Ethiopian Food!

I am easily excited, to be sure. Lately I have been longing for injera – the staple Ethiopian bread.

On our trips to Montreal we have visited Le Nil Blue and Abiata, two wonderful Ethiopian restaurants. Your food is served on injera-covered plates, with some rolled and sliced injera on the side as well – no cutlery! For those who have not had injera, it is similar to a fermented pancake and crumpet – the batter is fermented for several days to make it tangy, and then cooked in a large pan, but isn’t flipped – it should develop lots of little airy holes, like a crumpet.

Injera is also gluten free, so it won’t kill any of yee celiac folx. You can pick up tef flour at the Co-Op for $3.19/lb in the bulk section.

After setting a bowl of goop (afterall, it’s just tef flour and water with a smidge of yeast) aside to ferment, I got wildly excited and kept yakking Albany John’s ears off about how we’d have injera. And then realized that maaayyybbbeee I should also prepare some food to go with it.

You see, I was so excited, because I noticed an Ethiopian cook book on the shelves when I was last at the library – hooray! I also managed to borrow the Alinea book of molecular gastronomy, but I seriously doubt I will be able to make any of those recipes – ai yah! C’est plus complexe!

The book is called Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by Daniel Mesfin. It’s got a nice variety of recipes and information, although some directions aren’t clear. It’s a small, soft covered, green book.

After tending to the teff, I noticed most of the recipes had berbere listed as an ingredient. I definitely couldn’t just toss in some hot sauce or pepper flakes as a good substitute. I’d think it would be like tossing turmeric in a dish and calling it curry.

I wiggled around with the recipes a bit. This is probably the most bastardized form of all though, because the original recipe called for 15 POUNDS of peppers. So I scaled things down a lot and subbed a few ingredients. I had never heard of rue seed, bishop’s weed or holy basil before now, but now perhaps I should try and find them.

Creative(uh, yeah, sure, that’s it) though it may be, this berbere is spicy hot and well rounded. Another neat thing about this book was that it referred to berbere as red pepper most of the time, which makes me wonder more if berbere is something set in stone, or something with more wiggle room, like hot sauces and bbq – are there general similar tastes, but there can be variances as well?

This is Ayib be Gomen – Collard Greens Mixed in Spiced Cottage Cheese. It was the simplest recipe, and also quite tasty. The greens are chopped, boiled, and mixed with cottage cheese. I cooked these ahead of time and left them to cool in the fridge. They were nicely cool and crisp – a good contrast to our hot, spicy dishes.

There were a lot of diced onions in these recipes. Lots. This book called for only red onions, but I subbed yellow for the dried fish and thought it was just dandy.

Dinich We’t – This is a potato dish. I think after reading the recipe I completely made this one differently(the original called for a lot of ground meat, which I omitted). Even I have no clue how I did it, but I’ll do it again. It is primarily spiced with berbere – spicy, but I didn’t put that much in there. Otherwise I would have seared off my tastebuds. The original recipe called for a cup.

I wish I knew what was going on in my head, but I probably wouldn’t call this dinich we’t since it is so inauthentic to the original recipe. There’s got to be some other name for a meat-less potato dish.

Ye’assa Zilbo – Dried fish Stew. Dried fish stew! Yummy! This was probably my favorite of the dishes. Salty (I only soaked it once), buttery and just plain good. This would have been good with injera. It was soft and was soaked up nicely by rice.

Wait, but Albany Jane, I thought you were making injera?
Oh, I know. I was. But then the stupid batter decided not to set up. Like, at ALL. Even after cooking it for several minutes – the suckers were so very runny. This was the only stinker of the bunch, so really, it’s not bad – all the other recipes were wonderful so it’s a good trade off. We ate everything with rice instead. But seriously, Tej(Albany John named the fermenting goo Tej, like after the wine), I spent 3 days on you – all that wonderful sourness gone.

Mooooving right along we have diced cube steak. This was about a pound to 1.5 pounds of meat. I chopped it very finely because if eating with your hands, you wouldn’t want to get large hunks of meat – it’s nicer to keep it all uniform.

Yesiga T’ibs – Meat Cooked in Spice & Red Pepper. The mixings. The meat dish of the night came together very quickly. Chop chop, sizzle sizzle, and 15 minutes later this dish was complete. And delicious. So many flavors – beefy, a bit sweet, spicy (and spiced), and saucy.

I really liked this dish – it was just so warm and spicy – good for just about any time of the year. Practically mincing the meat was a pain in the ass, but the small pieces of meat were so texturally pleasant as to make it worth it.

Tada! All in a bowl! From the left going counter-clockwise: green stuff – Collards, fish stew, beef, potatoes.
Albany John invited my brother and sister-in-law over, and one of our other friends also came by. I’m sure glad they all did, since this was so much food! It fed 5 people very well. Our friend was also awesome and brought the vino – we haven’t been drinking much lately and I completely forgot the beef recipe needed it. Yay for saving the day!

Recipes (this is going to be a doozy!):


3 Cascabel Peppers – seeded
3 Ancho Peppers – seeded
1 t cumin seed – toasted
½ t cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 Red onion – minced
4 cloves garlic – minced
1” Ginger – peeled and minced
kosher salt
(2-4 T?) Handful dried basil

Combine peppers with cloves and cumin seed in a spice grinder and process until a fine powder. (Or use a mortar and pestle)

Add remaining ingredients and mix well for several minutes to fully combine. I used a semi-textured bowl to rough the mixture up a bit and get things mushed together.

Ayib be Gomen – Collard Greens Mixed in Spiced Cottage Cheese

1 lb collard greens
1 lb cottage cheese
1 t black pepper
2 T butter

Chop collards and boil in 6 C water for 5-10 minutes (I did 7).

Drain Well.

Melt butter in a pan with black pepper. Turn off heat. Add collards and toss to coat. Combine with cottage cheese and refrigerate to store.

Yesiga T’ibs – Meat Cooked in Spice & Red Pepper

1.5 lbs beef – cubed/minced
4 T butter
1.5 C red onions – diced
1/3 – ½ C berbere
¼ t garlic powder
½ C red wine

Cook onions dry (no fat in pan) until they turn slightly brown and red.

Add butter and berbere. Stir around a bit.

Add beef and cook 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot.

Ye’assa Zilbo – Dried fish Stew

2 dried fish fillets, soaked
2 C yellow onions – diced
½ t fenugreek
¼ t berbere
1-2 T butter
1 t fresh garlic – minced
½ t fresh ginger – minced
2 C water

Brown onions with fenugreek in a dry pan, adding a bit of water if they dry out.

Add berbere and butter and mix well.

Add fish and water. Simmer 15 minutes or so – until fish flakes and liquid thickens.

Potato Dish (originally Dinich We’T, but upon review, I really veered from there at some point)

2 C red onions – diced
5 medium potatoes – peeled and diced
4 T butter
¼ C berbere
¼ t ginger
¼ t garlic
½ C water

Brown onions and potatoes with butter in a large pan over medium or medium-low heat.

Add berbere, ginger and garlic. Cover to cook

Periodically stir and add water if the potatoes are sticking.

  1. Grace said:

    count ethiopian food among the cuisines i haven’t tried. i’ve heard about the injera, and i think their method of eating using the bread is awesome. great spread. 🙂

  2. i love ethiopian food. everything looks amamzing. xcept for fish stew. but you i have a seafood intolerance.there used to an amazing ethiopian restaurant in White River Junction, VT and they had great fish balls and chai and lots of great vegetarian dishes. sadly they couldn’t afford the rent and the lack of support from the community : (

  3. Alex said:

    Now that’s a food-blog post! Noice.

  4. JMP said:

    Thanks AJ! Every other injera recipe I’ve found uses both teff and wheat flour. I’m glad you found one that’s pure teff.

  5. Amy said:

    Oh dang it. When I saw the title I thought maybe someone had finally opened an Ethiopian restaurant here. But I guess Albany is still a “make your own” kind of town for that cuisine. Maybe in another 20 years. Sigh….

  6. Grace – often, the bread is what first gets me hookedphairhead – nooooo!Boots – yum, that looks delish! (and oh c’mon – this is so up your alley)Alex – Albany John goes “Haha, Alex rocks – he says ‘noice’ NOICE!”jmp – now if only it were a successful recipe. LesighAmy – sorry to get your hopes up! I would learn backflips if we had ethiopian food here!celina – no kiddin’! My fingers were allllmost numb.

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