We've recently moved to a new neighbourhood in Toronto's west end, home to a huge population of the city's diasporic North African communities. And after dipping into some of the restaurants, and finding the injera, Ethiopian flatbreads, available on all of the local grocer's shevles we decided it was about time that we tried to cook up some of the Ethiopian flavours in our own kitchen. Both of the two recipes that follow are adapted from the vegetarian platters we've tried at the restaurants that line Bloor street in our neighbourhood in conjunction with some recipes found online, and a conversation I shared with the woman who sold us some berbere, a toasted spice mix that you can easily make yourself if it's unavailable, just click the link for a how-to. Also, if you're interested, these recipes are both completely vegan.
Aleecha - Peppery Ethiopian Carrot & Cabbage
1 head of savoy cabbage, diced to one inch squares
3 carrots, chopped to quarter inch coins
1 white onion, chopped
4 potatoes, cut in one inch cubes (optional)
4 cloves garlic, pasted
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp black pepper, cracked
1 tsp salt, to taste
3 tbsp light cooking oil, (canola or sunflower)
Heat the oil on a medium high flame in a medium pot with the lid off, adding onions and garlic paste and cook, stirring often, for five minutes or until soft. (Put your exhaust fan on high) Add the ginger, tumeric and pepper and let the flavours cook into the onions and garlic, stirring vigorously for about a minute. The mixture should be very fragrant and might make you sneeze once or twice.
The last step is simple but takes a while: add the cabbage (optional potatoes, we just weren't that hungry, so I left them out and the dish was amazing) and carrots and stir for a few minutes until everything in your pot has blended together, and the vegetables are coated in the flavourful onion mixture. Now reduce the heat to low and affix a tight fitting lid and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You shouldn't have to add any liquids, the natural moisture of the vegetables should make everything cook in its own juices, but be careful not to burn in the first few minutes, when the bottom of your pot is still hot from frying the onions and garlic.
Mesir Wat - Ethiopian lentils reduced in Berbere
2C lentils, canned or rehydrated
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cardamom
3 tbsp light cooking oil
4C of water, or vegetable stock
First off, make a paste out of the onion, ginger and garlic, using either a food processor, mortar and pestle, or if you have the time and energy, a heavy cleaver. Heat oil to medium-high in a good sized sauce pot with the lid set aside for later. Now, fry up the berbere and and turmeric in the oil for about thirty seconds, until the spicy aroma is thoroughly infused in the oil. Next, add the onion paste and cook off the excess moisture, which should take five to ten minutes. You'll know when it's cooked by the sweet smell and the paste turns a golden colour through out.
Now, just add the lentils and stir until completely coated, then add the water. Bring everything to a simmer and let cook on the stove for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with Aleecha on top of warm Injera (which hopefully will post a recipe for soon), alternatively serve over flatbread and rice if you can't find any Injera.