almost injera

injera

Every year or two we try making injera bread, and are usually crushed by disappointment when it sticks to the pan, tastes weird and is just generally unsuccessful. This time it actually sort of worked.

Ethiopian lunch

Injera is a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made by souring a batter made of teff flour for several days, then cooking it like a large pancake to produce a stretchy, spongy sour bread which is perfect for mopping up spicy stews and is also used as a plate. Many cookbooks assume that you can’t get teff flour in the United States, and so suggest a blend of wheat flours. However, that adds gluten, and doesn’t really have the right flavor – teff is easier to find now that gluten-free baking is more popular, so I strongly suggest seeking it out. I also don’t recommend “quick” injera recipes that use baking soda instead of a slow yeast rise or sourdough starter. It’s not just supposed to be bubbly, you want it sour. Plan ahead!

injera batter

After trying various recipes over the years, I decided to go back to the one really traditional version that I’ve found, from Flatbreads & Flavors. When I first made it years ago, we had so much trouble cooking it there was barely any worth eating. But I had no complaints about the batter this time, it behaved perfectly and tasted just right. The cooking…was a learning experience.

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doro wat

lunch

Man, this made the house smell good. I love Ethiopian food, and as far as I know the nearest restaurant is 60 miles away, so we have to make it ourselves if we want it. This is a very simple recipe for doro wat, or chicken stew, and the only weird ingredient is the berbere powder (recipe below) – which is totally worth making yourself and keeping on hand, because it’s one of the most delicious things to add to melted butter and onions ever. Continue reading

world’s best braised cabbage

cabbage

The braised red cabbage salad we had at Gretchens the other day reminded us that we do actually like cabbage. It can, of course, be awful – and a good way to stink up your house – but it doesn’t have to be. I discovered the appeal of plain green cabbage when I lived by myself in college – I had a miniscule food budget which I spent primarily on cabbage, potatoes and a single bottle of cheap white wine that lasted me the whole term (Sutter Home, I think it was). I would saute the potatoes and cabbage, then add wine and let the whole thing simmer until tender. Not bad, and as cheap as it comes.

cabbage

Once my budget got a little healthier, though, I stopped buying cabbage as often. I would occasionally toss some in a Russian soup or make a coleslaw, but that was about it. Recently, though, I’ve become more aware of the possibilities of cabbage – especially braised. Continue reading

world's best braised cabbage

cabbage

The braised red cabbage salad we had at Gretchens the other day reminded us that we do actually like cabbage. It can, of course, be awful – and a good way to stink up your house – but it doesn’t have to be. I discovered the appeal of plain green cabbage when I lived by myself in college – I had a miniscule food budget which I spent primarily on cabbage, potatoes and a single bottle of cheap white wine that lasted me the whole term (Sutter Home, I think it was). I would saute the potatoes and cabbage, then add wine and let the whole thing simmer until tender. Not bad, and as cheap as it comes.

cabbage

Once my budget got a little healthier, though, I stopped buying cabbage as often. I would occasionally toss some in a Russian soup or make a coleslaw, but that was about it. Recently, though, I’ve become more aware of the possibilities of cabbage – especially braised.

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Ethiopian beef tartare

tartare and curds in pita

I may have mentioned my deep and abiding love for the book Flatbreads & Flavors by Toronto-based husband-and-wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It introduced us to cooking all sorts of ethnic cuisines that we might not have attempted, by making the recipes simple yet authentic. Each chapter has a limited number of recipes, but they fit together perfectly – there might be two different breads, a beef dish, a chicken dish, a vegetable and a condiment. So just from this one cookbook, you could make a feast from Georgia, the Middle East, India or Italy!

I had fallen in love with Ethiopian food from the first time I had it, at a restaurant in Minneapolis, of all places. It never occurred to me that you could make it at home – then I got this cookbook. When I made the chicken stew from it, with its simple combination of chicken, butter, cardamom, berbere paste and red wine, it was like an Ethiopian restaurant had opened in our kitchen. We’ve also made injera at home (with mixed success, frankly) and tibs wett. But our favorite go-to dish is definitely the partially-cooked beef tartare, kitfo lebleb. It’s fast, rich, and very very spicy.           

For this dish J defrosted a sirloin steak and chopped it very finely. You could certainly use ground meat but we’ve always preferred the texture of chopped. The original recipe calls for onions, but we usually leave them out. Adding mint is great if you have it, but I don’t think dried mint is a good substitute – leave it out if you don’t have fresh.

spiced curds
microplaning serranos Continue reading