Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lets travel to Africa!

'The food is served on baskets or large platters covered in their traditional bread and eating utensil, injera. Sitting in this communal way...good conversation is carried on while picking up small amounts of foods to eat'

Having received a cookbook of the Swahili culture then longing for one of my favorite cuisines from Ethiopia I decided it is time to take a trip back and create some of my favorite dishes. First, we will visit the horn of Africa where the Ethiopian country takes up more space than my beloved home state, Texas!

A few weeks ago I went to a New Brunswick, NJ restaurant Makedas, and in that post talk about working for the Red Sea restaurant in St Louis. That is where I learned many Ethiopian cooking secrets, but also realized after researching, the owner who was Ethiopian had mingled dishes together to save time. Actually it was much better than what I experienced at Makedas, and it did save time.

Get your passport out and find out how simple the food preparation can really be, and will start with a few staples of their cooking. Joie de vivre @ An amateur gourmets guide has also signed up to take this journey with me and I hope you check out what she has made...

'my first batch I used a recipe of corn/teff flour, and we did not care for that flavor, as well as it was a bit stiff after sitting- injera should be sponge like in between a crepe and pancake size'

Injera is made with teff, a tiny, round grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. While teff is very nutritious, it contains practically no gluten. This makes teff ill-suited for making raised bread, however injera still takes advantage of the special properties of yeast. A short period of fermentation gives it an airy, bubbly texture, and also a slightly sour taste.

I had made a sour-dough starter which was needed for one of the recipes I found, but you can simply mix the teff with water, salt, mix well and let sit for up to three days. If you want to keep this starter going, then you just add a third of the mixture into a new batch of teff, and the yeast will keep going...each day you use this up...repeat. I found recipes that said you can add other flours, so next time I am going to try one with potato or rice flour, and found no starter was needed at all.

'I strain it through a moist paper towel to remove milk solids and return onions, etc into pot for vegetables'

Neter Kiba (above- seasoned Ethiopian butter). Basically you take a few pounds of chopped onions, 2 cups of butter, small amounts of garlic, turmeric, ginger, and slow cook it for 2-3 hours and then strain. When it slowly begins to heat you are making clarified butter, and it will keep for a long period of time if you skim the milk solids from the top (great for seasoning many sauted vegetables). Turmeric does stain, so be care I spilled some on the counter and it let a nice yellow reminder! (Bleach will take this off, but clothes are another story!)

Lemony Lentils are a staple in the Ethiopian diet and you make them with the Neter Kiba and a few other ingredients- lemon, chopped onions, garlic and cook them into a paste. The restaurant I worked for added chicken thighs and legs simmering until the meat is ready to fall off the bone. My Doro Aleche (non-spicy) will consist of split skin-less chicken breast...for my dislike of dark meat (I know how un-American or even southern of me!).

'A good glass of wine, pop in 'Australia'...sit back and enjoy!'

The Doro Watt (spicy) dishes contain smoked chili powder mixture called Berbere (Ethiopian hotsauce). You will see Puree of Lamb Maschii (upper right) and Vegetable Stew Aleche (upper left) on the plate. I find I have to have spicy foods almost at each meal, 'Some Like It Hot'...

'I promise you will be full and no worries about making too much injera for everyone...'

Get Ready for another day in Ethiopia next Sunday...and check out the two post before this if you had a lazy weekend and need to catch up...I made Brie, Scallop, and Figgy Focaccia and Brunch for everyone!

Email me if anyone wants these easy recipes, I always figure out shortcuts and it all tasted so