Ethiopian Flavors

Ethiopian_food

When I lived in Santa Monica, California there was a row of unique restaurants called the “Third Street Promenade”.  I loved to check them out to see what was new and different. There was this one small, quaint one that served “real” Ethiopian food.  I had never tried this type of food, so thought I would give it a try.  It tasted so delicious! I so enjoyed the split yellow peas and spicy red lentil stews, but especially the light-colored, spongy injera bread.  This was the start of my love of cultural foods.

Ethiopian food has some incredibly unique flavors.  In Ethiopia, families make one of the most frequently used spices; Berbere.  This spice is made from drying chilies in the sun for about three days and then crushing it using a pestle and mortar.  Then other spices are added to this mixture that may or may not include; onion, paprika, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg or cinnamon.  After they are added, the mixture is crushed again. And since it is homemade, families can make it with their own degree of spiciness.  Real, crushed Berbere spice contains a lot of heat, so you generally don’t need to add a lot of it.

Ethiopian food is usually not eaten on a plate or with utensils.  It is typically served on a silver tin pan or decorative basket lined with a serving of Injera bread.  A scoop of each of each food item is placed in different spots on the Injera bread.  Customers rip off sections of the bread to eat the food they desire.

Injera bread is a paper thin pancake-like bread made with teff flour.  The teff flour is a fairly dark color so usually in restaurants other flours are added to give it a nice, light color and fluffy texture.  Teff flour is extremely high in iron, high in protein, calcium and potassium and is naturally low in fat.

Below are two common Ethiopian recipes that you can make with students.  Injera bread is challenging to make so I usually purchase it from an Ethiopian market.  Try a few different kinds first before offering to students, as it can sometimes have a sour taste that isn’t very appealing.

Yemisir Wot (Berbere red lentil stew)

The berbere spice packs a lot of heat, so I generally have students only add a few tablespoons to start with.  If they like it spicier, then can add more after the recipe has cooked for at least 20 minutes.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ medium onions – finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Berbere spice
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup dried red lentils – rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper for flavor

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions. Cook approximately 7-9 minutes until onions are translucent.
  3. Add Berbere spice, ginger and garlic and then cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add lentils and cook until covered for spices (approximately 1 minute).
  5. Add water and bring recipe to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook mixture until it is a thick stew (about 30 minutes).
  7. Add salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes more.
  8. Serve with Injera bread or brown rice.

Please note: My recipes are cooked in altitude, so your cooking times may be less.

Nutrition info: Red lentil stew is an excellent source of Vitamin A, protein and fiber. It is low in calories and also a good source of Vitamin C, iron and potassium.

Kik Alicia (Yellow Split pea stew)

This is a very mild, almost sweet-like stew.  Great flavors!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ small onion – finely chopped
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon “fresh” minced ginger
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dried yellow split peas – rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper for flavor

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions. Cook approximately 7-9 minutes until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add ginger and turmeric and then cook for another minute.
  5. Add the peas and cook covered until peas are soft (approximately 1 hour).
  6. Add water and bring recipe to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook mixture until it is a thick stew (about 30 minutes).
  8. Add salt and pepper and cook for a few more minutes.
  9. Serve with Injera bread or brown rice.

Nutrition info: Yellow Split pea stew is an excellent source of fiber (almost 13 grams in 1 serving!). It is a great source of protein and a good source of iron.

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