Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ethiopian Feast (Part 1)

On Friday night whilst flicking through cookbooks I was inspired to have another go at making Ethiopian curries. It is probably close to 2 years since I last had a stab at some Ethiopian cuisine and it was so spicy, flavoursome and different to other curries that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I haven't bothered making injera bread previously but after reading recent restaurant reviews of Ethiopian restaurants I decided to give it a try this time.     

The injera dough is very simple to prepare, there is no kneading required and a quick mix results in a thick batter. The downside is that it takes 3 days of fermenting (with a quick stir every day) before it is ready for use. In the meantime there were some other vital Ethiopian staples that needed to be prepped like the fiery Berbere spice mix and Niter Kibbeh, a spiced clarified butter.

Some of my spices were almost running out and others not used as frequently were well past their best before dates, so I did a stock-up of fresh spices from my local Indian grocer. 

Armed with these goodies, I went about making the spice powder first and regretfully forgot to  take a photo as the whole spices were roasting away. The smell coming from the kitchen was amazing. After the roasted spices cool down, it's only a matter of grinding them with a few other ground spices and placing the mixture into an airtight container.

The clarified margarine is also fairly straight-forward. After the margarine has melted, it is simmered for 20 minutes along with onions, garlic, ginger and spices. My only issue was that I couldn't locate my cheesecloth or anything similar for straining the margarine. I resorted to carefully using coffee filter bags, however this needed to be done in a few batches as the bags broke a couple of times. Suffice to say, my clarified margarine has a few extra bits and pieces.  

Now that these two basics are out of the way and the injera dough has only one day to go, I'm really looking forward to dinner tomorrow night. There are 2 or possibly 3 curries that will be on the menu, mixed vegetable, powdered chickpeas and a lentil one if I have enough time. I'll follow up with some more Ethiopian recipes in a day or so!

Berbere (From World Vegetarian Classics)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
8 cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (not pods, seeds from the pods only)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
8 small red dried chillies (1 used 4 medium sized ones)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons paprika

Toast the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek, coriander seeds and chillies in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly coloured. Leave to cool, then grind in a spice grinder with the ginger, allspice, turmeric, salt, cinnamon and paprika until a fine powder forms. Store in an airtight container.

Niter Kibbeh (From World Vegetarian Classics)  

250g unsalted butter dairy-free margarine
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds 
1 cinnamon stick, about 7.5cm long
2 cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

In a small saucepan, gradually melt the margarine and bring it to the boil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek, turmeric and basil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer over a very low heat, making sure there is no sign of burning, for about 20 minutes, or until the solids fall to the bottom.

Pour the liquid through a cheesecloth into a container. Discard solids. Leave to cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  

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