Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ethiopian Dinner Adventure

Last winter, about this time, we went to Ethiopian Diamond in Chicago for dinner. It was amazing. The food, the dinner, the experience, amazing. We both had a craving for Ethiopian food again and decided this time we were going to attempt to make it ourselves. It went surprisingly well.
During our visit to Ethiopian Diamond, we had the vegetarian version of a combination platter called "Taste of Ethiopia". We were served an enormous platter covered with spongy injera bread and small servings of six Ethiopian dishes. Our favorites were the chick pea fish, the gomen wat (collard greens), and a cabbage dish with potatoes and carrots. So that's what we decided upon for our menu.

Side note, the injera bread takes days to make. There is fermentation involved.  We bought this delicious and integral portion of our meal from a local Ethiopian restaurant.  The berbere spice mixture was also purchased from a local African market. Both of these were inexpensive, about $10 total.

On to the cooking.
Number One:
Yeshimbra Assa aka Chick Pea Fish
For the fritters

3 cups chickpea flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4-1 cup water
2 tablespoons finely grated onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
vegetable oil, for frying

For the sauce
2 cups finely chopped onion
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup berbere
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Sift the flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper into a deep bowl.
Make a well in the center and combine 3/4 cup water, the onions and garlic in the well.
Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the water and onions and, when blended, beat vigorously with a spoon or knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and can be gathered into a ball.
If the dough crumbles, add up to 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
With a small sharp knife, cut the dough into fish shapes about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Pour oil into a deep fryer or a large, heavy saucepan to a depth of 2-3 inches.
Heat until it reaches 350 F and fry the “fish” for 3-4 minutes, turning them frequently until they puff slightly and are golden brown.
As they brown, transfer them to paper towels to drain.
Once you are done the fish you can make the sauce.
In a heavy 10-12 inch wide pan (it’s best if it’s non-stick), cook the chopped onions for 5-6 minutes until they are soft and dry.
Pour in the 1/4 cup oil and when it’s hot add the berbere and garlic and stir for a minute.
Pour in the 1 1/2 cups water and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Season with salt and then place the “fish” in the skillet and baste them with the sauce.
Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
To serve, arrange the “fish” on a platter and pour the sauce over them.

These have quite a kick so be prepared. Also the berbere spice smell is STRONG. It will linger on clothes, bags, coats, hats, etc for days. I would suggest not wearing dry clean only sweaters during this process otherwise your sweater will forever remind you of that time you cooked Ethiopian food.

Number two:
Gomen Wat aka Collard Green Dish

1  pound collard greens - rinsed, trimmed and chopped
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced green bell pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root

Place chopped collard greens in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer until collards are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, but reserve the cooking water. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked collards, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the reserved cooking water. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat until liquid is nearly evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the green pepper, lemon juice, salt, turmeric, paprika, allspice, and ginger root. Cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.

This dish and the following cabbage one are both very mild, making for nice companion dishes for the spicy chickpea fish.

Number Three:
Tikel Gomen aka Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots
1 onion chopped
5 carrots sliced into coins
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large head of cabbage cut into 1 inch pieces
4 potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cumin, to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric, to taste

Saute onion and carrot in olive oil.  Add potatoes, cabbage, water and spices. Cover, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender.

Place injera on a platter, spoon dishes onto injera, and enjoy. Ethiopian food is traditionally eaten without utensils. Rip off pieces of the injera and use it to scoop the food. (It is also traditional to only eat with the right hand)

All three of these turned out delicious and I highly recommend the chickpea fish. It is a great source of protein and easy to make. We will be using the fritter portion of the recipe for future adventures. Possibly a chicken parmesan?

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