November 2012: Ethiopia

Quick Facts

Official Language(s): Amharic, English, Tigrignya
Some Other Languages Spoken: Anuak, Afar, Berta, Dirasha, Gurague, Haddiya, Kafa, Oromo, and Sidamo
Ethnic Groups: Oromo 34.5%, Amara 26.9%, Somali 6.2%, Tigraway 6.1%, Sidama 4%, Guragie 2.5%, Welaita 2.3%, Hadiya 1.7%, Affar 1.7%, Gamo 1.5%, Gedeo 1.3%, other 11.3%

Food Facts: Ethiopia is somewhat isolated, geographically, from the rest of Africa due to high reaching mountains, resulting in a unique cuisine. Ethiopia’s proximity to trading routes via sea and ocean resulted in traders bringing over various spices, including cardamom, fenugreek, chile peppers, and ginger. Traditional Ethiopian cuisine consists of two elements: injera, a large sourdough crepe, and wat (also spelled wot or wett), a thick, spicy stew. The wat, along with side dishes, are served in heaps on top of a flat injera. Dishes are also often scooped up with pieces of injera and eaten by hand. Chicken, lamb, and beef are staples in wat dishes. Vegetarian dishes consist of legumes, lentils, collard greens, cabbage, and potatoes. Dishes are often flavored with various forms of chile peppers and a traditional spiced butter.

Recipe: Doro Wat with Injera
Often referred to as the national dish of Ethiopia, Doro Wat consists of chicken cooked with caramelized onions, traditional spiced butter (known as nit’ir qibe) and a spice mix (known as berberé), resulting in tender chicken in a rich, thick, and spicy sauce. Hard boiled eggs are also added at the end. The dish is served with injera, a crepe-like spongey bread that’s slightly sour due to fermentation. The spiced butter, spice mix, and injera can be purchased at an ethnic grocery store or made from scratch.

Doro Wat Ingredients:
4 tbsp. spiced butter (see recipe below)
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 1⁄2 tbsp. spice mix (see recipe below)
plus more as needed
4 chicken legs (about 2 1⁄4 lbs.),
skinned and divided into drumsticks and thighs
Kosher salt, to taste
Juice if 1/2 lemon
4 whole hard-boiled eggs
Injera (see recipe below)

Heat butter in a large straight-sided skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until softened, 6–8 minutes. Add spice mix and 2 cups water; stir well.

Season the chicken all over with salt; nestle the pieces in the skillet. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Uncover skillet and raise heat to medium-high; simmer to reduce the liquid until it has a thick, gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and lemon juice; stir to warm through. Taste and season with more of the spice mix and salt, if necessary. Serve hot with the injera.

Serves 4.

Spiced Butter (makes about 1 and 1/2 cups)

1 pound unsalted butter
1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. As foam rises to the top, skim and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears, the solids have sunk to the bottom, and the top is clear. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cardamom, oregano, turmeric, and basil and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and let stand until the spices settle. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using.

Spice Mix (makes about ¾ cup)

2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns
1⁄4 tsp. whole allspice
6 white cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1⁄2 cup dried onion flakes
5 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed, seeded,
and broken into small pieces
3 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a small skillet, combine coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom pods, and cloves. Toast spices over medium heat, swirling skillet constantly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Let cool slightly; transfer to a spice grinder along with onion flakes and grind until fine. Add chiles, and grind with the other spices until fine.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in paprika, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Injera (makes approximately 10)

1 1/2 cups ground teff
2 cups water
Salt, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mix the ground teff with water and let stand in a bowl, covered with a dish towel, at room temperature until it bubbles and has turned sour. This may take as long as 3 days. The fermenting mixture should have the consistency of a very thin pancake batter.

Stir in the salt, a little at a time, until you can barely detect its taste.

Lightly oil an 8 or 9 inch skillet (or a larger one if you like); Heat over medium heat.

Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the skillet; About 1/4 cup will make a thin pancake covering the surface of an 8 inch skillet if you spread the batter around immediately by turning and rotating the skillet in the air. Injera is not supposed to be paper thin so you should use a bit more batter than you would for crepes, but less than you would for flapjack pancakes.

Cook briefly, until holes form in the injera and the edges lift from the pan; Do not let it brown, and don’t flip it over as it is only supposed to be cooked on one side.

Remove and let cool. Place plastic wrap or foil between successive pieces so they don’t stick together.

Sources:, and
Image courtesy of Full Little Tummies

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