15 March 2009

A Culinary Trip to Ethiopia

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.


Wandering Coyote said...

Very cool! I'd love to try Ethiopian sometime. There were a few places in Ottawa ON, where I lived for a while, but I never got around to going to them. A shame because there's nothing like it in these parts.

onlinepastrychef said...

How cool that you are going to Ethiopia! Ethiopian food was a true revelation the first time I had it. And injera might be just about the best thing ever:) You're so much "closer to the food" when you use the bread to scoop as opposed to metal utensils.

Sarah Herman said...

I love making african food, a good friend of ours came from chad about 8 years ago. Every year we have a african dinner for 8-10 people to celebrate his culture and remind of him of home!

Mindy said...

I love Ethiopian...my first date with my husband was at an Ethiopian restaurant in Durham, NC. I found out later that it was a test to see how adventurous I was with food. I think I passed...

And at least you have a PF Chang's! In the small Kentucky town I live in (when I'm not in France!) has one take-out Chinese restaurant and a chain of Mexican restaurants (one of which is nicknamed Guadalahut because it's located in an old Pizza Hut). I'd give my right arm for a PF Changs...

Trish said...

yes yes yes...I am glad we found each other 'again'. Thanks for coming by my humble home cooking blog. But you know, having married an east african...it is only a matter of time before I share some fine curry I learned from my MIL! Grin. I love your blog...can I list you on my sidebar?! Looking forward to trying your Ethipian food! What an experience you are going to have!

Trish said...

yikes....fingers are doughy whilst I make my whole wheat buns for faspa and borscht...future posts...sorry about the typo..grin...
ETHIOPIAN...that is what I mean to say.

Reeni♥ said...

I've never eaten Ethiopian. I must say I love heavy spices and this food looks wonderful! Looking forward to more!

Tangled Noodle said...

I only recently had Ethiopian for the first time about a month ago and I'm totally hooked. As a matter of fact, the same day, my husband and I stopped in at an African grocery and bought some berbere. Thank you for posting an easy recipe for injera - most recipes I've seen call for the authentic teff flour and a much more intensive process.

Chef E said...

Oh, I am so glad you did the Gomen, and a different injera, I forgot what I told you I would make, but we are safe, and I think we could have a progressive dinner, and I will have some chocolate and tea waiting for you!

I love your dishes with the steam coming off, it depicts the authenticity of its flavors!

Juliet said...

I've never had Ethiopian food but my husband and I have been talking about going for a while. My bday is coming up so we might try it then. :)

Varsha Vipins said...

wow..But I loved the 1st pic Joie..Original n tempting..!!:)

gaga said...

My first exposure to ethopian was at blue nile too! And I fell instantly in love. This look delicious!

Stash said...

Easy inerja??? doesn't take a week to make?? bookmarking this

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a gorgeous meal! Ethiopian food is very interesting. I really love Berbere and Injera...



Sophie said...

Wow!!! what a culinary adventure!! MMMMMMMMMMMMMM.....!!!!!

Katherine Aucoin said...

Your post is so interesting. I love learning about food of other cultures. This looks so delicious and exotic!

Cathy said...

Yum! We go out at least once every few months for Ethiopian but I've never considered making my own. I just may have to start after this post!

Grace said...

awesome. truly, i think the notion of eschewing utensils entirely and just using injera to get food into your mouth is brilliant and fun and fabulous. great post!

Emily said...

I've never had Ethiopian food before! Yum. Looks amazing.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I just left Chef E's kitchen and popped over to see what great dish you whipped up. It looks wonderful and the African cookbook sounds very interesting. Thanks for this informative post.

I wish I could find chickpea flour. When we were in Nice, France they sell a street food in the marketplace that looks like a big pancake/pizza and it's made with chickpea flour. It's called Socca and Nice is famous for it.
I'm going to keep looking when I go to the city.

The Duo Dishes said...

Beautiful meal. No matter the steam. That just means it was hot, fresh and delicious.

Karen Brown Letarte said...

What an amazing feast! It all looks mahvelous! I always find the collard greens at our one Ethiopian restaurant in town to be irresistible! I'm so impressed that you were able to make injera, too! :) K

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

This is great. I also love eating Ethiopian food at The Blue Nile; although it is in Houston. I really like their spongy bread and all the stews. Never tried to cook it at home yet.

Lori said...

How interesting! I haven't had Ethiopian food, but have always been intersted in it. I started to learn about teff as a grain which lead me to reading about injera. I've heard that teff is being grown in the US now simply due to all the Ethiopian restaurants opening there. Love these recipes.

Nicole said...

You are so bold! What different looking food. Good for you.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

One of our favorite places in Seattle is an Ethiopian restaurant that we can walk to from our son's house. Your dinner looks grand here.

Robin Sue said...

What a fun thing to do! The food looks delish and I hope to try it sometime as I have never had Ethiopian food before. I have a friend that is going to teach me Indian cooking. I love trying new things.