Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ethiopian Stew for Two

One of the most memorable and interesting meals I've ever had was the dish Doro Watt at the Ethiopian restaurant Addis Red Sea in Boston. The chicken stew was filled with exotic flavors and spices served on top a crepe-like bread. It wasn't spicy but had more flavor per square inch than anything my taste buds had ever encountered. Instead of a knife and fork, you used your hands to tear off a piece of bread and then pinched up a piece of chicken and some rich sauce. The entire meal was eaten from small wicker chairs low to the ground and the table was a giant wicker basket in the middle. The African music and ambiance perfectly complimented the food. The experience and that dish were so memorable, I decided to recreate it for the girls in the hopes that my adventurous eaters would be ready for the challenge and a culinary trip to Ethiopia. For me that is what life is all about - trying something new. 

This traditional, classic dish has a few steps to it but they are all worth it in the end! The flavors are exotic yet familiar – similar to some Indian curries. If you have never tried African food before, this is a safe and fantastic first step.

I have never cooked this dish before so I was a little nervous starting out. The first step was to do some research online. There were so many variations that I was able to cobble together the pieces myself and taste it as I went. A little more cardamom here, a little more ginger there...

After putting together the rough recipes, we headed to the farmer's market for herbs and spices. I was lucky to find some fenugreek seeds and some black African cardamom.

The only ingredient I couldn't find was Teff – a small grain indigenous to Ethiopia used in making the crepe-like pancake that goes along with most Ethiopian dishes. I found some suggestions online to use buckwheat flour and some yeast as a substitute. It worked perfectly!

As always, the girls were ready to help in the kitchen. We smelled and ground all the spices, whisked together the injira, flipped the crepes and tasted the dish as we went along. Cooking with them is so cool. 


1 large red onion, diced
POS (Pinch of Salt)
1 teaspoon fresh-ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon BERBERE
2 ½ cups chicken stock
6 boneless chicken thighs
¼ cup red wine
Juice of 1 lime
1 lime, sliced into wedges
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Using a large saucepan, cook the onions in 2 tablespoons of the spiced butter over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes until onions are golden. Lower heat to medium low and add the remaining butter, garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and berbere and cook another 10 minutes until the onions are nice and soft.

Bring to a simmer and add chicken stock, red wine and the chicken thighs. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and the chicken is starting to fall apart. It won't be a thick sauce so don't be alarmed.

Stir in the lime juice, season with salt and serve over the injera with slices of lime and egg and extra injera on the side.

Ethiopian Spiced Butter (Nit'ir qibe)

1 pound unsalted butter
½ cup red onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds, black African cardamom if you can find it
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
8 basil leaves

Melt butter over low heat, stirring often. Skim foam off the surface as it rises and continue cooking until no more foam appears. Add all remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and decant the butter off the spices using a sieve.

Berbere Spice Mix

½ cup ground chili powder (I use Anahaim chilis because of their subtle, kid-friendly heat)
½ cup paprika
3 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons salt

Sadie and her African black cardamom pods

Grind as many fresh spices as you can with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. Combine all spices! Save the rest as a rub for pork, chicken, steak, etc.


1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp instant yeast
3 cups warm water

Whisk together ingredients in large bowl, cover with cheesecloth and let sit outside for at least 24 hours. Ladle one cup into crepe pan over medium heat and rotate quickly to cover entire surface. Flip in a minute or two after surface starts to solidify. Injira should be soft and not crispy on the outside.  

Time to eat! 

We sat outside and ate a late lunch. The girls absolutely loved the dish! Lillie even said that it was "Better than tacos!" That is saying quite a bit. 

They love eating with their hands and this is a great way to do just that without getting too messy. The communal focus of Ethiopian cuisine is a great approach to dining with your family. What a great adventure!


  1. Love it! Man, what a cool dish!

  2. This sounds delicious!! DC has quite a selection of Ethiopian restaurants - I was already intrigued by the cuisine but now I am motivated to try it.

  3. Well we both chose Ethiopian but we went in pretty different directions with the cool! Your food looks great and your girls are too cute. Nice to "meet" you through pfb 2010...I'll be back again!

  4. This looks great! I attempted injera for this challenge as well, but mine turned out to be a disaster. The recipe I used didn't say anything about yeast, so maybe I'll have to try your version next time. Good luck with the challenge!

  5. We made the same thing. Awesome. I'm glad you made the spice butter and took pictures. I made some too but I think I must have burned mine. :) Still tasted lovely.

  6. That's great! The food looks great, and it's so cool that your kids enjoyed it. Good job- you have a vote from me.


  7. What a yummy looking dish!! And your daughters are beautiful! Best of luck in the challenge!!

  8. You made injera! I so thought of that, but then noticed it was kinda time-consuming. :p Grats on going Ethiopian; I had a bad experience with it once but still think it's a taste cuisine. Got my vote!

  9. Your injera looks picture perfect! Can't find teff flour, but seeing how great yours turned out, I'll try next time using buckwheat flour.