Quick look: Ethiopian food can seem intimidating, especially with long names like ye’tshom kwalima kwas, or white-bean sausage dumplings, and ye’denich be’kaysir atakilt, or tender potatoes with pickled beets and onion in a lime vinaigrette. Portland food blogger Kittee Berns – http://kitteekake.blogspot.com – demystifies these dishes in her new softbound book.
What’s inside: Ethiopian cuisine is characterized by colorful – often spicy – dishes and communal eating. Food is pinched by hand using spongy flatbread, or injera. It’s traditionally made from teff, the ancient grain that lends its name to the title of this 186-page book.
Recipes are divided into 13 chapters such as breakfast, appetizers and snacks, cooked vegetables and casseroles, beverages and sweets, and tibs, or stir-fries, as well as others. The introduction includes an overview of ingredients as well as a grocery list in both English and Amharic. Recipes titles are given first in Amharic, then followed with an English explanation – from ayib, or a soft, cultured vegan cheese, and azifa, tangy lentil salad, to ye’selit fitfit, or torn injera soaked in a seasoned sesame seed sauce.
Berns has “veganized” several recipes, dubbing them “new Ethiopian,” as well as included a few fusion recipes. These feature Ethiopian flavors added to nontraditional foods. (Spiced teff snickerdoodles or mocha teff brownies, anybody?)
Berns offers serving tips as well as tips for cooking for a crowd and time-saving measures. There’s a list of resources and suppliers in the back. .
What’s Not: Most recipes aren’t accompanied by photographs. Rather, there’s about a half-dozen color photos showing several recipes at once, typically served on injera.
From “Teff Love” by Kittee Berns
This recipe produces dishes that are lighter in flavor than those that contain imported ground berbere, but Berns said in her book they’re still full of flavor. For more heat, add more cayenne. Berns said she has found 1 ½ teaspoons makes a moderately hot paste that’s similar to the heat of imported berbere.
2 tablespoons organic canola oil
1/3 cup minced onion
6 cloves garlic, pressed or grated (about 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole nigella seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon whole ajwain seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoons whole fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon husked green cardamom seeds
1/4 cup New Mexico Chili Powder (See recipe below)
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, plus more if desired
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 large fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup water
Put 1 tablespoon of the oil and the minced onion, garlic, ginger and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning, until the onion is soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or mini food processor.
Put the remaining tablespoon of oil and the coriander, cloves, optional seeds, fenugreek and cardamom in the same saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Quickly add the chili powder, granulated onion, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer. Transfer to the blender and add the basil and water. Process into a thick, smooth paste. Taste and add up to 2 tablespoons additional cayenne, ½ teaspoon at a time, if desired.
Yield: ¾ cup
New Mexico Chili Powder
From “Teff Love” by Kittee Berns
Stem, seed and vein 1 ½ ounces of dried New Mexico chilies. Grind the chilies in an electric coffee mill or spice grinder until powdered.
Yield: ¼ cup
Ersho (Teff Sourdough Starter)
From “Teff Love” by Kittee Berns
1 1/2 cups teff flour, any variety
1 1/2 cups filtered water, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Day 1: Combine 1 cup of the flour, 1 cup of the water, and the yeast in a large nonreactive bowl and whisk until smooth and well combined. Cover with a plate or clean, dry tea towel and put the bowl on a rimmed baking tray to catch any overflow (the mixture will bubble, rise and fall). Let it rest undisturbed in a warm, draft-free place for 24 hours. In cooler months, you can put it in an unheated oven or on top of the refrigerator.
Day 2: If any liquid has accumulated on the surface, carefully pour it off (it’s OK if it’s dark). Gently stir the bubbly mixture, incorporating any batter clinging to the sides of the bowl or plate. If you used a tea towel and it gets wet at any point, replace it with a dry one. Mix in ¼ cup of the flour and stir gently until smooth and well blended. Cover the bowl again and let it rest undisturbed in a warm, draft-free place for another 24 hours.
Day 3: Before starting this step, read the troubleshooting tips that follow the recipe. In hot weather, skip this step and go directly to Day 4.
If any liquid has accumulated on the surface, carefully pour it off (it’s OK if it’s dark). Gently stir the bubbly mixture again, incorporating any stray batter. Add the remaining ¼ cup of filtered water and stir to combine. If you’ve poured off any liquid, add a little bit more water; the starter should be the consistency of pancake batter. Cover again and let it rest undisturbed in a warm, draft-free place for 24 hours longer.
Day 4: If any liquid has accumulated on the surface, carefully pour it off (it’s OK if it’s dark). Stir once more, gently incorporating any stray batter. Use immediately to make injera.
• In hot weather, the starter has a tendency to over-ferment and may become too sour. To avoid this, skip Day 3 and move directly to Day 4 (you’ll be decreasing the fermentation time by 24 hours and the flour by ¼ cup.
• Be sure that everything that comes in contact with the starter is clean, including all utensils, dishes, and especially your hands and fingernails; otherwise, you might introduce bacteria that could ruin the starter. There should never be any visible mold on the starter; if you see any, discard the batter and start over.
• Leftover starter can be kept in a clean, dry jar, loosely covered in the refrigerator. When you plan to use some of the starter, bring it to room temperature, feed it with equal amounts of teff flour and filtered water (Berns usually adds 2 to 4 tablespoons of each), and let it rest in a warm spot for 24 hours. Stir the starter. If it’s bubbly and active, proceed with the recipe; otherwise, toss it out and start over.
Yield: 1 ¼ cups
Note: For smaller portions, this recipe can be easily halved.
Calories: 678; protein: 24.0 g; total fat: 6.0 g; saturated fat: 0.0 g; cholesterol: 0.0 mg; sodium: 30 mg; carbohydrates: 132.0 g; fiber: 24.0 g
Ye’tef Injera (Teff Sourdough Crepes)
From “Teff Love” by Kittee Berns
This recipe makes injera that are smaller than those found in restaurants, making them more manageable to cook. If you’ve already made Ersho, homemade injera will take an additional 36 hours to ferment before they can be cooked.
3 cups teff flour, any variety (see note)
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
5 tablespoons Ersho, at room temperature (see recipe above)
4 cups filtered water, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Day 1: Make the injera batter. Sift the flour and fenugreek into a large nonreactive bowl. Add the Ersho starter and water and whisk until smooth and well blended. Cover with a plate or a clean, dry tea towel, and let rest undisturbed in a warm, draft-free place for 24 hours. In cooler months, you can put it in an unheated oven or on top of the refrigerator.
Day 2: If any liquid has accumulated on the surface, carefully pour it off (it’s OK if it’s dark). Gently stir the bubbly mixture, incorporating any batter clinging to the sides of the bowl or plate. If you used a tea towel and it gets wet at any point, replace it with a dry one. Measure out ½ cup of the batter and transfer it to a small saucepan. Cook the batter over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid evaporates and the batter turns into a thick, rubbery dough (once the pan gets hot, this will only take 2 to 3 minutes). Immediately remove from the heat and spread the dough out onto a ceramic plate and let cool for 5 minutes. Return the cooked dough to the bowl of teff batter and blend using an immersion blender until smooth and bubbly. Alternatively, blend in batches using a food processor or blender and return the batter to the bowl. The batter should be the consistency of a thick slurry or crepe batter; if it seems too thick, whisk in a little filtered water to thin it out. Cover the bowl again and let it rest undisturbed in a warm, draft-free place for another 24 hours. In cooler months, you can put it in an unheated oven or on top of the refrigerator. A few hours after blending, you should notice that the batter has risen and is actively bubbling.
Day 3: If any liquid has accumulated on the surface, carefully pour it off (it’s OK if it’s dark). Add the salt and gently stir to combine; it should be the consistency of a thick slurry or thin crepe batter. If it’s too thick, add a small amount of filtered water as needed to thin.
To cook the injera: Heat a nonstick flat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Line a counter or table with a large, clean, dry tea towel. Keep another dampened tea towel nearby.
Form the injera by pouring 1/3 cup of the batter into a disk on the hot griddle. Use the back of a small spoon to quickly and lightly smooth the batter into a 7-inch disk, starting in the center and working in concentric circles until you reach the edges (try to keep the center of the crepe the thickest and the edges the thinnest). The disk should be about ¼-inch thick.
Cover the pan and cook the injera for 3 minutes (do not flip it, as injera are only cooked on one side). Fully cooked, the injera should be dry on the top with little holes that have formed over the entire surface; the bottom should be firm, smooth and unbrowned. Depending on your cookware and stove, you’ll most likely need to adjust the heat to achieve this. Use a flat, flexible spatula to loosen the injera and then quickly transfer it to the towel-lined surface. Cover it with another clean, dry tea towel.
Use the dampened towel to wipe off any visible starch on the pan or griddle. Repeat the cooking process until the batter is used up. As they cool, the injera will develop a spongy texture, and they can be stacked without sticking.
Once they’re completely cooled, wrap them in a clean, dry tea towel and store them in a tightly closed zip-tie bag. Be certain that the injera are dry; otherwise the bag will collect moisture and the injera will spoil. If you notice any condensation, open the bag to air it out.
Yield: 16 (7-inch) injera
Note: Injera made from whole-grain brown teff will be a deep chocolate-brown color. If you want lighter injera that look similar to those served in Ethiopian restaurants, use ivory teff flour.
Calories: 96; protein: 3.0 g; total fat: 1.0 g; saturated fat: 0.0 g; cholesterol: 0.0 mg; sodium: 39 mg; carbohydrates: 19.0 g; fiber: 3.0 g