An Ethiopian Dinner Party

I realized that some of the most memorable meals I have ever had were at Ethiopian restaurants. Is this true of you too? For me, there was the dinner in Washington, D.C. that I shared with my treasured cousin, his amazing wife who told us about her life growing up in Siberia, Russia and a very dear friend who studied Russian history in college; we had so much to talk about with each other and we were grateful to be together. There were dinners I shared with another beloved cousin who is courageously and successfully battling cancer. There was the dinner I shared with two of my beloved college friends and family after a long-awaited and hard-won victorious court ruling.

What is it about Ethiopian food that makes it perfection? For me, there are several reasons. It is the delicious and comforting flavors, spicy balanced with mild, lots of hearty vegetables including kale, all of the food is served and eaten from one platter in the middle of the table, there are no utensils between the people gathered around the table, the colors are vibrant from the spicy red lentils to the green kale or white fish, and the soft and pillowy feel with every bite that is wrapped in injera.

So, it was to be expected, to me at least, that I would buy a cookbook on Ethiopian and Eritrean food, borrow several Ethiopian / Eritrean cookbooks from my local library, and make my own delicious dinner for the husband and special friends (aren’t all friends special though? I think so). The perfect occasion arose and there was a lot to celebrate including a friend’s new job. First, I narrowed down the menu by making some difficult choices (for example, one only type of lentils). Then I got started cooking, and the hardest thing to make was the injera. I used teff with dry active yeast (you could use a starter, instead, if you have it) and the injera took several days to ferment. The fermentation process seemed to work well but when I cooked the injera, it was too sour. Also, you need the right pan (similar to crepe pan), which I didn’t have, and my injera broke apart. Plan B — I purchased the injera from a local Ethiopian restaurant in Baltimore, Dukem, (If you get a chance to go there, it is wonderful!) I made the onion paste, garlic paste and ginger paste, ubiquitous is almost every recipe, a week ahead, and I bought the Berberre (pronounced bear-berry) (the next time I will make it from scratch, and same with the butter, I used regular butter, but next time I’ll make clarified butter). I cooked all day and it reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner, in that way. I nudged my dinner guests to eat more! There were lots of leftovers for our friends to take home. Dinner was the success I hoped for, each item had depth and flavor, just the right amount of spicy intensity. If you make Ethiopian and Eritrean food for your family and friends, please let us know, we’d love to hear about it.

In addition the onion, garlic and ginger pastes, for my Ethiopian dinner I made: (a) Roast Mushrooms / Enguaday Tibs/Kantisha Tibsi; (b) Mild Red Lentil Sauce / Miser Alicha / Birsn Alicha; (c) Mild Potatoes and Carrots / Dincha Alicha / Finish Alicha; (d) Spinach; (e) Buttermilk Curds / Ayb /Agibo; (f) Spicy Ground Beef Stew (Minchetabish Key / Tihun Sega Tsebhi; (g) Onion Sautéed Fish / Asa Tibs / Asa Tibsi; and (h) Tomato Salad with Fresh Lemon / Timatim Selata / Pomodoro Selata. For the spinach recipe, please go to Recipes we REALLY Like tab on this website.

Pixie Miller, May 2019

Garlic paste is in almost every Ethiopian and Eritrean recipe. To save time, make a large quantity in advance and freeze.

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