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Horn of Africa

Entranced by flatbread that doubles as flatware, this month we tried to bring some heat to our chilly October with Ethiopian cooking.

Check out our special foodscapes page for close-up images of some of our favorite ingredients.
If you're looking for images from previous episodes, visit our archives.
Niter kibbeh, a clarified, spiced butter is one of the staples of Ethiopian cuisine. Our recipe called for ginger and onion (in mortar), basil (left) and cinnamon, cumin seed, cardamom seed, cayenne, turmeric, fenugreek seed and ground nutmeg (foreground).

The ginger and onions are pounded to a paste, then butter is melted over low heat. After the foam is skimmed off, the flavor ingredients are added and the butter simmers for half an hour. After cooling a bit, the clarified butter is poured off, leaving the milk solids and used spices behind.
Berbere paste is another Ethiopian standard. We blended these ingredients with water in a food processor, then simmered to thicken and blend the flavors. Clockwise from the top left they are: vegetable oil; piquin chiles; garlic; fenugreek, peppercorns, green cardamon and cumin; paprika; ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves; onion; and cayenne.

Stephen tried his hand at roasting coffee. Coffee is a must-serve item for guests in Ethiopia, with fairly elaborate rituals surrounding its preparation and consumption.

On the left are the green, unroasted, yirgacheffe coffee beans. On the right, our light stovetop roast.

Injera is the sourdough flatbread used in Ethiopian cuisine as plate and silverware. Traditionally it is made with flour from a tiny grain called teff, and allowed to ferment for several days. Some of it is saved to use as a starter for the next batch. We attempted to honor tradition, making a batter that fermented for a day and a half. The batter looked promising when its surface was covered in tiny bubbles, but, as you can see, the promise faded.

Fortunately, our cookbook, tailored for North Americans, had a backup plan. This batter was made with all-purpose flour. Baking soda and club soda replaced the fermentation and produced the required bubbles. It wasn't exactly authentic, but it wasn't exactly roofing tar, either!
Doro wat is a "national dish" of Ethiopia. This chicken stew is made by first marinating the meat in lemon juice. Then onion and garlic are cooked with butter, berbere, ginger, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and paprika.

The chicken is added, along with enough water to make a thick sauce, and all is simmered until tender and flavorful. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, hard-cooked eggs are added for an additional protein wallop!