Monday, November 12, 2012

Ethiopian Feast: The 5 Recipes (Whew!)

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

Ethiopian food is served on a piece of injera, with many dishes to try

One of the benefits of life in New York is the bounty of cuisines that it boasts. I use the word cuisine to refer to a set of culinary ingredients, styles, and techniques, all of which can be linked to a specific region (Japanese food, Southern food, Amazonian food), dietary preference (vegetarian, gluten-free, raw), dining culture (street food, fine dining) or even religion (kosher, halal). Within each cuisine are various subcuisines (just think of "American" food and all of its subcuisines). I feel like I can confidently say that if New York's five boroughs does not have a particular cuisine, it probably only exists in its region of origin. I can't imagine a regional cuisine traveling outside its birthplace and not making its way to this amazing city.

I had Ethiopian food for the first time when I visited New York to interview for my teaching job, and I have been a little obsessed with it ever since. In larger cities it is becoming more common to hear the words injera, alicha, and wat used when talking about what to get for dinner. However, it still has not had its big break to arise to the levels of Thai, Chinese, or Indian food.

In case you have not had Ethiopian food, here are a few things you can expect:

  • No utensils-- injera, a gluten-free spongey crepe-like bread, is used as a utensil to scoop up all of the food. I still haven't figured out what to do when they serve you salad-- please comment if you have some insight
  • A high presence of turmeric, cardamom, and berbere (pronounced somewhere in between "bear berry" and "Burberry"), a spice blend that adds heat to many dishes
  • Most dishes are stews or purees, slow cooked with aromatic ingredients
  • Plenty of vegetarian and meat options
I got excited about the prospect of learning Ethiopian cuisine when I read about it in my Food & Wine magazine (Nov. 2012). The article highlights a man named Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, who developed a line of prepared Ethiopian food, Taste of Ethiopia, which is actually now available at Fairway Market, Whole Foods, Brooklyn Fare, and Union Market. He included some recipes, which made me feel less daunted by the idea of making Ethiopian in my own kitchen.

This week I will be cooking a vegan and gluten-free Ethiopian feast with four dishes (I like going between multiple flavors as I eat) plus a boatload of injera (be advised that the injera needs to sit overnight, so get an early start!). Although the spices will be a little costly to get started, the staple ingredients are extremely affordable: onions, garlic, lentils, cabbage, collard greens, etc. If this is successful, then future Ethiopian dinners will be done on the cheap!

The Recipes:
Tear this bread apart to scoop up your food-- it replaces silverware
Injera (crepe-bread), adapted from Food & Wine
Yield: Eight 12" pieces
  • 4 cups (5 oz.) teff flour
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • In a large bowl, whisk the teff flour with the water until a smooth batter forms. 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight; the batter should be slightly foamy.
  • Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat.
  • Whisk the salt into the batter.
  • Ladle 3/4 cup of batter into the skillet and swirl to cover the entire skillet.
  • Cook over medium-high heat until the injera starts to bubble, about 30 seconds.
  • Cover the skillet and cook for 30 more seconds, until the injera is cooked through and the surface is slightly glossy.
  • Invert the injera on a work surface and repeat with the remaining batter.
  • Fold the injera into quarters to serve.
This injera was an embarrassing failure and led me to buy premade Injera from a local Ethiopian restaurant... I attribute it to incorrect measurements in the recipe, which calls for 4 cups (5 oz.) of flour. Four cups is definitely not 5 oz (it's more like 20 oz), so unless they were referring to 5 oz per cup, the recipe was just wrong. See Ethiopian Feast: The Results and Modified Recipes for details!

Don't let the spoon deceive you-- you will still be scooping
Gomen (collard greens), adapted from Saveur
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1/8 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 1/2 lbs. collard greens, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1/4" wide strips
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Thai chiles or 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1" piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Heat 4 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add cardamom, fenugreek, and nigella and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, (1-2 minutes).
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add the remaining oil.
  • Add onions and cook, stirring often, until browned (10 minutes).
  • Add garlic, chiles, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant (3 minutes).
  • Add collard greens, water, and salt and pepper.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, 50-55 minutes. 
This dish is perfect for the guests that don't like spice.
I like going back and forth between the spicier Misir Wat
and this Kik Alicha to tame the spice on my own.
Kik Alicha (Mild Split Peas), adapted from The Culinary Life
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 large tomato, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. yellow split peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1" piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp bessobela (Ethiopian basil-- dried basil works too)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Wash split peas in warm water. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot, cook onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until translucent, adding water as needed.
  • Add tomatoes and garlic and cook for 5 minutes (do not let them brown or burn)
  • Add the ginger and cook for 5 more minutes (add water if necessary but don't let the mixture get soupy)
  • Add olive oil and stir until well mixed. Cook briskly, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  • Add split peas, turmeric, bessobela, cardamom, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently and adding water gradually until split peas are soft but the mixture is not watery (I would add 1/2 cup every time I see the mixture start to get dry).
Misir Wat-- I will probably try to cook mine so it is slightly thicker than in this picture
Misir Wat (Red Lentils with Berbere), adapted from Food & Wine
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1/2 lb. red lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 red onions, minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp berbere
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • In a large casserole pan, heat the olive oil.
  • Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until they are soft and just beginning to brown (8 minutes).
  • Add the garlic, ginger, berbere, nigella, cardamom, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant and deeply colored (10 minutes).
  • Add the red lentils and water and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until lentils are softened and the mixture has thickened (25 minutes).
  • Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with berbere.
Atkilt Wat usually has potatoes as well,
but Food & Wine adapted the recipe, omitting them
Atkilt Wat (Cabbage and Carrots, minus the potatoes), adapted from Food & Wine
Yield: 4 servings
  • 2 1/2 lbs green cabbage, cored and cut into 3/4" pieces
  • 1/2 lb carrots, quartered and cut into 1 1/2" lengths
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1" piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • In a large casserole pan, heat the olive oil.
  • Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until they are soft and just beginning to brown (8 minutes).
  • Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, and pepper and cook until softened and fragrant (5 minutes).
  • Add the carrots and water and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the carrots are just starting to soften (7 minutes).
  • Stir in the cabbage in large handfuls, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more. Add a little water if the pan begins to dry out.
  • Once all the cabbage has been added, cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft and tender, (30-40 minutes).
Time to Memorize: 4 days (And yes, I will be memorizing all of these)


  1. G'day and BIG thanks for "inspiring" me! I RT'ed this post and here is a photo of what I posted on my blog today! Hope you too enjoy to see!

    Cheers! Joanne

  2. My mother-in-law is Eithiopian, so I have first hand knowledge of how to eat the delicious cuisine. As for the salad, you eat it with the Injera as well. Scoop it up and Enjoy!

  3. Great Recipes. I always loved Ethiopian food and recently started cooking it myself. I found lots of recipes online that were really helpful and Ethiopian spices such as berbere and shiro from It's been a great experience. I'd say my favorite food is now spicy Misir wot