February 17, 2008

Ethiopian cooking for the inexperienced

I posted about our geography night, but left the topic of Ethiopian cuisine for another post. This is that post! For those of you who would never, in a million years, want to eat Ethiopian food, much less cook it, then come back another day.

My family first ate Ethiopian food two years ago. We loved it. Not only Seth and I, but the three kids too. They loved eating injera and using their fingers. Since then, they are always excited when we get a chance to eat Ethiopian food (not too often, the closest restaurant is 45 minutes away). I would love to cook Ethiopian at home, but I'm a pretty timid cook. I spent the first few years of marriage trying to find my way around the kitchen. I became an avid cookbook collector, hoping that I would soak up skills by reading about great chefs. Now I have a massive culinary library, still lacking the talent that would be very beneficial. Oh, but there is something about reading a good recipe, knowing that I couldn't replicate it! So, it's with this mindset that I decided to conquer Ethiopian food.

First, I knew we needed injera (Ethiopian flat bread). In reading extensively about making it (here's a great series of posts on the process), I decided that I would NOT be making it. First of all, teff flour is hard to find. Secondly, I can only imagine the havoc if I spent 13 days (not a typo, I mean 13 DAYS!) preparing a perfect yeasty, teffy dough only to cook it wrong. The first time it sticks to the pan--whammo! I'd have to throw it against the wall. Not good. So for sanity's sake I just figured we need to buy injera. Unfortunately, no one around here sells it, we would have to make a visit to one of the restaurants that are closed on Mondays. I stumbled onto this post though--this gal, she thinks like me! Working on a recipe for 13 days? No thanks--here's the easy method for making injera. It lacks the sour taste that you would get in the traditional method, but does the duty for scooping food up with your meal.

Easy Injera
2 C white flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
(or substitute the above with 2 C self-rising flour) **this is what I did in order to simplify**
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 C. soda water
2 C water
Sift the flour, add the soda water and regular water. Stir. You should have a thin batter.
Heat a griddle or wide pan with some vegetable oil until it's hot enough that a drop of water dances on it. **I did this, and my first try came out crispy, like a fried pancake. After that attempt, I used only a paper towel with minimal oil**
Pour a ladle (amount should be adjusted for the size of your pan) of batter in the center and swirl it around. You may need to "push" the batter out with the back of a spoon. It should make a thin crepe-like layer.
Cook over fairly high heat. The top will bubble as it sets. If I think the bottom will brown too much but the top isn't setting, I put a lid on the pan for 5-10 seconds to trap the heat to help the top set. I use a thin metal spatula to loosen it from the pan and then slide it out on to a platter. Roll the injera cigar-like and set aside. Wipe the pan with a paper towel with some oil on it and start the next one.
If your injera is sticking to the pan too much, it's possible that your griddle is not hot enough.
**This recipe only makes enough for 2 people, I think I did about 4 times this and we had more than enough**

As for the rest of the meal... I saw this recipe for Atar Aleche on the Ethiopian Adoption blog. This is similar to the split pea soup I make, but spicier and yummier. It was very easy to make, I pureed the onions for simplicity. I also used butter instead of niter kibbeh. My kids DEVOURED this, it wasn't too spicy.

Atar Alecha: Spicy split peas
Ingredients 1 onion, pureed in food processor
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or mashed through a garlic press
2 tablespoon niter kibbeh (or plain butter if you do not have niter kibbeh on hand)
1 cup dry split green peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup water
Soak the split peas for an hour in three cups of water. Bring the peas to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes, adding more water if necessary. When the peas are cooked, drain any excess water and mash well. Set aside.In a dry pan over medium heat, stir-fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down a little. Add the niter kibbeh or butter and sauté until the onion becomes transparent. Add the mashed peas, turmeric, salt and green chili to the onion mixture. Add the water and cook to reduce the mixture to a thick, well-spiced puree. Serve warm or room temperature with injera.

The split pea recipe didn't make very much. Fearing I wouldn't have enough food for our geography night guests (because isn't this everyone's worst nightmare?), I found this recipe on the same blog. I originally had hoped to make a Shiro, but don't have any shiro powder. The Waal's had brought home a tupperware full of berbere, and shared some with me. This recipe was also EASY (or as Eli would say, "Easy as a piece of pie."). A little bit spicy, but my kids still ate it. Though I think it set fire to a few timid souls at the geography night.

Siga Wot
3 lg Onions --mince fine or puree in food processor
1/2 c. oil
5 Potatoes, cubed small
2 tomatoes -- chop very fine or puree in food processor
2 c. Water
2 lb hamburger, browned with 5 garlic cloves.
1/4 c. berbere (or less if you like it mild)
In dry pan over moderate heat, stir fry the onions for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the oil and berbere and cook for about 1 minute longer. Add the potatoes, water, hamburger and tomato paste and stir well. Cook, covered, over medium heat for about 30 mins, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir frequently. Turn heat down and add a bit more oil if it starts to stick. There should be a moderate amount of sauce. Serve warm with injera or rice.

This was such a success for my family I will definitely be making this meal again. AND I might even get my courage up enough to stop reading about the marvelous Ethiopian meals and prepare a few others!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Sounds yummy! I got a new ET cookbook for Christmas and have been afraid to try anything since I ran out of berbere. We found in Jeremy's history book, "The Story of the World, Part 4," a recipe for doro wet that didn't require the berbere. I'm afraid that it won't be as good as the ET food we've had though! I'm going to have to break down and order some berbere! Kudos to you for your cooking adventure!! ~Susan