Ethiopian Cooking Minus Exotic Ingredients

If you’re like me, you like to cook exotic cuisine, but you don’t like to buy exotic ingredients.

Last fall, my friend Kendra of The Ruffle House (a blog which I pray she will revive when she finishes university) had to design a fake restaurant for an project at school. Specifically, the restaurant she designed had to serve Ethiopian food (foreboding background music). I, of course, was along for the nice parts of the ride – eating at an Ethiopian restaurant and later trying our hands at some recipes. Kendra searched high and low for all the tricky ingredients – injera, berbere paste, fenugreek – but we still had to improvise a bit. She designed a beautiful menu with the recipes we used from a combinations of sources plus plenty of trial and error (I’m obsessed with the design! When I win the lottery, I’m opening this restaurant).

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Kendra’s Menu

Yesterday, I made kik alicha and doro wat for some friends. Since no one was grading me on my performance, I did not go out of my way to get the weird ingredients. I refuse to fill my spice rack up with items that my grandchildren will throw out, nearly unused, after I die! I actually did try an African grocery store to get injera only to be told that they stock West African items and I would have to go to an Ethiopian store. I will not spend my day driving between African grocery stores looking for a flatbread which, frankly, has a weird texture! What I did was take copious notes on all the modifications I made so you can make Ethiopian food at your house, too! Kik alicha is simple. It can be made pretty much per Kendra’s Menu, except that I added about 4 Tbs of butter to mine at the very end when I mashed the peas. Doro Wat on the other hand…

Doro Wat for North American Kitchens (Modified from Kendra’s Menu)

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs salt
  • 4 chicken breasts or thighs (I used 2 of each)
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbs peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs paprika (use a bland variety here. It’s mostly for color)
  • 1 dried ancho chili
  • 1 tomatillo
  • 2 Tbs berbere spice mix (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup of whatever stock you’ve got – chicken, duck, beef, veggie…
  • 1/4 cup red wine (if you’re not a wine drinker, don’t buy a bottle! Substitute any grape vinegar here – balsamic, red wine, whatever!)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 2 Tbs sugar or to taste
  • Any variety of readily available flatbread to serve
  • Combine the lemon juice and salt in a large, nonreactive mixing bowl and stir until slightly dissolved. Add the chicken, one piece at a time, dipping both sides to coat. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • While the chicken marinates, boil a cup or two of water and pour it over the ancho chili. Allow the chili to soak in the water until soft, 10 minutes or so. Remove the husk of the tomatillo, wash and quarter it. If you are concerned about the heat of the sauce, remove the seeds from the chili. However, it should be quite spicy so I left them in. Puree the chili and tomatillo together in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
Ancho chili and tomatillo
  • Puree the onions, garlic and ginger, adding a little water if necessary to get the blades moving.
  • Heat the butter in a large pot (dutch oven is best if you have one) over medium heat and stir in paprika. Stir in the ancho-tomatillo puree and the berbere and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onion mixture and saute until most of the moisture evaporates, about 15 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock and wine. Remove the chicken from the lemon juice, add to the pot and cover with sauce. Bring the sauce to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through.
  • Remove the chicken and shred it. Add back to sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste with cayenne pepper, sugar, more berbere, salt and pepper. At this point, your sauce may be bitter because the tomatillo has not broken down enough. If this is the case, cover and continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes until sauce tastes delicious.
  • Serve on a huge communal plate, with flatbread and no silverware, or eat it however the hell you want! Enjoy!
Doro Wat with Homemade Naan

Berbere Spice Mix – modified from Simply Recipes

  • 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp hot paprika, or 1-2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

If you think you don’t want to make the full recipe of this spice mix because you won’t use it, think again! It’s incredible on baked chicken. Try the chicken drumsticks on Simply Recipes (above), but watch out because they will try to make you use fenugreek instead of mustard in your berbere.

My little bottle of berbere gets plenty of use!

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