Tag Archives: ethiopian food

Ethiopian Food, Part 3: Mesir Wat

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For a little while, I thought I was just going to share a slew of Ethiopian food recipes with you. We got started… then life happened and somehow today is October?! With school in full swing, football and water polo both also heavily in effect, time seems scarce. We’ve been traveling a lot, mostly relative to the kids’ sport events, but typically this means a very fast paced drive out of town, rush to events, drive back to town, drive to more events… and by the end of those three or so day stretches, the last thing my brain is coherent enough to do is write down recipe that make any sense.

Regardless, here we are! And I’m bringing you a delicious Ethiopian lentil stew that is perhaps one of my favorite dishes when it comes to such cuisine. Lentils are super easy to deal with and pack a good bit of nutrition. They help lower blood cholesterol due to high amounts of soluble fiber (such fiber also being excellent for preventing digestive disruptions). They’re great for folks with diabetes, as the same soluble fiber traps carbohydrates, which stabilizes blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion. They have a decent amount of proteins and iron, too!

There are many different types of “wat” or “wot” when it comes to Ethiopian food, which basically translates to a stew or curry. When it comes to mesir wat, red lentils are cooked until thick and creamy with berbere spice, creating a very hearty and comforting dish. The addition of berbere makes this dish slightly spicy, but mainly very flavorful.

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Ethiopian Food, Part 3: Mesir Wat [Pureed Red Lentil Stew]

Serves 4-6 people.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
2 cups water
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons berbere spice
salt and pepper

Directions:

Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and puree. Add a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the berbere spice, rapidly stirring, enough to color the oil and cook spices through, about 30 seconds.

Add the onion puree and sauté until the excess moisture evaporates and the onion loses its raw aroma, about 5-10 minutes, being sure not to burn the mixture. Add the lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, falling apart, (30 to 40 minutes). Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out.

Stir in salt and pepper to taste and then serve.

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Ethiopian Food, Part 2: Ingudai Tibs

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Although its taken a couple decades, generally I can appreciate mushrooms these days. Most often it’s on pizza like this one but when we had Ethipian food for the first time, there was a mushroom dish that was pleasantly spicy, savory, and delicious. Probably my favorite from that entire meal.

When I decided to make Ethiopian food at home, I knew I wanted to recreate some version of that dish. I researched traditional dishes and didn’t find what I wanted. There were many recipes for tibs, a dish that typically refers to cubes of meat such as beef, poultry, or lamb. There’s room for differences recipe to recipe, including the amount of spiciness, the inclusion or submission of vegetables, the cuts of meat used.

The meatiness of mushrooms makes them a great substitution for meat in vegetarian recipes. I like crimini mushrooms a lot, as they are essentially tiny portabello mushrooms and withstand sauces while maintaining some texture. This dish is spicy, but if you’d like less heat, you can decrease the amount of berbere used. Next week I will share a couple other dishes you can pair with these ingudai tibs to serve with injera for a delicious vegetarian Ethiopian meal.

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Ingudai Tibs (Mushroom Tibs)

Serves 5-6.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 an onion, julienned
10-12 medium sized crimini mushrooms, sliced into strips
1/2 a large tomato, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced fine
one 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled then minced fine
3 tablespoons of berbere spice
1 tablespoon water
salt, pepper, dried or fresh parsley

Directions:
In a pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the julienned onion, tossing to coat with the oil. Cook just until the onions starts becoming tender (1-2 minutes). Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms start turning color (1-2 minutes), then add the tomato wedges. Add the minced garlic and ginger.

Stir together the berbere spice and water, until you form a thick paste. Stir the paste into the mushroom mixture, until everything is evenly coated.

Add a pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, and a generous pinch of parsley. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Serve with injera.

Ethiopian Food, Part 1: Injera and Berbere Spice Blend

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One benefit of having kids around who are adventurous eaters is it often means trying new foods. Two summers ago, we were in Berkeley, California and decided to go out for sit-down-style dinner. There was an Ethiopian restaurant down the street and both kids were eager to check it out. I was hesitant, as I didn’t even know what “Ethiopian food” meant as far as cuisine — would there be enough vegetarian options to make it worth the effort? I was pleasantly surprised.

When you enter an Ethiopian restaurant, there is no silverware involved. The entire meal is eaten with your hands. Likely, the dishes will be served on a platter lined with injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread made with teff flour. Injera looks like a big, spongy pancake, about the size of a pizza, but tastes like a mild sourdough bread. Essentially, it’s a large sourdough crepe. The food will be served in a ring of mounds on the injera like a painter’s palette, accompanied by more injera which you tear off into pieces, then use to pinch the different stews on the platter.

Injera is a source of protein and vitamins, but also your serving utensil. The flatbread made from teff is incredibly high in fiber, iron and calcium. It has all the amino acids required to be a complete protein, but it’s also gluten-free. When eating Ethiopian food, it’s expected that you’ll simply tear off a piece of injera, grab some food with it, roll it up, pop the whole thing into your mouth and repeat until finished.

Another quintessential part of Ethiopian cuisine is a spice blend referred to as berbere. Berbere is an integral spice blend in Ethiopian cuisine. Full of both flavor and fiery heat, this brightly colored, highly aromatic seasoning blend is a staple in any Ethiopian kitchen. It’s used as a rub for meats, poultry, or fish, as well as a seasoning for stews, soups, grains and vegetables.

Here are two recipes — one for a homemade berbere spice blend and another for homemade injera. Coming up shortly, I’ll share with you a few different Ethiopian dishes you can serve with the injera, which uses the berbere spice blend you can find here.

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Berbere Spice Blend

Yields about 1/2 cup spice blend.

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 whole allspice berries
seeds from 8 whole cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
10 dried red chiles, seeds removed (Thai chiles work well)
6 tablespoons sweet paprika (NOT smoked)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons turmeric

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Directions:

In a heavy bottomed skillet, toast the whole spices and chilies (the first 8 listed ingredients), over high heat, shaking the pan to prevent scorching. Toast until fragrant, 3 or so minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let the mixture cool completely.

Once the spices are cooled, grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. Add all remaining ground spices and salt, then grind everything together.

Store in an air-tight container until needed.

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Injera

Ingredients:
1/2 cup teff flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Put the teff flour in a large mixing bowl, then sift in the all-purpose flour. Slowly stir in the water, trying to avoid any lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 3 days.

The mixture should become bubbly and frothy over the few days. If it doesn’t appear to ferment on its own, you can add a teaspoon of yeast after the first day.

After three days, stir the salt into the batter.

Heat a nonstick pan (make sure the surface of the pan is smooth) or lightly oiled cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, until a water drop will dance on the surface.

Spoon about 1/4-cup of batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. Injera should be thicker than a crêpe, but not as thick as a traditional pancake. Cover the pan and cook briefly, until holes form in the injera and the edges lift from the pan (2-3 minutes).

Remove the injera and let cool. Place plastic wrap or foil between successive pieces so they don’t stick together. Continue until all the batter has been cooked.

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