Sorry for the blurry steam pic everyone. I was too excited to dig into this to be patient for nice plating. :(
The good news is that for the next couple Sundays, Chef E from Cook Appeal and I will be traveling to Ethiopia to explore some of that region's culinary treasures. Chef E used to cook in an Ethiopian restaurant so I can't wait to sample what she has on the menu. As for me, I'm merely an Ethiopian food lover.
My first experience with it was at a restaurant in Berkeley, CA called The Blue Nile. The restaurant ambiance was intimate and cozy and I immediately felt relaxed. I was served this food that looked nothing like anything I had ever eaten before along with wafer-thin, spongey injera. I loved the process of tearing the injera into little strips which were then used to scoop up some of the luscious dishes to eat with my hands.
I was currently living closer to Sacramento at the time, so a weekly pilgrimage to the Blue Nile was out of the question. Imagine my delight when my husband and I stumbled upon a little hole in the wall Ethiopian restaurant in Sacramento. All good things must come to an end however, and we ended up moving to Southeast, WA where the most "ethnic" food available to us is in the form of P.F. Changs (and that has only come just recently)
I started my quest at the public library to find a way to make Ethiopian food at home and happened upon an old cookbook called The Africa News Cookbook. This cookbook has been westernized to approximate some of the authentic ingredients one would use in true Ethiopian cooking with things we can readily find here. Although the recipes aren't truly authentic, they are tasty and gave me hope. (I loved the book so much, I eventually bought it on eBay!)
Last year, my neighbors adopted a little girl from Ethiopia. I was talking to them about making Ethiopian food for them and a few other neighbors as a benefit to their adoption agency while they gave a little slide show of their experiences. She was so excited that I was thinking of this, that she bought me a very authentic Ethiopian cookbook titled Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D.J. Mesfin.
The recipes that follow come from both of my books. Two days later, my house still smells amazing from all of the heavy spices used in the cooking. If you are interested in more Ethiopian dishes, tune in the next couple Sundays as Chef E and I explore the food of Ethiopia more!
Ye'abesha Gomen (Collard Greens) adapted heavily from Exotic Ethiopian Cooking
8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 lb. collard greens, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
10 oz. spinach leaves, washed
1 c. red onions, chopped
4 medium Anaheim chilies, seeded and cut into long, thin strips
2 c. water
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt to taste
1. Fill a large pot with water, boil, and then add the collard greens. Boil for about 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pot, melt the butter. Saute the onions until soft. Add 2 c. water and bring to a boil. Add the collards and the spinach. Stir so that the spinach is covered with the onion/water solution. Cover the pot and boil for 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted.
3. Add the Anaheim chili slices and boil the mixture until the water is mostly absorbed, and the Anaheim chili slices are soft, about 20-30 minutes.
Yeshimbra Assa (Chickpea Flour Cakes) adapted from Exotic Ethiopian Cooking
2 c. chickpea flour
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil (divided)
2 c. water
2 c. red onions, chopped
1/2 c. berbere (recipe below)
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt to taste
1. In a medium sized bowl, add chickpea flour and 1/2 c. oil. Rub with fingers until mixture is throughly mixed. Take a walnut sized piece of dough and squeeze in fingers (like making a fist) to make a little "fish" shape. Continue in this manner with the rest of the dough. Place all of the little "fish" shapes onto a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in a 350 degree F. oven and cook chickpea shapes until starting to brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 c. oil to the pan. Cook the onions until soft. Add the water and cover until the mixture boils. Add the berbere and mix. Once boiling, turn off heat and set aside until chickpea shapes are finished cooking.
3. When the chickpea shapes are browned, put the onion/spice mixture back over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the cardamom, ginger, garlic and salt and stir. Gently add the chickpea shapes to the sauce and gently stir. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Easy Injera adapted from The Africa News Cookbook
4 c. self-rising flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 c. club soda
4 c. water
1. In a very large bowl, mix together the flours and the baking powder. Add the club soda, and the water and stir until a very thin batter is achieved.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles off of the pan.
3. Spoon some batter into the skillet (try 1/2 c. to start) and swirl the skillet quickly to spread the batter out.
4. Cook until the injera is dried and cooked on the top. Do not flip. If this one does not work out, you may need to add less batter so the injera is thinner on the pan.
5. When cooked, remove the injera from the pan, place on a plate, and cover with a cloth while you are making the rest. Stack the injera when others are cooked and continue to cover with the cloth until finished.
6. Use bits of injera to scoop your food up with and eat it with your hands.
Berbere adapted from Africa News Cookbook
Makes about 1 1/2 c.
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 Tbls. salt
1 1/4 c. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. paprika
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container.