I used to love Ethiopian food. At one time it was one of my go-to cuisines when I ate out, which I used to do much more regularly. Sadly, until last weekend, it had been a long time since I’d had it. To my knowledge there’s no Ethiopian restaurant in the English city I’m currently living in and even where I used to live in Canada, none of the Ethiopian restaurants made their injera with 100 percent tef – they all used a mix of tef and wheat, meaning I haven’t been able to eat it for the last few years. I tried making injera once but it didn’t turn out well so I was scared to do it again. Also, my kids won’t eat more than very mildly spicy food, so I didn’t think I would be able to make food that tasted reasonably Ethiopian without having to make them a separate meal.
Finally, though, the craving got to me. I had to make Ethiopian food. Thanks to some shortcuts, it was easier and quicker than I expected (though still not a speedy meal considering the doro wat is a slow-simmered stew).
With the exception of the injera, I combined what looked like the best from a variety of recipes to create what suited us. I can’t promise total authenticity but I’m happy to report reasonable success both with the injera and with making food my kids actually ate. (Well, the chicken and injera were hits; the vegetables less so, though the four-year-old ate her greens without complaint.) More important to me, honestly, *I* thought it was delicious and authentic-tasting enough. Craving satisfied!
I have put all recipes together in one post because they share enough common ingredients that they’re easy to prepare together. Besides, an Ethiopian meal without multiple dishes to put on injera would just be sad. So here you are: doro wat (chicken stew), misir wat (lentil stew), and gomen wat (spiced greens).
Order of operations for the full meal
- At least a day before, make your injera batter. It needs to ferment for at least 24 hours.
- Marinate the chicken as you prep the vegetables, grate a big piece of ginger, and make the berbere spice mix. The chicken doesn’t need to marinate all that long but you could marinate it longer if you wanted. You could also make the berbere beforehand.
- Make the doro wat and leave the chicken to simmer as you make the other stuff.
- Start making the injera before the vegetable dishes. Unlike pancakes or crepes, injera needs to cook quite a long time on low heat, so it may take longer than you expect.
- Make the misir wat and gomen wat while you have injera cooking.
Berbere (Ethiopian spice mix)
This is a milder version of berbere than Ethiopians eat. I might have made it spicier for myself, but at this level, used in modest quantity, my kids willingly ate it. We also ended up with extra for the adults to add at the table in fairly generous proportions. It turned out flavourful, spicy enough to give a kick but not so spicy the other tastes were crowded out. The picture on the very top of this post is what my berbere looked like before it was all mixed together. The picture above is what it looked like once it was mixed. Because I don’t have a spice grinder, I used all pre-ground spices except for the crushed chili pepper. I don’t think my berbere suffered for it. The only instruction is to mix together all the ingredients listed below.
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon crushed chilli pepper
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Doro wat (Ethiopian chicken stew)
Serves 8 (I froze half)
Note: Only some doro wat recipes call for any tomato content at all and those that do call for tomato paste, so using passata may be inauthentic. However, to make low-FODMAP doro wat, I had to eliminate the large quantity of onions normally called for, so this dish needed something to replace it. Passata proved perfect.
- 1 1/2 to 2 kilograms chicken legs
- 4 eggs
- Juice of 2 limes or lemons, freshly squeezed and including pulp
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons grated ginger
- 2-3 tablespoons berbere for a mild, kid-friendly doro wat – you could easily use 2-3 times as much for a spicier version. This assumes you’re using my berbere recipe. If using a ready-made version, which is probably spicier, you may want to use less.
- 1 tablespoon whole nigella seeds (optional but adds a nice flavour and visual interest)
- 300-400 ml passata/sieved tomatoes (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt to taste
- Using a sharp knife, separate the chicken into thighs and drumsticks, skin them and trim them of obvious fat. (I actually like chicken skin when roasting or grilling but chicken skin is unpleasant in a stew.)
- Marinate the chicken in the lemon or lime juice for at least 10 minutes, preferably 30 or more.
- Soft-boil the eggs. You want the white to be firm but you’ll be putting the eggs in the stew later to finish boiling to hard. Peel off the shells and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the berbere, nigella seeds and ginger. Mix briefly, then add the chicken with marinating liquid.
- Add the passata and butter. Bring to the boil, then turn down to low. Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes, until chicken is super tender. (You can make your injera and vegetable dishes in the meantime.)
- Add salt and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- With a fork, poke shallow holes in the eggs all over so as to let the sauce penetrate. Add to the sauce, making sure eggs are completely covered. Continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes or so, until eggs are hard-boiled. Serve on warm injera.
Injera (Tef flatbread)
Unlike the other dishes I made for our Ethiopian feast, which I developed myself, I followed YumUniverse‘s instructions to the letter, so please go there for the recipe. However, here are some notes.
- My batter did not end up looking like brains. In fact, after sitting for a day, it ended up looking a bit like scummy pond water with silt at the bottom. This was probably because my kitchen was too cold to ferment well. This isn’t to say it didn’t ferment at all, because it did end up with the slightly sour taste that is the signature of injera. Also, when I mixed it up prior to putting it in the frying pan, there were visible bubbles. However, my injera didn’t end up as spongy as I expected, again probably due to insufficient fermenting in a chilly room. It still tasted good and did have a certain amount of sponginess.
- It really is important to use a lid – and don’t be tempted to check on your injera too often, or it will crack due to lack of moisture.
- I found 5-6 minutes to be a good cooking time on low, but sometimes I had to flip the injera over to briefly cook the other side because condensation from the lid had dripped onto the edge of the injera, which had to be firmed up.
- To get the right thickness, I had to rotate the pan a little to get the batter to spread out a little. Injera should be thicker than a crepe but thinner than a pancake.
Misir wat (Lentil stew)
Though non-traditional, I added grated carrot to my misir wat to increase the vegetable content while slightly decreasing the FODMAP load per mouthful. Canned/tinned lentils are considered low-FODMAP in a serving of up to half a cup. However, dry lentils are higher in FODMAPs so be sure to use canned and limit serving size if you’re on a low-FODMAP diet.
- 1 can brown or red lentils (mine was 400 g), drained and rinsed
- 1 carrot, coarsely grated
- Approx. 100 ml (1/2 cup) passata/sieved tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons berbere (my version) or to taste
- 1 tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil (garlic-infused oil is low-FODMAP even though garlic isn’t)
- Salt to taste
- Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is cooked and liquid is reduced slightly. This should only take about 10 minutes if you’re using canned lentils.
- Serve on injera.
Gomen wat (Ethiopian spiced greens)
I think it’s traditional to use collard greens but since I couldn’t find any, I used a mix of kale and spinach.
- 200 grams curly kale, chopped
- 100-200 grams spinach, chopped (I used fresh but if you use frozen, be sure to squeeze out excess water)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon nigella seeds, optional
- 1 tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon berbere (my version) or to taste (this is supposed to be a milder dish than the doro wat or misir wat)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- Salt to taste
- Very briefly fry the berbere, nigella seeds and ginger in the garlic-infused olive oil, then add the greens. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until kale and spinach are soft. Add salt to taste.
If you’ve followed all recipes, by now you should have three dishes. Serve all on injera, with extra injera to tear off pieces and use as a “spoon.” Dig in with your fingers. Yum, yum!