Everything You Need for An Amazing Ethiopian Feast at Home

Healthy and Flavorful meal: Injera, Kik Alicha, Tikil Gomen, Fosolia, Ye'Abesha Gomen and Misir Wot
Are you familiar with Ethiopian cuisine? It can be rather hard to come by, unless you live in a major city here in the U.S.. New Yorker's are no strangers to this North African treat, that can be found in several restaurants around the city. My favorite was Awash on East 6th street, and in Brooklyn on Court Street, although it appears most others we loved have gone out of business. What a shame, as it's such an underrated cuisine, and more importantly a unique social experience for sharing food in a group. There are absolutely ZERO Ethiopian restaurants in Long Island, so we've been known to ditch the kids at my in-laws and drive an hour in traffic to Brooklyn, just to get our hands on that delicious injera!

It's not usually possible to make a trip to the city for dinner, so I've been hard at work learning to cook Ethiopian food at home. This has taken a bit of research, as it's one of those cuisines in which everyone seems to have their own way of making even the most basic dishes. I cross-referenced several versions of each recipe, watched a lot of YouTube videos, and tested different methods and ingredient proportions. I am now able to create an Ethiopian vegan spread at home that rivals any of the popular restaurants around.

Kale Ye'Abesha Gomen and our "dosa style" injera 

The injera is another story. Injera, is the spongey, sour, fermented bread unique to Ethiopian cuisine. Even in all my research, I have not come up with a way to make it like the restaurants. For one thing, I'm not willing to purchase an electric skillet specifically made for injera or the woven mat for moving it around. Aside from special tools, there are a lot of factors in making injera batter: the wild bacteria in your environment, temperature, humidity, and quality of the teff flour. I believe that this makes it incredibly hard to get an injera near what it must be like IN Ethiopia (yeah just add that destination to the bucket list, right?). As far as what the restaurants are doing, well, it's unclear whether some may be adding wheat flour (pointless use of gluten!) or baking powder (yuck!), or another secret that I'll never be sure of.

In this case, I'm going to share with you our household's revolutionary India-meets-Ethiopia solution to the injera conundrum. I could not find any recipe like this in my searches, so it may not be acceptable to many looking to replicate perfectly sour injera bread. If you are willing to throw that expectation out the window in exchange for an easy and consistent way to make this elusive bread with readily available ingredients and tools, you will certainly be pleased with the results. I like to call our version "Dosa Style Injera" because it begins with fermented teff starter, but uses some rice flour in making the final batter. It helps to hold the bread's shape without taking away from the teff flavor and keeps it gluten-free. We've really enjoyed the bit of crispiness on the outside of these injera/dosa/crepes, and they absolutely satiate the craving for sour injera to scoop up delicious lentils and vegetables.

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If you'd like to try making Ethiopian vegan dishes at home, it's much easier than you may think. 

There are a few essential ingredients and tools you may like to have on hand:

1. 10" or larger crepe pan with a lid for injera.
You are basically making a big crepe or thin pancake, but need to steam it - so you'll need a lid to keep in as much of the steam as possible. I use a 10" crepe pan with 3/8" sides, in combination with a 10" Farberware lid I picked up in the cookware section of Target. My T-Fal set has steam holes, which I've found mess with the steaming process here, but work in a pinch. Also look for a pan with a plastic/gripper handle - mine is metal and it drives me insane that I have to put a glove on every time I pour in the batter.

2. Teff flour and rice flour. 
Most mainstream supermarkets now have a section of specialty flours and grains, and if you're lucky you'll find Bob's Red Mill assortment. This may be in the baking aisle, or the organic section, or even in the gluten-free lane. Health food shops, and without a doubt, Wholefoods, are going to be sure bets to find ingredients. And if you're like me, anything you can't find locally, just check Amazon and buy in bulk!

3. Basic spices needed
Turmeric
Cumin powder
Coriander powder
White Pepper
Cayenne powder, but preferably Indian "Kasmiri" chili powder

4. Hard to find spices:
Cardamom powder (If you can't find, it's made by popping the seeds from the pods, dry toasting in a pan and grinding in a spice grinder.)
Berbere Spice Mix (Wholefoods has a great one)

5. Lentils
Key source of protein - always make a big batch of lentils, as the portions freeze amazingly well. These are available very cheaply in bulk at specialty markets, but very easy to find in the supermarket. Otherwise, check the GOYA section of bags of dried beans for the best prices. Yellow Split Peas (aka Chana Dal) Red Lentils (aka Masoor dal)



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CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE RECIPES

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Getting Started with Injera Starter:
The more mature the starter, the better the injera!
This is the most frustrating point in the process of making your own injera. It was a major roadblock for me. How can you possibly start dinner 7 days ahead of time? Who has the foresight? Who has the time to plan this, or the mind power to remember to feed a fermenting mass? Don't worry, you only have to do this ONE TIME, and every time after you only need a few hours notice to whip up injera! The living starter is more forgiving than you may think, and can survive in the fridge. So if you don't get to it when you think you will, just pop it in the fridge and take it out the morning you need it and pick up where you left off. Don't be scared, the process is worth it!

Injera Starter Recipe:

Day 1:
Mix:
1/2 cup Teff flour
3/4 cup water (filtered or drinkable well water) at room temperature.
1/8 teaspoon Dry Active Yeast

Cover with a clean towel or cloth and leave it on the counter in the warmest spot. It will eventually start to bubble slightly, with a life of it's own.

Day 3:
The starter should smell a bit foul or sour. This is good! Stir it up and mix in:
1/3 cup Teff flour
1/2 cup water

Cover loosely and leave it on the counter.

Day 5:
The starter should smell pretty strong and have layers of sediment and liquid. Stir it up and mix in:
1/3 cup Teff flour
1/2 cup water

Cover loosely and leave it on the counter.

Day 7:
The starter is ready to use. Stir it up and use 1/4 cup per batch of injera.

Storing the starter:
Cover loosely and keep in the fridge. Feed it every week or two by pouring off the black liquid and mixing in 1 tablespoon of teff flour and 1 tablespoon of filtered water. Most instructions would say to throw away a cup of the starter and feed it 1/3 c teff and 1/2 c water - but I hate wasting expensive teff flour, I find this practice wasteful, so I do not do this. It has not impacted my injera, whatsoever. I do use my starter once a month, though, so if it's been a long time, definitely go for the big feeding.

Using the starter in the future:

The best approach is the remove the starter from the fridge up to 24 hours before you're planning to cook. Pour off the black liquid and let it come to room temperature. You could "feed" it, or not, if you've got plenty.

Cooking Day: begin in the morning, or at least 4-6 hours ahead. You may follow the recipe below, using teff and rice flour, or use only teff, or 1-1/4 C teff with 1/2 cup buckwheat flour.

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Dosa Style Injera
Small injera made at home with a mix of teff and rice flours

5 minute prep
6-12 hours fermenting
20 minutes cook
Yields 6-8 8” thin crepe style injera

Injera using rice flour as a bit of a cheat to get a nice consistency. It’s a little crispy on the bottom, plenty of air holes, and sturdy enough to eat with, but quite thin.

¼ C teff starter
1-3/4 C water , plus more as needed
1 C teff flour
¾ C rice flour
¼ tsp salt
2 T vegetable oil, as needed



1. In a medium bowl or 4-cup glass measuring cup with a spout, mix water into the starter, and then add the flours. Stir together and set for several hours.

2. Right before cooking, mix in the salt. Add water 1/8 C at a time, until batter is very thin and watery.
(This may take some cooking and testing a few small injera, until it becomes just right. When the batter spreads quickly and the bubbles form quickly, it’s ready. If you are not getting bubble holes, add a bit more water to the batter).

3. Heat a crepe pan over med-high heat. Brush lightly with vegetable oil (use a rolled up paper towel dipped in oil if you don't have a brush).

4. Using a ½ cup measuring cup, or pouring straight from the spout, quickly pour the batter in a circle in the pan. Tilt the pan to spread. In a few seconds, the bubbles will form and pop all over, and the edges become darker. This takes about 15-30 seconds. Place a tight lid over the pan and steam for 1-2 minutes. When the edges of the injera are lifted up, uncover and remove to a cooling rack.



Let each injera cool for a minute or two, roll it up and set aside (on a plate) under a slightly damp towel.

*Check out a few YouTube videos before cooking to get an idea of batter consistency and cooking method. This video uses a totally different recipe, but is a nice clear shot of the batter poured into the pan, swirled into place and when to cover and for how long. It takes a little practice.

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Wats and Tibs


Wats
Wat or Wots are kind of thick stews. There are 3 typically served in the vegetarian selection at restaurants, and the spellings may vary. They are much like Indian dal, but thick like paste, instead of soupy.
-Misr (Misir / Mesir) Wot - this is the spicy red lentil stew.
-Kik Alicha (Yekik Alicha / Yater Kik) This is the mild yellow split pea stew.
-Shiro Wat - a medium-spicy stew made from shiro powder, ground up lentils or chickpeas. I have not attempted this, as I just haven't acquired shiro powder, yet.

Tibs
Tibs are sautéed instead of stewed. They can be mild or spicy, with addition of green chilis, white pepper or other spices. The vegan options are generally very quick to prepare, and can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.
-Fosolia (Fossolia / Fasolia) - this is our favorite! Mild green beans and onions, sometimes with carrot.
-Atakilt Wat (stew with water)/ Tikil Gomen (skillet cooked) - our second favorite. Cabbage, usually with potatoes and sometimes carrots. Mild buttery flavor can be spiced up with fresh jalepeño or green chili.
-Ye'abesha Gomen - this is the one nobody wants on their plate in the restaurant - boring collard greens. Once I started making this at home using Kale, and adding ample seasonings, we love it!

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Continue Reading for the recipes, or click HERE for one big printable Google Doc of recipes.

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Fosolia with green and yellow string beans and carrots
Fossolia
Mild Ethiopian green beans with carrots and onions.
8 small servings
 Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

¼ C vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1 T garlic, minced
1 T ginger, minced
1 green chili, seeded and minced (optional)
4 C (1 lb) green string beans, trimmed
2 C (3 medium) carrots, washed and cut into 2” long 3/8” w sticks
¼ C water
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp salt, plus to taste

 1. Heat a (dry) skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel) over medium-high heat. Cook onions until translucent. Use a few spoonfuls of water if they stick.

2. Add a couple tablespoons of oil to onions and cook 1 minute more. Add ginger and garlic, chili if using, carrots and green beans. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add a tablespoon of water at a time, as needed to deglaze the pan.

 3. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, 7-8 minutes.

 4. Season with turmeric, cardamom, coriander and salt.
 Serve with injera.
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Tikil Gomen: Cabbage and Potatoes

Tikil Gomen
Mild Ethiopian braised cabbage with potatoes and carrots.
8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

 1 C vegetable oil for frying, plus ¼ C
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (Yukon gold or sweet potatoes work well)
1 C water, boiling (1/4 C for cooking onions, ¼ - ½ C for cabbage)
1 medium onion, sliced into ¼” thick strips
1 jalepeño pepper, minced (optional)*
2 T garlic, minced
2 T ginger, minced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2 “ by 2” sticks
1 head green cabbage, quartered, cored and sliced into 2” wide strips
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper

 1. In a large frying pan, heat ½ - 1” of oil over medium high heat. Shallow fry the potato in oil, turning occasionally. Cook until tender and golden on the outside, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

 2. Heat a large, lidded sauté pan (preferably stainless steel or copper bottom) over medium high heat. Do not use oil. Start cooking the onion slices in the dry pan, adding a ladel of boiling water as needed so they don’t stick down. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.

 3. Add garlic, ginger, carrots (and jalepeño if using) and ¼ C oil. Cook for 4 minutes.

 4. Mix in the cabbage. Lower the heat to simmer and stir in the cabbage. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, until carrots are almost tender.

 5. Season with salt and turmeric. Add a few ladles of boiling water (1/4 C – ½ C total).

 6. Stir in the cooked potatoes and cover, cooking another 2-3 minutes.

 7. Season with white pepper and more salt if needed.

Serve with injera.

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Ye'Abesha Gomen: Kale with spices
Ye’abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Greens)
4-6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

 This is a great recipe for adding flavor to greens that may be tough or bitter. Cardamom is the magic ingredient that elevates this dish, but the combination of a touch of spice with a dash of sour lemon is also the key to making impressive use of bland or bitter greens.

 Ye’abesha Gomen is typically made using collard greens, but you can use whatever leafy greens you have on hand. Collards pack the most nutritional punch and a decent amount of protein (who knew?), but kale and chard are great options. Any sturdy greens will work, but cooking times will vary depending on the level of tenderness you prefer for your greens. 
INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch of Kale or Collard Greens, (10 ounce bag ) large ribs removed, chopped (approx 6+ cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons garlic ginger paste
 (OR 2 teaspoons ginger, grated or minced AND 2 teaspoons garlic, minced or pressed)
1 cup onion, diced
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne or Kashmiri chili powder
2 T lemon juice salt and pepper to taste

 1. In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and spices, cooking 1 minute just to dissolve the spices into the oil.

2. Stir in the onions and cook 3 minutes until starting to soften.

 3. Add the chopped greens and toss with the onion mixture. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. When the greens have all begun to wilt, season with chili powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cook until the greens reach your desired tenderness, and remove from the heat.

 4. Serve with injera, flatbread, or simply as a side dish to any meal.

Ye'Abesha Gomen is a great way to use up those beet greens


*Variations:
 Spicy: Add green chili or jalapeño with the garlic and ginger.

 Smoky: Add ¼ to 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika for a deep, smoky flavor.

 Mild: Omit the dry spices for a milder version like many restaurants.










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Misir Wot
Misir Wot: Spicy red lentil stew with berbere seasoning
Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentils
Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes

This is the classic mushy lentil dish. It can be made using a tiny bit of tomato paste, or a small fresh tomato, but we tend to like it best without the tomato flavor. I also use a generous 2 spoonfuls of ginger-garlic paste instead of minced, that I make by grinding ginger, garlic, a little kosher salt and a little vegetable oil.

2 T vegetable oil
1 Large onion, diced
1 T garlic, minced
1 T ginger, grated or minced
1 – 2 T Berbere spice ( Wholefoods brand is good)
 ¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
2-1/2 Cups water, plus more as needed
1 ½ C red lentils, sorted for stones, rinsed and drained

1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions 5 minutes until translucent.

2. Add ginger and garlic, cook another minute.

3. Add berbere spice and salt, and a splash of water. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add 2-1/2 C water and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and lower the heat to simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add more water as needed, if it gets too thick. I cook mine to a mushy consistency, so I tend to use more water. Serve with injera.

This dish can be made a day or a few hours in advance, as well as frozen in portions. Simply reheat in a saucepan.

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Kik Alicha
Kik Alicha: Yellow Split Peas with mild spices
Ethiopian Yellow Split Peas (Mild)
Serves: 6-8
Soak time: 1 to 24 hours
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

1 C Yellow Split Peas (Chana Dal)
2 medium Onions, diced
¼ C vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon garlic, pressed
(OR 2 tablespoons garlic ginger paste)
½ tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 C + 2 T water + more as needed
1 tsp salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

1. Wash, sort and rinse split peas. If you have time, soak them in water for a while, about 1 hour, or even overnight. Longer soaking will lead to a shorter cooking time.

 2. Place drained split peas and 2 C water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 30 minutes.

3. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat, and cook onions gently without browning, until translucent.

4. Stir in ginger, garlic, turmeric and cardamom. Add 2 T water and cook together for a few minutes. 

5. Add the cooked split peas and about ¾ C of their cooking liquid to the onion mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding more cooking liquid if needed. The split peas should become very tender and break down. The end result should be a mushy consistency like oatmeal, dotted with tender split peas.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with injera.


Have fun making your own Ethiopian feast at home. It takes some practice, but I hope you'll enjoy it as much as our family!

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