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  • Bettina Applewhite

Corona Chronicles: Trip to Ethiopia

This had to be my most adventurous food trip in the kitchen. In the middle of cooking, I had to stop and take pictures and send to my Ethiopian friends. I had to ask questions. She had to get her mom conferenced in on the call to help us both. I will say that it all helped because this meal came out yummy. During this quarantine cooking, I "traveled" to Ethiopia and I went vegan!

My Ethiopian Menu was vegan! There are definitely meat dishes in Ethiopian cuisine, but I was drawn to the vegetarian items. There were lots of beans and stewed vegetables so I couldn't resist. Best of all, the meal was filling and satisfying. I was stuffed and didn't miss any meat. Many people often think of vegan meals from an American lens. Many areas of the world practice vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. If you're interested in joining the movement, look around the world for inspiration.

My Vegan Ethiopian Menu Included:

  • Gomen Wat (Collard Greens)

  • Misir Wat (Red Lentil Stew)

  • Tikel Gomen (Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots)

  • Tomato Salad

  • Injera (Flatbread made from Teff flour)

I have grown up eating collard greens all my life. I'm from the South. What would you expect? But I can say that this gomen wat gave a really distinct flavor. The ingredients reminded me of Indian flavors but the combination wasn't reminiscent of Indian dishes. The recipe I used for gomen wat uses garlic, cardamom, and cumin seeds. It also uses some Caribbean flavors like allspice, cloves, and smoked paprika. This was the dish that I liked with the Injera the most.

Injera is a fermented flatbread made from Teff flour. Teff is a gluten-free whole grain. It's a good source of fiber, calcium, protein, and vitamin C. Although teff is a grain, it's low in carbohydrates making it a low glycemic index food. This means it's a good option for people who are looking to manage their blood sugar. Many endurance athletes have started using teff because of it's high protein and dense nutrition. I into running half marathons (haven't increased to a full yet) so maybe this is something I should be looking into.

Injera is a fermented flatbread. It's left at room temperature to ferment for a few days before cooking. Trying to find a traditional recipe was difficult. That's when making phone calls to friends became important to making this meal successful. I only let my bread ferment for 24 hours which is short in traditional recipes. Usually the bread will ferment for at least 3 days. Seeing this bowl of bubbling liquid was interesting. Especially wondering if it's going to turn out okay. I used the largest nonstick pan I have. There's a special flat pan used to make platter size injera which I did not have. So my personal pan size was good for me. Once I got the hang of those bubbles rising to the surface, making this bread was fun. It was like making giant pancakes. Injera serves as both the bread and the utensils for picking up your food from your plate. Usually you'll tear off a piece of injera and scoop up any stews or vegetables with your bread and eat it all in one bite. It's communal eating.

Berbere is a spice mix that I used in my misir wat. Berbere is similar to many other spice mixes in that it differs from house to house and company to company that produces it. Many berbere spice blends will include a mix of cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, cinnamon, fenugreek, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, and cumin. There may be additional seasonings added. The ratios of seasonings may be different according to who makes it. Some are less spicy while others may knock your socks off. It's kinda like Old Bay Seasoning in Maryland. Just sprinkle it on everything.

The misir wat which is stewed red lentils was probably my favorite part of eating my Ethiopian menu. It was full of flavor and so easy to make. I love a recipe that feels like it's been stewing for hours but is completed in about 30 minutes. This is definitely a dish I will make again.

Tikel gomen is an Ethiopian cabbage dish made with potatoes and carrots. It has flavors of turmeric, cumin, ginger, and onion. Again, it was a simple recipe to put together. It was on the dinner table in less than an hour. The entire meal could be ready in less than an hour once you know what you're doing. It took me a little longer than that. Okay, it took me a lot longer than that. But it was so much fun going on this Ethiopian adventure.

I rounded out my meal with a fresh tomato salad which was just what this meal needed. All the dishes were warm, not only in temperature, but also in spice flavors. The tomato salad was bright and the acid cut through the rest of the hearty dishes.

There are a lot of other vegetarian, vegan, and meat Ethiopian dishes. There's lots of recipes on the internet that you can try. But there are also restaurants that you can try. They are the experts on these cuisines that you may not be as familiar with. Try some out. Go on an adventure.


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