For ages now, we’ve wanted to try making Ethiopian cuisine at home. We love the food, and one of us (that would be Craig) loves to cook. Plus we want to make sure our family incorporates as much Ethiopian culture as we reasonably can, and we all know that food is a tremendous part of any culture. Even though we’ve had this desire, though, we’ve had a hard time getting to the point where we could actually start cooking.
Our first hold-up was the spices. You can’t just walk into your local supermarket and find berbere, for instance. We had a plan to visit the Little Ethiopia neighborhood in DC (which boasts the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia itself) and pick up some spices there, but for one reason or another, our plan kept falling through. Finally, I decided to order the spices online. Through the magic of the internet, the spices arrived at our door just a few days later. The three spices I figured we wouldn’t be able to easily find were berbere, fenugreek powder, and ajwain seeds (also known as bishop’s weed, or so Google tells me).
The next step in our plan was to make the spiced, clarified butter – niter kibbeh – that is the fat in most Ethiopian dishes. The first recipe we came across called for twelve pounds (!) of butter, but we decided to scale that back and start with just one meager little pound.
This was a pretty simple process, except apparently the photographer kept getting in the chef’s way and slowing him down. First you melt the butter over low heat, and then you add onion, garlic, ginger, and a bunch of spices.
Making sure to keep the heat down very low, you let it simmer for about an hour. It ends up looking like this.
All you have to do is strain the solids out, and that’s all there is to it!
We poured the butter into a silicon ice cube tray for freezing. That way, we can take out little portions at a time. (This may be ridiculous, because the recipes all call for a fair amount of butter!)
The last thing we had to do before we could really cook was make a plan to acquire injera, the pancake-like sourdough bread that is the staple of most Ethiopian meals. We’re not as ambitious as Jennifer, who just whipped up her own batch (and succeeded on the first try, no less). Instead, we’re happy to just buy some from our local Ethiopian restaurant. Since we were going to be there on Saturday for an Ethiopian Christmas (which is January 7th) gathering with our local adoption group, we decided we would buy some then and cook today.
That’s the cookbook we’re using, by the way, although Craig found a different recipe online for the butter. Way back when we first started thinking about this, we heard that this cookbook has the most authentic recipes.
So, as I post this to the blog, Craig is working away on our first homemade Ethiopian meal. I’ve already gotten in the way a couple of times, so I’ll just sit back and relax, perhaps with a glass of wine. Life is rough when your husband likes to cook, I tell you. So, so rough!
[To be continued, of course…]