I love a great many foods and a great many cuisines, but there are a handful for which I have a full-out obsession. My craving for these foods gets a desperate, addicted edge to it; once I start thinking about them, I can’t rest until I get what I need.
One of these cuisines is Ethiopian food. I don’t know when I first tasted it, or when my casual enjoyment of it morphed into a dangerous addiction. All I know is that I want it. I need it. Now.
Luckily, I live in a city that supposedly has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia, so my cravings can be satisfied with relative ease. Unlike, say, in Alabama—there are no Ethiopian restaurants in the entire state, so pretty much every time I went to Atlanta, I made a beeline for Ethiopian. And recently, I’ve discovered that some of my favorite Ethiopian dishes are not difficult to make at home. I really wish I’d known this when I lived in Alabama.
Several months ago, I took an Ethiopian cooking class with the lovely Skillet Takes. At this class, I learned two helpful things: (1) Ethiopian restaurants generally buy premade berbere spice mix, rather than mixing their own; and (2) Ethiopian restaurants generally buy injera, the wonderful sour spongy bread-plate made from teff, rather than making their own. And hey, if that’s what the pros do, then it’s certainly good enough for me. DC has tons of Ethiopian markets selling both these products (I bought a giant package of injera at Meaza, a great restaurant and market in Falls Church), and once you’ve bought them, your ordinary lentil stew is transformed into Ethiopian food. Your life may never be the same.
Misir Wot (spicy lentil stew)
Adapted from Little Ethiopia Restaurant
1 cup red lentils
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbs berbere
salt to taste
Wash lentils and set aside.
Heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook for ten minutes; add garlic, ginger, and berbere. Add 2 Tbs of water and mix, to keep spices from sticking.
Add lentils and 1 cup water. Bring to boil, then simmer until lentils have disintegrated, about 1/2 hour. Add more water as necessary. Salt to taste.
Gomen (stewed collard greens)
From African Kitchen
1 large bunch collard greens, about 1½ pounds
¼ c niter kebbeh (see recipe below) or oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 fresh hot peppers, seeded and minced (or to taste)
1 cup broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cardamom
Tear stems from collard greens, and wash greens well. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add greens to water and boil briskly for 15 minutes. Drain, squeezing water from greens. When cool enough to handle, slice them thinly.
In a large skillet or stir fry pan, melt the niter kebbeh (or oil). Add onion, garlic, ginger and hot peppers and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add collard greens, broth, salt, pepper and cardamom. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until most of water has evaporated from pan.
1 pound unsalted butter
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 thyme sprigs
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. As foam rises to the top, skim it off and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek seeds, cumin, cardamom seeds, oregano, turmeric, and thyme and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and let stand until the spices settle, about 40 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using.
Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. [or frozen]