Accepting the Ethiopian Challenge!

One of the Facebook groups I belong to, which is full of the loveliest people ever, issued a challenge to its members to create a vegan meal based on the cooking of Ethiopia. I’ve never been to Africa, and I’ve only once been to an Ethiopian restaurant, which unfortunately gave me a nasty case of upset insides. But I’m always up for a challenge so I decided to give it a go. I reached for my old cookbook “The World in your Kitchen”, which I bought when it first came out way back in 1999, and started my quest for tasty nosh. I found a page with scribbled writing on it, showing that I’d already made the dish at some point in the past. Ethiopian lentil wat. Bring it on! I then reached for Marcus Samuelson’s  book ” Soul of a New Cuisine”, knowing that he had a version of injera which, while not vegan, used a method which didn’t involve letting batter ferment for 3 days. Call me a wimp, but I don’t really like my house smelling of fermentation. I also didn’t like it smelling of rotting vegetables when my eldest did a science fair project years ago….but that’s a (rather rancid) story for another day. I’ve made injera before using both the long and short methods, playing with different types of flour. Teff flour gives the most authentic flavour if my one trip to an Ethiopian restaurant is anything to go by, but I prefer wheat flour with a dash of lemon juice. Obviously this isn’t an option if you’re gluten intolerant, but since my gluten-free son isn’t here at the moment I can indulge in a wheaty treat or two 🙂

I know that a meal of lentils and bread is quite adequate and very filling, but I wanted more so I added a dish of greens to go with it. And then I thought….what about a faux chicken wat? I bet I could knock one of those up pretty quickly! And so it continued. We’ll be eating the left-overs for days, which is great because I’m all cooked out!

A traditional drink in Ethiopia is honey wine, but I replaced it with a little white number from France. Not to sweet, but full bodied and easy to drink. Hubby and I are not big dessert-eaters so we wrapped it all up with a nice cup of coffee, taking the non-traditional route of adding soy milk.

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Success!!! I’m looking forward to the next challenge, wherever it may be. Why don’t you have some fun in your kitchen this week? Try the recipes here, or pop off on a culinary adventure to your dream destination. If you’re not a veg#n why not challenge yourself to go without any animal products for a whole day? Be creative and have some fun.

Karen 🙂

Ethiopian Lentil Wat (Modified from The World in your Kitchen by the New Internationalist)

  • 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, washed thoroughly and any stones removed
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp oil (preferably groundnut)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp crushed dried red chilies (or cayenne powder)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek (methi)
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste

Simmer the lentils gently in the water for 20 or until tender. Partially cover the pan and watch them carefully – they have a nasty habit of boiling over as soon as they think you’re not looking! Or maybe that’s a problem unique to me….. I find soaking them in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking helps reduce the foaming.

When the lentils are almost ready, fry the onion in the oil over a medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic, vinegar and spices along with 2 tbsp water. Cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t burn.

Mix the spices into the cooked lentils and add salt to taste. Cover and leave over a low heat for 10 minutes for the flavours to mingle.

Faux Chicken Wat

  • 2 tbsp oil, preferably peanut
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 6 cloves (crushed if you prefer)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp crushed dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (3 -4 cups)
  • 4 faux chicken breasts
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Fry the garlic, onion, spices and salt in the oil over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the sweet potatoes and faux chicken. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender. Stir in the lime juice then remove the faux chicken and cut into bite-size portions before returning it to the wat. Serve with grains or injera – it will be quite runny. And when you reheat your left-overs the next day it will taste even better.

Quick Vegan Injera (Modified from Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelson)

  • 2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice and left to thicken for 5 minutes
  • 3 – 4 cups club soda (the batter should be thin)
  • 2 tbsp oil, preferably peanut

Mix together the flours, baking soda, salt, thickened soy milk and half the club soda.Stir well to create a smooth paste and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining club soda. Pour a small amount of oil onto a griddle or flat-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Pour 1/2 cup of batter (or as needed to create a thin layer) into the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Cover and cook for another 30 seconds or until the batter is firm. Remove from the pan and keep warm while you cook the other injera.

Ethiopian-ish Greens

Chop up the greens of your choice and saute in 2 tbsp spiced coconut oil. Add salt to taste.

To knock up a batch of spiced coconut oil, add the following spices to 2 cups of coconut oil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Check on it regularly – you don’t want the spices to burn. Allow to cool then cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. I suggest doing this in small portions as it’s quite hard when it sets!.

Spiced Coconut Oil

  • 2 cups coconut oil (measured while solid)
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek (methi)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

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