Ethiopian feast!

A few weeks ago I went out for Ethiopian with my family. I didn’t really think I liked Ethiopian food, but it turns out I do, a lot (I was even able to get behind injera, which I used to hate passionately—but it was kind of good. And now I really like it). For me it’s basically an awesome, non-Indian way to make vegetarian food. Oh, and I ended up with a lot of leftover injera that went into my freezer.

I couldn’t find any good-looking Ethiopian recipes online—or nothing that seemed reputable or something, I don’t really remember my thought process—so I ended up buying The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors, on the recommendation of

OH MY GOD I HAVE TO THROW THIS BOOK AWAY. THIS MAN IS A SEXUAL PREDATOR. OMG. EW. I really wish I had not Googled him. Well, that has clouded this entire post.

Ummmmmmmm, anyway, the Ethiopian section of this book was recommended somewhere on Serious Eats and/or Chowhound, so I bought it for super-cheap and decided to make the lentils, aka mesir wat, and collard greens, aka gomen wat. (I think “wat” is stew.) This involved also making spiced butter (niter kibbeh) and berbere sauce (berbere sauce).

The butter came first because it had to sit for forty-five minutes. This was after a long, sunny day of picnicking but not really eating much, so I was not looking forward to this. I made a very beautiful mise en place, minus the cardamom, because I can never find cardamom in supermarkets (except Fairway but that doesn’t count) and always think I have it because I confuse it with coriander but it is not even remotely close.

Clockwise-ish: garlic, onion, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric—wow, that color is NOT accurate at all—cloves, cinnamon

I melted the butter in my Dutch oven, then added the spices, ginger, etc. when it came to a boil.

Then I left it there for forty-five minutes. However, the recipe says that “milk solids will form in the bottom of the pan and they should cook until they are golden brown,” but I couldn’t tell when this happened, or else I am just terrible at seeing milk solids, because obviously and unsurprisingly I was left with a burnt sludge of milk solids and various spices after the time had elapsed. I also completely failed to strain the butter, instead just pouring it all into a bowl. It did look pretty cool, though.

While this was all going on, I prepared my collard greens by removing the stems and chopping/tearing/chiffonading the enormous leaves. I opted to add carrots because I didn’t have a ton of collards, and because carrots are good. I also prepared my peppers and measured out my spices for the berbere sauce. I was excited to finally buy some of the giant array of dried chiles my supermarket has—I got New Mexican dried chiles and chiles de puya. (Not sure what either of these things are.) I just sort of pulled off the stems and emptied out the seeds—most of them fell right out. It was really cool. They felt warm and reminded me of fruit roll-ups.

Clockwise: New Mexican dried chiles, onion powder, cumin, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, fenugreek, garlic powder, salt, puya chiles, turmeric

I next toasted the whole spices—I only had cumin seeds, cloves, and allspice in whole form; embarrassingly, I had NO whole peppercorns, and then totally forgot to add ground black pepper later on—for a minute and then put them, along with the ground spices, in my food processor/spice grinder. I added the whole dried chiles in batches. Eventually I had an enormous amount of extremely pungent spice. The recipe instructs you not to stick your face in and smell it. I actually did so by accident—I guess my face was near it and I breathed. This created a lot of discomfort and sneezing. Then I added the oil, wine, and cayenne, and mixed it into a horrifying sludge. There was a lot of sludge in this dinner endeavor.

When the butter and berbere sauce were done, I started the lentils (they had to wait for the Dutch oven). I sautéed the peppers (I used poblanos instead of Anaheims) and red onions,

and then added the lentils and water—this is somewhat streamlined from the original recipe—and everything else. I let it cook for half an hour, and obviously forgot to stir, and ended up with a lot of lentil mush stuck to the bottom. I never learn.

Sorry for the excessive iPhoto-ing. My kitchen has no light whatsoever.

Then I finally got around to finishing the collards—I just put them and the carrots in a pot with some water, cooked them until they were a bit wilted, and added the other ingredients, and cooked them until the lentils were done. I should have cooked them longer, but I tend to like my leafy greens very, very softened.

OK. That was a lot of narrative. Here are some recipes.


Spiced Butter
Halved, but otherwise not really adapted from The Frugal Gourmet

2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
3/4 tsp ground turmeric (sorry… I halved this)
1/8 tsp cardamom seeds (or not, if you don’t have any)
1 stick cinnamon, 1/2 inch long (note: it is VERY IMPOSSIBLE to cut a cinnamon stick)
A ridiculously small amount of ground nutmeg
2 whole cloves
1 lb salted butter
1/2 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic

Melt the butter and bring it to a boil. When there is a white foam on top, add all the other ingredients. Put the heat on low and cook for forty-five minutes, uncovered; DO NOT STIR, even though you will definitely want to.

It is done when the milk solids at the bottom are golden-brown (the butter will be clear). (Don’t ask me for help on this. I did it wrong.)

Strain the mixture through cheesecloth in a colander. Discard the milk solids.


Berbere Sauce
Not really adapted from The Frugal Gourmet

2 tsp cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (again, or not)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (I used 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek instead)
1/2 c dried onion flakes (I used 1/4 c onion powder; not sure this is a legit substitution)
3 oz red New Mexican dried chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 small dried long hot red chiles, seeded
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 c olive or peanut oil
1/2 c dry red wine
Cayenne pepper to taste

Mix together the seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly for about one minute, until fragrant; do not burn.

Put all ingredients, except oil, wine, and cayenne, in a food processor/spice grinder/coffee grinder. Don’t stick your face in and breathe.

Put the spice blend in a bowl and add oil and wine, and cayenne to taste. Stir.


Ethiopian Lentils
Streamlined and halved from The Frugal Gourmet

1 c dried lentils (I used red because I like them better and I had them)
2 c water
~1/4 c seeded and chopped Anaheim green peppers (or poblanos)
1 c chopped red onion
1/8 c spiced butter
1.5 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed (oops, I used my pre-minced garlic)
1.5 tsp berbere sauce

Sauté the pepper and onion in the spiced butter until tender. Add the lentils, water, and everything else and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, 30–40 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I added some lemon juice and salt the next day, which improved things.)


Collard Greens and Carrots
Adapted from The Frugal Gourmet (his version is Collard Greens and Spiced Cheese)

~ 1 lb collard greens, stems removed, leaves chopped
~.5 lb carrots, chopped loosely
1/2 c water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic
1/4 c spiced butter
2 tbsp chopped yellow onion

Cook the greens and carrots in the water until wilted; add everything else and cook, stirring occasionally so nothing burns to the bottom of the pan, for at least twenty minutes or until desired tenderness.


Final note: If you happen to have injera in the freezer, the best way I found to resuscitate it is to microwave it VERY briefly to thaw, and then toast it for a very short time, just until warm.

3 thoughts on “Ethiopian feast!

    • Yes, but I wanted it to be slightly better, considering the amount of work involved. I feel like it should definitely have been more flavorful and interesting considering what all went into it. But this is a common criticism I make of my food, so I don’t know if I’m just not salting enough or something.

  1. I made “mesir wat” today (didn’t spice the butter and used berbere mix from the health food store) and ate it with the “foccacia” (way too puffy) I made last week. Each on its own was merely ok. Together? DELICIOUS.

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