When Sarah selected "ancient grains" as our star ingredient for this round of Feeding Friendship, she mentioned a Bill Bryson quote:
Out of the thirty thousand types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven — corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye, and oats — account for 93 percent of all that humans eat.
I took this as a challenge to avoid these plants and focus on some of the more obscure, ancient grains. Perhaps some I've used before like farro or bulgur. Unfortunately, these - along with kamut and spelt - are just types of wheat! So I decided I should go with quinoa, amaranth, or tef. Googling (that's a legit gerund, I swear) around for uses of tef led me to injera, the spongy bread used as tablecloth and utensil in Ethiopian cuisine. At once, I had a plan.
The first time I ever tried Ethiopian food was in Minneapolis with my parents and some of their college friends. It was spring break of my junior year and we were there visiting Carleton College (which I decided at the last minute not to attend). My parents' friends had boasted that you could find every type of food in Minneapolis and my challenge of "well, then, I want Ethiopian" was met.
I used whole grain tef, but I suspect that most of the Ethiopian restaurants that I have been to were using either refined tef or a tef-wheat flour blend. The whole grain tef makes a dark bread with a slightly gritty texture and the overnight fermentation gives it a slightly sour flavor. Tef has become popular again recently because it is gluten-free. Unfortunately, a thin, gluten-free pancake doesn't have much structural integrity so it had a tendency to fall apart when you used it to grab the food (the traditional way to eat Ethiopian food). A bit messy - but tasty!
Traditionally, an Ethiopian meal, like that of much of the Middle East and into India is composed of several dishes, each of which (to me) could be a stand-along meal. While I wasn't up to making six or eight dishes, I did make two - doro wat (wat means food) and Yataklete Kilkil. Wat is a stew that can be made with any meat (doro wat is chicken). Thanks to a long stewing time, I ended up with shredded chicken, but what sets this apart from your standard crock-pot chicken is that you begin by cooking onions until quite dark in a dry skillet. This caramelizes them, but also drives out a lot of the moisture. Once the onions are cooked, you add some oil and berbere - a very hot spice blend. I adapted a recipe based on several I found. For me, the result was a perfect blend of spiciness and rich flavors from all the other spices. The Yetakelt W'et is a gingery vegetable stew that I found was a nice complement to the
This is a recipe I found several places online (including here).
1 lb whole grain tef
3 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
1. Twenty-four hours prior to cooking, mix together tef, water, and yeast in a large bowl. Cover with a tea towel and place on a sheet pan (just in case it rises out of the bowl).
2. Leave a room temperature to ferment/rise.
3. When ready to cook, stir in salt.
4. If you have a gigantic skillet, heat that up. Otherwise, a normal-size, low-sided cast iron skillet over medium heat will do.
5. Lightly oil the pan before making each pancake. Add just enough batter to cover the pan and cook until it looks dry on top. Remove and let cool.
Adapted from several sources.
3 cups onions, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 rotisserie chicken, cooked and chopped into 1 inch cubes.
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1. In a heavy dutch oven, cook the onions until very dark. Stir frequently to prevent burning or sticking.
2. Add oil and all spices. and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup water and scrape fond from bottom of pan.
3. Add chicken and simmer about 30 minutes. Add water as needed to keep moist but not soupy.
4. Serve on top of injera with yogurt on the side.
Adapted from here
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups green beans, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
3 inches of ginger, chopped
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. canola oil
salt, to taste
1. Place potatoes, carrots, and green beans in a pot and just cover with water. Simmer over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
2. While vegetables are cooking, place onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cardamom, and flour in the blender. Puree until smooth.
3. Heat oil in skillet and add onion mixture. Cook until the onions lose their raw taste and add to the vegetables. Simmer an additional 10 minutes.