Cuisine Of Ethiopia

Ethiopia, International Cuisine

Cuisine of ethiopia spices

Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a pyro-gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 3

Fiery Cuisines Part 1 Ethiopia

The cuisine of Ethiopia is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Ethiopian food is a spicy mix of vegetable and lentil stews and slow-simmered meats. Straddling the Rift Valley of East Africa, Ethiopia has been called the “Land of Bread and Honey.

Ethiopia, once known as Abyssinia, is a place of high plateaus and low-lying plains. The northern high country is populated mainly by Christians, while the plains are home to Muslims and animists. Dietary restrictions in religions have given rise to a wide variety of both meat and vegetarian dishes.

While most Ethiopian ingredients are indigenous, certain ingredients such as red chilies, ginger, and spices have enriched its flavors. Grains like millet, sorghum, wheat and ancient teff form the basic breadstuffs of the diet. Most farming in Ethiopia is subsistence, so vegetables and animals are often grown and raised at home. The ancient practice of beekeeping produces exquisite honey. Honey is fermented to make tej, a honey wine.

Essential components of Ethiopian cooking are injera bread, berberé, a spicy red pepper paste, and niter kibbeh, a spice-infused clarified butter. Most foods have a stewy consistency. Alichas are mild stews. Wats are stews with the spicy flavor of berberé.

An essential spice in Ethiopian cooking is fenugreek. This hard seed gives a unique flavor to Ethiopian food. Desserts are not really served in Ethiopia, but iab, like a mixture of cottage cheese and yogurt, is traditionally the final course of a meal.

Before every meal in Ethiopia, there is a ritual washing of the hands. The meal is then served on a large platter that is draped with crepe-like injera bread. All guests eat from this one platter. Various dishes are portioned out onto the injera, and diners simply tear off a piece of the bread, use it to scoop up some of the various stews and pop it in their mouths. Extra injera bread may be served on the side. Honey wine, beer or telba, a flaxseed drink, are served as beverages. Another handwashing ends the meal, and strong coffee is served.

Berberé, along with Niter kibbeh, supplies one of the unique flavors of Ethiopian cuisine. There really is no substitute. Use as many of the spices as you can, but do try to use fenugreek and the dried peppers or paprika. They supply an essential flavor.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups


2 tsp Whole cumin

2 tsp Red pepper flakes

1 tsp Cardamom seeds

1 tsp Fenugreek seeds

1 tsp Whole peppercorns

6 Allspice berries

4 Whole cloves

2 Habanero

1 Onion, chopped

1 1/2 tsp Garlic, crushed

1 tbls Paprika

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Ginger, ground

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 cup Oil

1/4 cup Water or red wine


Heat a cast-iron panover medium flame. Add the whole spices and toast, stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes until they give off their aroma. Do not burn. Remove from heat.

Over an open flame, use a pair of tongs tolightly toast the habaneros, turning quickly from side to side until they soften and become flexible. Do not burn. Remove the stems and seeds and roughly chop.

Put the spices and dried peppers into a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a powder.

Put the ground toasted spices into a food processor or blender along with the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze portions for later use.

Doro wat

is perhaps the best known food from Ethiopia and is often referred to as that country’s national dish. This recipe makes a very tasty version with a deep, rich flavor and tender chicken pieces. Making your own homemade berberé is not difficult and is essential to give the dish the proper flavor.

Doro wat is traditionally very spicy, but you can adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to your liking. Also spelled doro wot or doro wet.

4 serves


1 kg Chicken legs and thighs, skinless

1 Lemon, juice only

2 tsp Salt

2 Onions, chopped

2 tsp Garlic, crushed

1 tbls Ginger, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup Oil, butter or niter kibbeh

2 tbls Paprika

1/4 to 1/2 cup Berberé paste

3/4 cup Water or stock

1/4 cupRed wine

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

4 Hard-boiled eggs


Mix together the chicken pieces, lemon juice and salt and in a large, non-reactive bowl and set aside to marinate for about 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, puree the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender. Add a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil, butter or niter kibbeh in a large pot over medium flame. Add the paprika and stir in to color the oil and cook the spice through, about 1 minute. Do not burn. Stir in the berberé paste and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the onion-garlic-ginger puree and sauté until most of the moisture evaporates and the onion cooks down and loses its raw aroma, about 5 to 10 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to burn.

Pour in the water or stock and wine and stir in the chicken pieces, cayenne to taste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add water as necessary to maintain a sauce-like consistency.

Add the whole hard boiled eggs and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and very tender.

Adjust seasoning and serve hot with injera bread or rice.