Our Ethiopian Banquet

Next week I am planning an Ethiopian dinner for about 11-12 close friends, and that is what this blog is about.

It will be quite a long blog, as it describes both my thinking around this, all the recipes, my modifications, and their linked sources. I most definitely suggest you visit these sites as well!

My purpose in doing this rather long blog this way is two fold:

  • to document for myself my journey in learning about this unique and wonderful cuisine. 
  • to provide the reader with a complete selection of recipes to make a truly spectacular Ethiopian meal.

I suppose in saying that I could be accused of cultural misappropriation. That might be so if I were either trying to monetize this, or claiming the content as my own in some way. However this not the case. I always take the position of one who merely wishes to learn. I also can’t claim that our final product was truly Ethiopian. There are features of this tradition not included, and others that are our own.


I’ve been quite particular in these blogs about NOT having them leak over into my personal life. This one will delve into personal stories and contexts a little bit.

My oldest son, late 20’s, is someone who requires around the clock care. Fortunately we have a fabulous group of people around him to make it possible for him to live and thrive at home. I’ll call him K in this blog.

Every year around this time we have a dinner that honors our wonderful team. I prepare it. I want them to come, and relax.  This year its in January, and the menu theme is Ethiopian. Ethiopian cuisine has been really important over the years for K and his helpers. They have a favorite restaurant – Ethiopian House on Unwin Avenue in Toronto. Mohamed and his staff have known K for 10 years now, and always welcome him with open arms. I still don’t know how they navigate his wheelchair up the stairs and through the doors, but it never has been a problem. And I always hear of everyone getting completely stuffed, and having a most wonderful time. So if you are in Toronto, please, visit Ethiopian House!

So one can see how the idea of an Ethiopian banquet would have positive resonance for all involved.  When the idea came up about us doing it Ethiopian style, my curiosity was definitely piqued. I knew there would be quite the learning curve here. I’ve never tried to cook Ethiopian cuisine.  My prior knowledge was as follows:

  • You eat with your hands, using Injera
  • Injera is a sourdough based flatbread made with a special local grain
  • The cuisine is spicy
  • A spice mix called Berbere is key


I then went to the internet to search out information, which tended to fall into 4 website types:

  • NGO reports and sites that describe Ethiopian cuisine in dry, technical language, focusing on nutritional and sustainability aspects for Ethiopia itself. 
  • Business websites trying to flog their products related to Ethiopian cuisine
  • Cooking websites in which Ethiopian recipes are a drop in their bucket
  • Other bloggers, somewhat like myself.

One of my favorite sites in this regard has been The Berbere Diaries blog. Like mine, its a personal journey, and like mine it’s borne out of an interest in sharing and commenting on the lives we all lead. Unlike mine, its not only about food – most of it isn’t. But when someone of one culture wants to learn something of another culture, its always helpful to be shown the way  by someone who has already travelled that  path.

As you might have surmised from my other blogs, I really like the concept of the unifying principal. In cooking, a key was Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio book which explains all of the key ratios you are likely to use in cooking. (If you do not have it, click on the link and do yourself a favor by ordering it) I was delighted then to read the Berbere Diaries summation of the essential organizing principals in this cuisine. These are explained in her Cooking overview blog:

Cook the onions first until they start to soften.
-Add the oil. More than you think. WAAAAY more than you think.
-Let the oil and onion simmer a few minutes, maybe five or so, on medium heat.
-Add the spice, usually either berbere or turmeric.
-Let the spice, oil, and onions cook together for several more minutes.
-Add the other ingredients, one at a time (but hold off on the garlic and ginger), and give each ingredient time to simmer before adding the next.
-Add the garlic and ginger at the end, and cook for another ten minutes or so.

dry cooking the onions

dry cooking the onions

In actually doing it I’ve found one additional technical step is also apparent in enough cases to make it a pattern  – for me at least: the magic ingredient at the end. Its what gets added once the wat (or stew) has cooked, that has the power to transform from good to amazing. In these recipes, the eggs added to the chicken (now there’s poetic justice!), the cashews added to the chickpeas, the pine nuts on the Gomen Wat, or the tomato in the beef recipe. Often it can be lemon or lime juice which would turn nasty if added earlier.


Putting the menu together, I had the following conditions I wanted to apply:

  • Everything had to be made from scratch
  • Some of the party do NOT like it hot, while others like it REALLY hot
  • It needed to be gluten and dairy free – for the most part
  • It needed to have appropriate variety, and represent all key food groups
  • I wanted it to be locally sourced – though locavore Ethiopian in Canada in January does sound like an oxymoron
  • It needed to be planned so that I enjoy the process, and that everything is calm, and relaxed.

In looking through the recipes, I realized that an immediate challenge was going to be making the dishes unique in terms of their flavoring. It would be too easy to do as a number of recipes suggested: saute onions, add Berbere, add your main ingredient, add ginger and garlic.

I also found that I could easily go overboard and have too much. In the end I confined myself to the following dishes: chicken, beef, lentil, root vegetable, green vegetable, rice, of course injera. I also found a great  recipe for what I call Ethiopian Timbits, so they will be there too.

There are a couple of other quite non Ethiopian touches in the event. One of our team has just  completed a bartending course, and I suggested to her that she might not want to allow her newly acquired skills to get rusty, and that this might be a good opportunity to practice…. She agreed … so there are some cocktails up for grabs. Definitely not in any Ethiopian tradition!

The other touch is in the dessert. I have not been able to find uniquely Ethiopian desserts. I’m sure they exist. Maybe I just have not looked hard enough, or maybe its because I have always loved Indian Carrot burfi, or fudge, and this seemed like a great way to end it. I also thought that a little bit of northern clime decadence was in order too, so chocolate mousse is also on the menu.

I’ve already started the learning and the early prep. My previous blog about sauteeing onions was clearly part of this. I’ve also made a couple of batches of berbere: one mild, one hot. In the end I’ve decided to make all the dishes mediumly spicy and provided a plate of very hot additions for those who like it hotter.  I’ve also made some niter kebbeh – spiced clarified butter, and a batch of those little biscuits. Last night I made the carrot fudge. I’m thinking that 4 days ahead will be OK for this dish.

The recipes

Each recipe provides:

  • the source URL
  • the original recipe in italics
  • notes and changes I made to the recipe.

The base: Berbere and Niter Kebab

These two preparations are keys to everything else that follows.


2g 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
6g 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
2g 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2g 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3g 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
18g 4 tablespoons hot pepper flakes, dried, red (60 ml) adjust down for milder blend
14g 2 tablespoons paprika (30 ml)
3g 1 teaspoon ginger
7g 2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
4g 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or flakes)
1g 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (about 6 corns)
3g 3/4 teaspoon cardamom seed
1g 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves about 4 whole cloves
3g 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
2g 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To make the Berbere spice mix: mix all the spices and toast in a dry, hot pan, shaking to prevent scorching. Cool the mixture, then grind into a powder using a coffee bean grinder. Save the leftover spice in a small glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid.

My only change has been to use whole spices where possible. In doing this its important to ensure all these whole spices are ultimately well ground up.

I also made a mild version (1/4 of the cayenne) of this as there are a few at our table who have more ‘delicate’ palates.

Niter Kebab


Although this recipe is basic to Ethiopian cooking, it tastes wonderful on many things: steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, steamed rice, and can be used to add extra flavor to many fried foods.
1 pounds unsalted butter
.5 small red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root
.75 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 green cardamom pod
1/2 piece cinnamon stick, 1 inch
1 whole clove
<1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Serves / Yields
about 2 cups
Preparation Instructions
1. Heat the butter slowly until it is completely melted. Bring to a boil. Boil without browning until the surface is completely coated with foam. Skim off the foam.
2. Stir in all the remaining ingredients.
3. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible heat and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for at least 45 minutes or until all the milk solids are settled to the bottom and golden brown, and the butter on the top is clear.
4. Strain through several thicknesses of cheesecloth or a tea towel. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator (or freezer) although it will keep for 2 – 3 month without refrigeration.

Tomorrow I start my main cooking, and  the lions share of the blogging…

(Speaking of lions – one of my favorite kids books: The Lion’s Whiskers – an Ethiopian tale )


Jan 8 2013

Yesterday I felt I was getting my feet wet – trying out a couple of recipes, seeing what some of the issues were. Today – full bore. I hope to do most of the work of cooking.

So…. let’s go!


One of the first recipes I tried was DABO KOLO

found at http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Cookbook/Ethiopia.html

These are little fried snacks that I call ‘Ethiopian Timbits’

The original recipe is in italics, the gram measures are mine.
They will look like flat peanuts, and are served as a snack.
In a 1-quart bowl:
Mix: 160g  2 cups ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
2 g 1/2 tsp. SALT
35g 2 Tbs. SUGAR
2-3g 1/2 tsp. CAYENNE PEPPER
60g 1/4 cup OIL.
@60ml/g water
Knead together and add WATER, spoonful by spoonful, to form a stiff dough. Knead dough for 5 minutes longer.
Tear off a piece the size of a golf ball.
Roll it out with palms of hands on a lightly floured board into a long strip 1/2 inch thick.
Snip into 1/2-inch pieces with scissors.
Spread about a handful of the pieces on an ungreased 9-inch frying pan (or enough to cover bottom of pan). Cook over heat until uniformly light brown on all sides, stirring up once in a while as you go along.
Continue until all are light brown.med -highheat

Notes: Following my first batch, and the feedback from it, I changed it up for the second.

  • A gluten free version  – corn and rice flour were substituted for wheat flour.  1 tsp of Guar was added to the dry mix for thickening.
  • I reduced the cayenne by about half. People complained the initial batch was too hot.
  • The second batch was baked in an oven: 500 degrees – 10-12 minutes. Baking provides a more even heat, less spot burning than the stove top method.
Ethiopian 'timbits'

Ethiopian ‘timbits’

Chicken up next!

Next I approached the Chicken dish. For this I used what remained of a bird I roasted the day before.

DORO WAT – Chicken stew

This also comes from the Penn U website – and while useful in some regards  I took it as a ‘general idea’ as opposed to a definitive recipe. For one thing they substitute for both berbere and niter kebab. Having made both of these in preparation, this would make a HUGE difference.

Chicken Stew
Yield: 8 portions

In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy stewpot:
Brown 3 cups BERMUDA ONION chopped finely, without fat, until quite dark, stirring constantly.
Add: 3 oz. BUTTER or OLIVE OIL
1 tsp. PAPRIKA
1/4 tsp. GINGER.
Blend the seasonings into the onions.
Add 1 cup WATER.
Soak: 1 3-lb. CHICKEN cut in 1-inch pieces, bones left on and including neck and gizzards, in
2 cups WATER to which
1/4 cup LEMON JUICE has been added, for 10 minutes.
Drain the water from each piece of chicken.
Add chicken to onion mixture, stirring it through. Cover.
Simmer over low heat until chicken is tender.
Add more water, if necessary, to bring to stew texture (or if Wat is watery, thicken with 2 tablespoons of flour dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water).
Add 8 PEELED HARD-BOILED EGGS a few minutes before serving.

I didn’t do it as advised. I did prepare the onions using a dry heat method, and as the Berbere Diaries blog points out, adding things one at a time, letting them fully absorb into the bigger mix. I then put it in a crock pot for a number of hours. I have to say I am not entirely pleased with the results. The taste is fine, though I found I needed to add sea salt, and I also added more ginger and  berbere too. I don’t like the texture of the chicken, and I am left with a greasy sauce that did not emulsify. I’ve separated most of the sauce, cooled it, and I’ll make a roux  – as those that will be eating this are not gluten intolerant.

As a final end note (Jan 10), it turned out just fine in the end! It was much better a day or two later. Making the roux was the thing to do, and the egg slices and lemon juice were the needed ‘magic ingredients’ at the end.

Ethiopian beef stew

1 1/2 lbs beef, cut into 1 inch cubes (750 g)
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons ghee (or butter or niter kibbeh, which is the real thing)
1 onion, small, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped and crushed
2 teaspoons berbere, spice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups beef stock (500 ml, can use water)
2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)

 To make the stew: Add the oil and ghee or butter to a pan over medium heat. (Niter kibbeh, the real thing, is a spice-infused clarified butter which is used as the frying medium for most Ethiopian dishes).

Gently fry the onion until very soft and just about caramelised. Add the garlic, berbere spice, tomato paste and sugar, mix well, and cook until thick.

Add a little of the stock (or water) to make a paste. Add the remaining liquid and the meat cubes, season with salt, and cook gently for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened and reduced.

In my case, I always make chicken stock whenever a bird is roasted. However, I never use beef in such a way that I will get soup bones form it as a byproduct of the cooking. So here I had chicken stock on hand and used it.

In this recipe I also changed things up. For one thing, I used the buffalo and beef burgers I had made over the last month instead of beef cubes. I made the usual adjustments for seasoning: more tomato paste, turmeric, sea salt (hmm…. a trend here? is our North American palate more salty than theirs? Likely!).

I also felt at the end that this was going in its own direction…. a decidedly tomatoey direction. So once I took it off its heat, I added a large cubed beefsteak tomato – uncooked. It was my first realization of the ‘magic ingredient’ phenomena.

The vegetable dishes

The four vegetable wats were prepared the day before/day of the dinner.  I thought I would try to be a little more efficient and so I started this process  dry heating ALL of the required onions. For this I used the slicing attachment on the food processor, set at its widest setting, and fed the onions end first so they would for the most part be cut into smaller chunks. I worked on the basis of one huge onion per dish, plus one more for ‘good luck’!

Here are the these recipes.

onions for 3-4 recipes

onions for 3-4 recipes

onions sliced by Betty, my sous chef FP

onions sliced by Betty, my sous chef FP

Beginning to dry cook the onions

Beginning to dry cook the onions

Tikil Gomen


2-3 onions, chopped
1/3-1/2+ cup canola oil
1-2 tbsp. turmeric
3/4 cup water
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half lengthwise then sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
3-4 carrots, chopped into stick-shaped pieces
1 head green cabbage, chopped
6 scallions (white parts with some of the green), chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. dried basil (you can use fresh basil- the store just didn’t have any that day)
finely chopped garlic (see note at bottom)
finely chopped ginger (see note at bottom)
salt (to taste)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and sliced into thin strips
In a large pot, cook the onions, stirring occasionally, on medium/medium-high heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the oil (as much as your arteries can take!) and cook until the oil gets hot. Add the turmeric, stir to ensure the it is evenly distributed, and cook for another few minutes (and please be sure to take a second to enjoy the aroma). Add the scallions and cook for another minute or two. Add the water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes, stir, and cover. Since the potatoes take longer to cook than the other vegetables, let them cook for at least 5-10 minutes. Then add the carrots, cover again and allow them to cook for several minutes, and add the cabbage. Add the salt and continue cooking until the cabbage starts to shrink and soften. When the potatoes are almost finished cooking, add the basil, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno peppers and cook until the vegetables are tender.

***It’s really hard for me to pin down how much garlic and ginger to use, as I keep large quantities of both freshly chopped in the refrigerator and just dump a bunch in when I’m cooking. I would guess that I use roughly five or six cloves of garlic and a 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped. Really, I have no idea. I would ALWAYS err on the side of adding too much of these. You can never have too much flavor, you know?

my mise-en-place for vegetable wat

my mise-en-place for Tikil Gomen

I did this recipe as described. A couple of notes though: the more you can have the patience to slowly caramelize the onions, the sweeter and more your dish will be. Also I would add a garnish of fresh cut scallions once they are served.



2 bunches of collard greens
1 large onion, chopped
1/3+ c. canola oil (replace some of the oil with niter kibbeh or butter if desired)
minced garlic and ginger (about 2-3 tsp. each, would be my guess. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know how this works)
2 jalapeño peppers, de-seeded and chopped
salt, to taste

Pull off the leaves of the collard greens and discard the stems. Tear the leaves into medium-sized pieces (just small enough to get them into the pot for cooking- you’ll chop them into smaller pieces later) and wash them well under cold water. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil and add the greens. Cook for about 10-15 minutes- the greens should change color and soften. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out all of the excess moisture and chop into small pieces. Set aside.
Cook the onions on medium heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about seven minutes. Add the oil/niter kibbeh/butter and cook for several minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeños and saute for several more minutes. Add the chopped greens and stir well, ensuring that the greens are thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients. Add salt and cook on medium-low until the greens have soaked in the flavor.

That’s the Berbere Diaries version. I have to say I did something quite different because I did not like the notion of boiling these nutrition rich greens.  Recently I have taken to caramelizing onions for quite a long time, doing my spicing, and then adding finely chopped ‘heavy’ greens (Kale, collards, chard) on top of the mix, covering and cooking on the lowest heat for about an hour. So applied to this recipe, the flavour keys are the garlic and ginger cooked with the berbere  while the onions are caremelizing. In cooking down the onions along with the berbere, you need to watch carefully, as the berbere will soak up  the oil and cause your onions to dry and burn. Stir often, using a medium/low setting and add more niter kebab or butter as needed so the onions always stay translucent, until they begin to caramelize.

While this mix is cooking, wash the greens (could be kale, chard, spinach, collards), cut out the spines, and cut them into quite small pieces.

Back to what’s in the frying pan: Get the taste on the onion/spice mix right. Once you add the greens on top, its too late to do more.  Add (or not) more salt/berbere/garlic/ginger as needed as this will be the spicing and underlying flavour of the whole dish.  Once the onions have caramelized and you are satisfied with the taste,  then add in the chopped greens and let nature and gentle heat take its course. Cover, and cook on the lowest temperature for an hour. DO NOT TOUCH, DO NOT STIR. The onions and spices will continue to gently caramelize under their blanket of greens. The greens meanwhile become gently steamed and infused with the succulent flavours of the onion and spice mix. The sweetness of the onions, gentle heat and fine cutting of the greens, along with a little salt at the end should remove any bitterness associated with the greens.

Once off the heat, mix the onion mix and greens together.

Finally, there are a couple of ‘magic ingredients’:

  • the juice from a whole lime.
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts

Stir and taste, and do a final taste for saltiness (a pinch of sea salt at a time) but only to remove any lingering bitterness in the greens.

Chickpea Wat

Using the method described in The Berbere Diaries, this is the first Ethiopian recipe I developed on my own.
1 1/2 c dry chickpeas, soaked for a number of hours
1 very large onion
2 tsp berbere (my hot version)
2 tbs niter kebab
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 c cashews
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs minced ginger root


Dry heat onions until they soften and begin to sweat

Add niter kebab, cumin and fennel and cook on medium/low heat until onions are translucent

Add berbere and cook several minutes more

Add soaked chickpeas and sufficient water to just cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour, or until chickpeas are soft. Its important that there is neither too much nor too little water, as it ultimately becomes its own sauce.

Once simmered and cooked, add salt to taste. I use sea salt – its the best!

Add garlic and ginger, allowing each in turn to absorb and flavour the dish.

Check for desired flavoring and heat

Finally add in the cashews and cook a couple of minutes longer.

Some final notes:

  • the cashews could also be toasted
  • I would try doubling the fennel and cumin – they aren’t apparent in these quantities
  • I would also add 50% more berbere – again, the final taste could be more intense, a little hotter.

 Missir Wat (Red Lentil)


3 onions, chopped
1/2 c. oil
2-3 tbsp. berbere
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 c. water, plus extra on hand
2 c. split red lentils, rinsed well
minced ginger and garlic (about 1 tbsp. each)
salt to taste
In a large stock pot, cook the onions on medium/medium-high heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent. NO OIL!!! Add the oil and cook for a few more minutes before adding the berbere.
Add the berbere and allow the ingredients to simmer together for several minutes (berbere should always have plenty of time to cook before other ingredients are added.
Add the tomatoes and several spoonfuls of the tomato juice and stir. Then add three cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients. Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer, but keep a close eye on the lentils- if the liquid has been absorbed before the lentils have softened, add more water as needed and continue cooking on low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and salt, stir well, and continue simmering until the lentils are completely tender.

I did this recipe almost as written – and it turned out excellently. The one change I made was to add in the whole can of diced tomatoes. I felt it crying out for more of that tomatoey complement to the lentils. I also cooked it in a crock pot.


This dinner would not be an Ethiopian dinner without injera. I did try to make it myself, as recounted in an earlier blog, but ultimately I was not successful. I think I would need to place myself under guidance of an expert for a few days in order to make me into an injera maker. So I will confine myself  to buying it.

I should note the fun I had when looking for the one store that did sell it. I had heard there was a place in Kensington (in Toronto) that sold this and other East African dry goods. I was pointed by a couple of shopkeepers to Baldwin street – so on I went  – but no Ethiopian food shop did I see. I finally went into a Caribbean grocer on Baldwin to ask – and he pointed his finger out his window, across the street saying – ‘See – over there – where the hat display is? That is it.’

Indeed that was it. They also sell hats and mitts, and its the hats they have on display. The store’s sign, Ethiopia Spice Store is obscured by the awning! Here is the Google camera photo of the shop as it is in its summer glory.

Ethiopian Spice Shop


January 9

Today’s the day! Most of the dishes have been cooked, and only need to be reheated.

There was, however, a salad to do. I really felt the dinner needed a fresh raw vegetable component to offset the rest of the cooked dishes.

Timatim Salad

I saw a couple of versions of this salad on the web  – notably http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Cookbook/Ethiopia.html#CHEF KURT LINSI’S QUEEN OF SHEBA SALAD. I went with the Berbere Diaries version as it seemed closer to what I was looking for. There was no meat, and the dressing was more clearly related to Ethiopian cuisine.


There are two versions of this recipe.  Timatim firfir includes broken up pieces of injera- that’s why it’s called firfir.  The other recipe is the same, but minus the injera- so if you don’t have easy access to an Ethiopian grocery store, just go ahead and make the timatim salad .  Berbere and jalapeño peppers are key ingredients, so no matter how much you use, the salad will have at least a little bit of a kick to it.  But the salad is very flexible and you can alter the proportions to suit your own tastes.  


1/4 c. canola oil
3 tbsp. vinegar or wine (I’ve used white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine, really old leftover white wine…the recipe is forgiving.  Use what you have!)
Juice of one lemon (about 2-3 tbsp. bottled juice)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. berbere (I use more, but we like it very hot)


3-4 large tomatoes (or any other kind of tomatoes you have)
1/2- 1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped and if desired, de-seeded for less heat
2 pieces injera, torn into bite-size pieces

Combine the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chopped vegetables (and injera, if making the timatim firfir).  Serve chilled.  Or just eat it the way it is and don’t tell anyone you made it so you don’t have to share.  Whatever works for you… 🙂


The salad: the recipe calls for tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos. I wanted it to be significantly about romaine lettuce as well, so I added a head of romaine to the mix.

The dressing: I made this nearly the same, except that I added about 200ml of my base viniagrette preparation (3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar by weight) and then thoroughly blended it so it would stay emulsified.

The salad .... ready to eat.

The salad …. ready to eat.


Perhaps its habit, perhaps it comes with having 20-somes children, but I always do a basic rice or something starchy – just in case they need that carb hit before running off and  playing hockey, or soccer or whatever. For this dinner, feeding 9 of these beasts,  I cooked a pot of basic white basmati rice.

The final spread before we all dig in

The final spread before we all dig in


This dinner had 3 condiments. I personally feel that in most cases, a good meal needs something that is intense, flavourful, sweet and sour – to enhance and balance out the main stuff. For this one I used Iab, an Ethiopian condiment, as well as my own mango chutney, and bbq red pepper jelly. I will write about these last two in separate blogs if I have not already done so.

plate of 'hot stuff'

plate of ‘hot stuff’



Iab is a white curd cheese very much like the Greek feta. Special herbs are added (and sometimes chopped vegetables) which give it its characteristically acid taste. Since the cheese used in Ethiopia is not available here, this recipe is an attempt to simulate lab.
In a 1-quart bowl:
1 tsp. SALT
1/4 tsp. BLACK PEPPER.

The mixture should be moist enough to spoon but dry enough to stay firm when served. Drain off excess liquid. One or two heaping tablespoons of lab is placed on the Injera before each guest.

In this recipe, I found it needed a lot more yogurt than was suggested. That was likely also due to the cheese I was using having a lower hydration than perhaps the one used by the originator of the recipe. The lemon rind and fresh black pepper are this recipe’s ‘magic ingredient’. This is the only point where black pepper makes an appearance in this meal.

 And dessert…

The desserts were actually made a couple of days before.

I asked our guests at our dinner if they had ever had dessert at Ethiopian house. None of them could remember having had dessert. They ate until stuffed, until there was not room. So perhaps there was dessert. Perhaps not. I’d be curious to know what the Ethiopian culture says about the whole business of sweets at some point in a meal. At any rate, I did have dessert offerings: chocolate mousse and carrot burfi. Here are these recipes and notes.

Gajjar Burfi (Carrot fudge)

This recipe is from The Art of Indian Cuisine  by Pranati Sen Gupta (Hawthorne Books, New York, 1974 isbn 0-8015-0366-3)


This is a book I picked up 35 years ago in Ottawa. Today it would likely be self published. Ms. Sen Gupta lived in Ottawa and taught continuing Ed classes in Indian cooking. By far it is my go to book for Indian cuisine because on one hand she really knows it inside out, and also she is aware of what is available in Canada. It includes a wonderful thumbnail description of key cuisine foods described for the Canadian audience. As I noted earlier in the blog, its really the best to have a writer familiar with both cultures to guide you when you are learning a new cuisine.

I’ve always loved this intense, complex Indian dessert, and so welcomed this opportunity to try it out.

Its good to see there are still some copies of this book available for sale. It would be a wonderful book to update and republish. (hint… hint)

Here is the recipe:

  • 150g half/half  (I used 2 cans of coconut milk  – the thicker, more intense version for cooking)
  • 1 kilo carrots
  • 150g  butter (I’ve used coconut oil)
  • 160g (3/4 cup) white sugar
  • 80g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 3g (1/3 tsp) ground cardamom
  • 100g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 10g (1.5 tsp) rosewater
  • 100-150g (1/2-3/4 cup) chopped unsalted nuts walnuts or almonds
  • silver leaf (optional) 
  • Grate carrots (I used the smallest grating wheel on my food processor), blend with milk
  • In a deep heavy pan, cook carrot/ milk mixture over high heat stirring constantly for 10-15 minutes
  • Reduce heat to minimum and cook for 1 hr stirring regularly until mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily.
  • Add butter (I used coconut oil) and cook another 5 minutes on medium high heat, stirring constantly.
  • Gradually add white sugar and stir to mix well
  • Mix in brown sugar, cardamom, ground almonds, and rose water
  • Cook stirring, another 10-15 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to draw away from the sides and the bottom of the pan in a solid mass, adding a little butter if necessary.
  • Remove from heat and add in nuts
  • Spread mixture into a buttered baking pan and press silver leaf or more nuts on top.
  • Cool cut into squares and serve.

In my version, I wanted to make it dairy free, so I substituted 2 cans coconut milk for the half and half, and substituted coconut oil for butter. The subtlety of the coconut complements the recipe fabulously. I am wondering whether the suggestion of half/half is due to her using what would have been available to her Ottawa audiences in the early 1970’s.

And finally…..

Kit’s Chocolate Mousse

Like the Art of Indian Cooking, The Joy of Chocolate  by Judith Olney is an oldie but goodie, and remains my go to book for all things chocolate, in spite of having a couple of much bigger ‘food-porn’ coffee table books on chocolate in the house as well. This book has substantive detail, especially in technique. If you have worked with chocolate (I really haven’t…) you will know how important this is.

My wife got me this as a gift early in our relationship. She definitely had ulterior motives….. ’nuff said!

Here’s the recipe….

9 oz semisweet chocolate

1 cup whipping cream
3 eggs
1 tbs icing sugar
1 tbs creme de cacao
2 tsp vanilla
melt chocolate over warn water, let cool only till warm
While chocolate cools, whip cream until it forms medium sized peaks. Do not over-beat or the mousse will lose some of its smooth light texture.
separate 2 of the eggs and set whites aside. Combine the yolks with the remaining egg in the bowl of an electric mixer.Beat until eggs are thick and lemon coloured – about 5 mins

While the yolks are beating, place the 2 egg whites in a clean bowl and whisk by hand until the whites start to stiffen. Sprinkle on confectioners sugar and beat until you have firm peaks.
Working quickly, add the cooled melted chocolate and a scoop of the whipped cream to the egg yolks. Stir until smooth then add the remaining cream. When it is fully incorporated, add the liquer and vanillla, then fold in the whites until just blended.
pour in suitable containers and chill overnight
decorate with….. Fruit, cream, chocolate shavings…..

This is an intensely rich dessert. The time before when I made it, I put it in champagne flutes  – these 6 oz glasses were too much. No one finished. This time I put them in little 3-4 oz ramekins, and it was ‘just right’. I topped each with whipped cream and a raspberry.

But speaking of technique  – and planning – I really did mess up here. For starters, I tried to whisk room temperature egg whites. An exercise in futility! Then I realized I had no baking chocolate, and improvised with a combination of chocolate bars (nice ones though) cocoa powder, coconut oil and milk. I worked away at it until it had achieved a good, viscous consistency. Finally, no Creme de Cacao either! I substituted Bailey’s.

My guests were left wondering what the little occasional chunks in it were. The chocolate bars I used had some nuts in them.

Final thoughts….

Its been fun! I have in essence given myself a crash course in Ethiopian cooking. Its really what cooking is all about for me – my adult form of play – and also learning.

I find it amazing that even though I have always loved to cook (I got that Indian cookbook over 30 years ago), there always seems to be so much more to learn and understand.

The key learnings on this one:

  • Dry cooking onions 
  • Be patient: add ingredients one at a time, allow each to infuse into the dish before adding more
  • Adding ingredients such as garlic and ginger at the end so their flavour stands out stronger.
  • Don’t overcook: with stews, this is too easy to do. There is a right time when vegetables (especially) are done ‘just right’
  • Buy between 1.5-1.75 the number of injera per person. So for 10 people you would by packages containing a total of between 15- no more than 20 injera.

Well that will wrap it up for this blog! Happy cooking!


One thought on “Our Ethiopian Banquet

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