constantly for a minute. Pour in the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, water, and lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The main stew was Ethiopia's national dish: doro wat. It is slightly spicy and very flavorful. The chicken simmers down delightfully in the delicious sauce. I used my injera to sop up the extra sauce, and it was amazing. Carson and Harper were in love with the boiled eggs scattered throughout the stew. At least they would have something to eat if they ever venture out to Ethiopia...


Doro Wat
Serves 6
2 lbs skinless chicken thighs and legs
Juice of 2 lemons
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
¾ tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp ground paprika
¼ cup berbere seasoning
1 ¾ cup chicken broth
4 hardboiled eggs

Combine the lemon and chicken pieces. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger together in a food processor. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid over medium heat. Whisk in the paprika and then the berbere, stirring constantly for a minute. Pour in the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Pour the broth, lemon juice, and chicken pieces into the pan. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook the chicken for about 45 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Cut the eggs into fourths, add them into the sauce, and cook for another 5 minutes.


Food is an amazing thing. It uses so many of our senses other than just taste. Sight, smell, and texture also are a major impact on the way we eat what we eat.  This having been said, the Ethiopian meal really scared some of my family. I was told that the lentils looked like Carson's diaper, the bread was super bland, and there was a nasty spice that they could not identify. I found this funny because most of the spices are ones my mom uses all the time. Others were new, but I found them all to come together nicely. My mom really enjoyed it as well. Harper was really good about it, too. She tried everything on her plate. I think it was too spicy for her. My dad and Sydney had the wrong attitude about it from the start. They started off with the mindset that it would be horrible, and they were not open to accepting that it was not going to taste like mama's chicken pot pie. What makes food such a wonderful thing is it's diversity. I will have to work on easing my family into enjoying some of the more exotic countries. Maybe I should stick to places like Mexico and France for now....

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