Of interest is the recent story about three Ethiopian indigenous land and agriculture activists who were arrested on their way to a workshop on Food Security in Kenya. Please support the freedom of expression and activism for these individuals about their most precious resource- their land. Sign the petition here and share widely.
My second child was born in the middle of a cold blustery night during a snow storm in upstate NY. In this climate, the winter baby spends the first few months of its life experiencing the world from the sheathes of a fuzzy swaddle. And me, the mom, I feel the same as I slowly get to know this new and place that we are calling home.
During our first month at home with the baby an Ethiopian friend brought us over a homemade meal that brought much nourishment and warmth to our house and hearts. There isn’t such an outstanding Ethiopian culture here, but she told me that there are a number of really good online sources for Ethiopian food and spices that can get you what you need just about anywhere in the US. I think we will be using them a lot.
Think hot sauce. Awaze is the Ethiopian version of hot sauce, but more like a paste. I’ve seen different styles of preparation with fresh red chilies and fresh green chilies but most common is the red paste that is also sold in most Ethiopian grocery stores. If you’ve got berebere, you can easily make your own Awaze. Tinker with the proportions until you have a consistency to your liking somewhere between thick and thin. You can use awaze on everything as seasoning. It stores well in the refrigerator for up to two months.
100 gram berebere powder
200 ml white wine or t’ej
100 ml sunflower oil
Sprinkle of water to thin it out
It’s very hard to stop eating quategna. Seriously. The spicy, buttery and crispy snack is simple Ethiopian comfort food beloved by both children and mothers who can whip it up quickly over a hot fire with ingredients found in most Ethiopian kitchens. It’s reminiscent of a French Crepe but has the same savory satisfaction factor as a grilled cheese sandwich. I learned this recipe from Konjit, a woman of many talents who runs a little slice of sophistication in Addis Ababa called Asni Gallery, a café and art gallery.
Konjit had a party at her gallery one night where she introduced a new mobile kitchen that a few artists had built for her. On the hot Metad (electric injera maker) she made the injera fresh, spreading the awaze and sprinkling the seeds on top, then folding it up hot into quarters and serving it like a French crepe.
Nit’ir Quibe (Spiced, clarified butter, see recipe archive)
Injera (pre-made are fine, or you can make them fresh, see recipe archive)
Awaze (Ethiopian spice paste, see recipe archive)
Nigella seed/Black Cumin
Heat a frying pan the size of your injera (or cut the injera to fit the pan) and add a generous dollop of Nitir Q’ibe until it melts and sizzles. Add injera and working quickly spread a spoonful of Awaze evenly over the surface, sprinkle with salt, sesame seeds and nigella seeds. Wait about a minute until the injera starts to fry around the edges then fold over like you would make an omelet. At this point it’s ready to go, but you can keep it in the frying pan until it reaches your desired crispness. From the pan, you might want to blot it before cutting it into wedges or folding in quarters.
Serve with napkins and a strong drink–sweet, bitter, fizzy or caffeinated. We love it with beer and Araki, the often-home brewed anise flavored Aperitif akin to Greek Ouzo. There are in fact subtle Greek influences in Ethiopia going as far back as the 18th century, which are seen today in the Greek Orthodox Church, and a school in Addis Ababa that caters to the small Greek population. Bambi, the big import supermarket in Addis is also Greek owned, and many Greek products are imported like nuts, honey and feta cheese.
Every Ethiopian I know says that Injera, the tangy crepe like bread that is the foundation for most meals, is an addiction. Once it becomes part of your daily diet, it’s very hard to go without it. Usually families will make one big batch a few times a week. The Injera can stand at room temperature but must be wrapped to prevent them from drying out.
In Ethiopia, Injera is most often made with teff flour and there are over 40 different varieties still grown. Teff is a gluten free grain and it is becoming more readily available ground as flour outside Ethiopia. But Ethiopian Injera is not only made with teff. Regional variations are made with maize, sorghum, millet, barley and wheat flours. Outside Ethiopia, many Ethiopian commonly make Injera with wheat flour. Each flour lends its own flavor, so this recipe is very open for experimentation.
This is a basic recipe for teff Injera using an open ferment- meaning that it captures the wild yeasts and bacteria in the air. Plan for the process to take about three days. Possibly shorter if the weather is very warm. You can speed up the process by adding a pinch of yeast.
Teff Flour 1 ½ Cups
Water 2 Cups
Cooking Oil For greasing the pan
Ethiopians use a mitad which is essentially a large frying pan with cover
Make a batter by mixing together flour, salt and water in a large bowl. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Stir gently a few times each day. After two days the mixture should start to bubble- if it’s not, add a pinch of yeast. When it’s good and bubbly and has a fermented aroma, usually in three days time, it’s ready. The batter should be thick and pour-able. You can add more water if you need to thin it.
To make the Injera. Prepare the biggest frying pan you have, by heating it and spreading a thin layer of cooking oil on the surface with a cloth or brush. Using a cup, pour the batter in a circle around the circumference of the pan spiraling inward and tilting the pan to spread it thin (like you would make a crepe.) Then, quickly put a cover on the pan. I use an inverted bowl. Ideally you want something with a dome to capture the steam, which helps cook the top surface. In Ethiopia a special electric pan called a Mit’tat is used. But you can do it just fine without one. After about 2-3 minutes carefully lift the cover (it will be hot) and check the Injera. It should have bubbles formed all over the surface. When the batter is cooked through, carefully peel the Injera off the pan and stack on a clean plate covering with a damp towel. Continue until all the batter is used up. Keep the Injera stacked, and covered with plastic. They will last up to three days, the flavor getting stronger each day.