Craig and I both love Ethiopian food. It’s funny. Ethiopian seems to be a pretty polarizing cuisine, but we both really enjoy the flavors. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Ethiopian restaurants in the greater Seattle area, and none in our part of town. So for a weeknight meal, we tend to be better off just making it on our own.
But it takes some planning. First, Ethiopian really isn’t Ethiopian without Injera bread. That’s the spongy, flat, slightly greyish sourdough pancake that you use to eat the rest of the meal (btw – Ethiopian is finger food!) Injera is made out of Teff Flour, a gluten free grain. If you’re hardcore and serious, you make a teff flour starter, then feed it. I made 2 attempts at starters using organic teff flour and chlorine-free bottled spring water and had them mold… both times. So now I just use a little glob of my normal wheat-based sourdough starter and feed off of that. It might not be gluten free, but neither Craig nor myself have any appreciable negative reaction to wheat flour, so I went with the easy way. So I started probably a week in advance, feeding the starter almost every morning and evening (or whenever I remembered) with a little teff flour and a little spring water, til my 16oz bag was nearly empty (then I knew it was time to make the Injera). I fed it in the morning, then had Craig feed it around 4pm so it’d be humming by the time I made it home and got to cooking. When I got home, I added enough water to thin it out to a running pancake batter consistency, and got to cookin!
Cooking the injera is easy enough. I have a well-seasoned cast iron pancake griddle that doesn’t get much use, but it was the perfect implement for this. There is such thing as an injera griddle, but I do not make it often enough to justify buying and storing another pan that only has one use. Anyway, you pour out about a third of a cup of batter as you swirl the pan around, then cover and allow the bread to steam. I cook mine on low, 2-3 out of 10. After it has steamed for a few minutes and appears set, remove the lid and let the moisture around the edges evaporate. Once the edges have begun curling up a little, remove the pancake from the pan by sliding a thin spatula around the edges(I like to use an offset spatula designed for frosting cakes). Then hit the pan with an oily paper towel to ensure that the pan is adequately but sparingly lubricated, and start over til you’re out of batter. I stacked my pancakes on a plate and then covered the whole shebang with a sheet of foil to keep it moist.
For the Mesir Wat (tasty lentil goodness)
Makes about 2 quarts
- 2 small or 1 large white or yellow onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon(ish) peeled ginger
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne (if you like your food spicier, add more cayenne)
- 1 lb lentils (red lentils preferred)
- 4 cups water or stock
- salt to taste
- Throw onion, garlic, and ginger in a blender or food processor, add as much water as necessary to get a smooth puree.
- In a medium dutch oven/pot, melt your butter over medium-low heat and then add spices. Toast until they start to get fragrant.
- Add onion puree and cook some of the extraneous moisture out, stirring regularly
- Rinse your lentils, then add to pot, stir to combine with spicy onion puree, then add water and some salt. I ran out of red lentils and substituted half of the lentils with green ones. Since green lentils tend to hold together better, the mesir wat had a slightly more interesting texture, but the color was pretty offputting.
- Bring to a low simmer, the turn down heat to maintain simmer. Cook 30-40 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are soft.
This would be a great dish to make ahead of time. It doesn’t degrade at all after a few days in the fridge
For the Doro Wat (tasty chicken goodness)
Makes about 1.5 quarts
I will first tell you that this is delicious, but also pretty far from being “authentic.” Real Doro Wat is made with bone-in pieces of chicken. Craig and I are both pretty lazy, and I almost always have boneless skinless chicken thighs in the freezer, so I stuck with that. Not having to remove sauce-covered meat from bones with your hands is easier for me. The only futzy thing with this (and the reason that I initially put off making it in the first place) is the spice mixture, berbere. You can get it at specialty spice shops and stuff, but otherwise, you’ll have to make it yourself. But it’s surprisingly easy to make. I threw everything into my blender and let it run for several minutes. It all broke down beautifully, and left me with plenty of mixture to make this more than a few additional times. But buying some of the more uncommon spices, like fenugreek is kind of silly. Most of my local grocery stores have bulk spice sections, so I was able to just buy as much fenugreek, etc. as I needed. Anyway, I’m telling you this because it is SO worth it.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 small or 1 large white or yellow onions, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (maybe 2lbs?)
- 4-6 tablespoons berbere
- 1/4 cup wine, variety isn’t important as long as it’s not sweet. Red or white are both fine.
- 1-2 cups water
- Optional: A few hard (or soft) boiled eggs, peeled & quartered
- Melt butter over medium/low heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven.
- Add onion to butter, and cook over medium/low for 20 minutes until onion begins to slowly caramelize
- Add garlic and ginger after onion has cooked down and begun deepening in color. Cook until softened, 2-5 minutes
- While the onions cook down, cut your chicken into hunks. I probably averaged 8 or so per thigh.
- When the onion mixture has softened, add 4 tablespoons of berbere, and stir to combine, cook until spices become fragrant, then add chicken.
- Splash your wine in, stir well. Then add just enough water to begin to come up along the sides of the chicken. The chicken will leak moisture as it cooks.
- Simmer, with lid off until chicken is cooked through. I often end up with too much liquid at this point, and remove the chicken from the sauce (to avoid overcooking it) and reduce the sauce down until it begins to thicken up
- Add your chicken back into your onion and spice mixture, add optional eggs (they actually add a really nice texture when you get one in a bite). Allow to marry for a few moments while you prepare the rest of your plate.
I generally will pop my foil covered plate of injera in the oven on low along with plates to warm up about 10 minutes before dinner is ready. Then it’s just a matter of a double layer of injera, and piling on the toppings!