For the third recipe challenge in Around the World in 12 Plates, we headed to Ethiopia! The cuisine of this country was the one I was least familiar with so far. In fact, I’ve never even eaten in an Ethiopian restaurant (bows head in shame). I was eager to understand a new culture and I learned so much! The most important thing we learned for Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia — they put berbere in everything!
Seriously, of the five recipes we cooked, three of them contained large amounts of this spice blend. Berbere is a key element in the cuisine of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. We were able to pick up some of the blend at Desta Market on the Danforth where we found several ingredients. If you don’t have an Ethiopian market nearby, check out this recipe for Berbere by Chef Marcus Samuelson. It requires a lot of spices, but most are easy to get.
The recipes we used
Through my research, I learned all meals are eaten on shared platters; some meat and some vegetarian. So for Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia we used four recipes from a variety of sources to make up our platter. The main dish and centre of our platter was key wat, a simple beef stew. I used this recipe from A Duck’s Oven, a travel and food blog. The two other wats, or stews, came from the same blog, The Gourmet Gourmand. The misir wat is a red lentil stew, and the shiro wat is a stew-sauce type dish made with chickpea flour. We also made two salads — a traditional green salad and a tomato salad — using the recipes from this 2014 Toronto Star article.
I also discovered popcorn is a popular snack in Ethiopia, so naturally we had some! Guess what the popcorn is tossed in? You guessed it: berbere! It was a delicious twist and added a great punch to the freshly popped corn. We used this Ethiopian Style Spicy Popcorn recipe from the Wander Cooks blog.
Ethiopian eating etiquette
Rule number one when eating from a sharing platter: don’t lick your fingers! This sounds like a no brainer but when you’re all up in that plate, it’s harder than you think to not lick the delicious sauce off your fingers. Injera is a key element in Ethiopian cuisine as the plate and as a utensil, using small pieces to scoop up the food and put it in your mouth. This spongy bread is made from teff flour and takes several days to make. I made the executive decision not to make my own injera because I was able to track some down at Desta Market. It’s sour tasting — Adam said it smelled like salt and vinegar chips — and has an almost jelly-like consistency. We used one piece as the base of the platter and then rolled the rest of the pieces to break off and enjoy our meal.
Digging in to Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia
While many of the dishes we cooked throughout the day had many of the same ingredients, the flavours of each component were very different. The meat in the key wat was melt-in-your-mouth and the flavours were strong but not overpowering. The green salad was a fresh addition to the plate with a hit of spice from the jalapeno and ginger, while the tomato salad added some acidity to the richness of the other ingredients.
What I loved about eating from the communal platter is that every bite was different. A bite of the shiro wat with the tomato salad was different than a mouthful of key wat and misir wat. It was so flavourful and fun to share a meal in a whole new way! Ethiopian food is definitely going into the regular repertoire — I’m definitely going try the key wat with couscous sometime soon!
The other challengers up to the task of cooking Ethiopian food also made some delicious dishes! Be sure to check them out!