MithLuin (mithluin) wrote,


We cook with lots of fresh vegetables here in Ethiopia. They’re readily available, generally of good quality, and super cheap. For instance, a few days ago, we stopped by the stand right outside our compound and bought: 1 kilo of bananas, 1 kilo of tomatoes, 1 kilo of potatoes, 1 kilo of carrots and ½ kilo of beets… for 51 birr ($3); 1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs. By contrast, canned and packaged goods are much more expensive; a large tub of peanut butter might cost 85 birr, and a bottle of imported olive oil 200 birr ($11). Other readily available vegetables include: onions, green/red peppers, carriar (a variety of chili pepper), zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli and cauliflower, green beans, lettuce, cabbage, leeks, pumpkins (in fall) and feed corn (in summer). No celery, though.

We mostly make foreign food – guacamole with fresh bread from the avocados, rice and veggies, pasta and tomato sauce, soups, salads, etc. During Lent, our diet is vegan, but we enjoy meat and cheeses occasionally throughout the rest of the year, and milk, yogurt and eggs are all used in our kitchen. We bake cookies, cakes and the occasional muffins. But we don’t make much Ethiopian food (other than shirowot).

At home, it would be nearly impossible to make anything ‘Ethiopian’. Ethiopian meals all contain injera. To make injera, you need teff, a grain endemic to (and only grown in) Ethiopia. Even if you had the teff and knew how to ferment it properly, you’d need the injera cooker to make it (it’s vaguely like making crepes). And so… that’s not going to happen back home. Here, we can buy injera in many of the shops that sell bread, so it’s much easier. Still, we don’t do it often; we can go out for good Ethiopian food whenever we want, and the cooks serve it to us daily in the community for lunch.

But I did find a recipe for Diffo Dabbo, bread made for feasts and coffee ceremonies. I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I’d like to try that at least before I go. If it really does taste like Diffo Dabbo, it’s a delicious bread! It’s one of the few Ethiopian dishes I can ‘share’ with people back home. The coffee ceremony (with its popcorn and incense) would also be possible to replicate, if I cared to bring back a jebena (clay coffee pot with rounded bottom - I have no plans to; they don’t travel well).

Diffo Dabbo (from a book by a Japanese lady living in Ethiopia)
Ingredients: 4 c. whole wheat flour, 2 Tbsp. honey, 1 Tbsp. yeast, salt, water and oil
Directions: Put flour into a bowl and float the bowl in hot water.
Add honey to ½ c. warm water. Add yeast. When yeast rises, add flour and a pinch of salt and mix well. (If mixture is too hard, add some warm water)
Knead the dough and form into a disc 1 cm thick, 20 cm round. Leave to rise in a warm place for one hour.
Heat a little oil in a thick frying pan, add the dough, put on the lid and cook slowly over low heat. When the bottom burns, turn over and cook the other side.

Also, one of our staples here this year was introduced to us in September by a volunteer from Ghana. Quite simply, it’s delicious, so we make it about once a month, in a quantity large enough to eat for several days. Ground nut stew may be a lot of work, but it’s worth it! (Especially if you have multiple people to help cut up everything and stand by the stove and stir.) We’ve never made it with chicken, but apparently you’re supposed to. We also use sticky rice instead of the original fufu (since that’s not exactly readily available here).Fufu is made from cassava root, I think.It’s eaten regularly in Ghana, apparently. I have no idea how people there can stay skinny; the only explanation is frequent bouts of malaria.

Ground Nut Stew (Ghana)
Prep time: 2-3 hours Feeds: 10-12 people

1 large tub ‘natural’ peanut butter (1 kg) [it’s the only kind we have here]
1.5 kg tomatoes + 1 can tomato paste (800 g)
3 Onions
2-5Carriar (chili peppers) – to taste
1 bulb garlic (12-20 cloves)
5 ginger roots
2 large cubes Chicken broth (substitute veg. broth for vegan recipe)
Chicken (optional)
Spices: Salt, Pepper, Berbere (for spice), ground nutmeg, parsley, basil, dry mustard, etc.
4 c. rice (you will need to make more later)

1. Mix Peanut Butter with an equal amount of water (5-6 cups). Knead with hand, making sure all lumps are gone and water and peanut butter are smoothly mixed. Put on stove and stir continuously until oil separates. Spoon off oil from surface and set aside.
2. Dice tomatoes, onions, and hot pepper. Mince garlic. Grate ginger. Use mortar and pestle to combine ingredients (there will be lots of left over tomato and a little onion).
3. Add a little oil to a large pot. Add tomato mixture.
4. In another small pot, boil 1 pint water and make broth.
5. Add broth and peanut butter to cooking vegetables. Stir continuously. Add tomato paste to thicken. If pot is not big enough, get a second pot.
6. While mixture is cooking, add spices. Stir continuously. Warning: This Will Make a Mess if you let it boil without stirring!!!
7. I guess you can dice up some chicken, cook it, and add it to the pot. In Ghana, they always put chicken in this, but I’ve never made it with meat. So, ummm… good luck!
8. To Make Sticky Rice: Add 7 c. of water to 4 c. of rice. Put on stove. When it boils, leave uncovered and stir continuously. If necessary, add more water. When rice is cooked, use a potato masher to make it one sticky mass.
9. Serve in bowls without utensils. Use your hands to take a piece of rice and scoop up the peanut stew. It’s very easy to burn your mouth and fingers this way, but it tastes better if you eat it with your hands.

I’ve had minimal success frying food. I need to look up how you do it so the food comes out crisp, not mushy. I think the oil needs to be hotter, but I’m not sure. So far, I’ve tried tempura (as a more interesting variation on our veggies) and falafel (we had a recipe in our book). Another recipe I want to try is fried sweet potato balls. But that will have to wait until after fasting time, since it involves egg!

Sweet Potato Balls (from Tanzania, but also from the book by the Japanese lady)
3 large sweet potatoes, 4 Tbsp sugar, salt, ½ egg, ½ c. sesame seeds, ½ c. flour, ½ c. water, oil
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes, add them to boiling water with salt, and cook. When cooked, mash the potatoes. When cooled, add sugar and egg. Form balls 1 in. in diameter. Mix equal parts flour and sesame seeds with some water to form coating. Roll balls in coating. Deep fry in high temp.oil (or else balls will collapse). Serve hot.

Ethiopian food doesn’t really include desserts. I mean, they have bakeries here, that sell cakes and donuts and even baklava, but it’s not really part of the traditional culture. They don’t even have baking soda for sale in the shops, and vanilla is ‘seasonal’. So…we’ve had to import our own idea of sweets. Marcy and I made an apple pie last week, and it was delicious. Ice cream is sold here (you can get it at Kaldi’s, and also buy gelato from places owned by Italians – we’re in an international capital city). But… we never buy it. So, we’ve had to make our own.

Frozen banana ‘ice cream’
Slice up a few bananas and toss in freezer for a couple of hour. Take out and grind them up with our magic European ‘bzzzz’ mixer (I suppose it has a name, but I just say ‘bzzzz’ and make the motion like I’m using it; it’s handheld like beaters, but has moving blades like a blender or food processor). Add a few spoonfuls of flavoring to the cool paste, such as peanut butter, honey, nutella, other fruit, coco powder, etc. I suppose you could add milk or cream if you wanted to. For sweet Ethiopian bananas, sugar is not needed; for tasteless American bananas, it might be. Return to freezer until it is hard. But if you leave it in for a few days, it gets *very* hard and may need to soak in warm water for a moment before trying to serve it.
A cool treat, great for warm weather or sore throats!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipes!
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