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Posts Tagged ‘berbere’

Friday night Yuki and I took advantage of another Groupon we had purchased a while back. Gotta love Groupon, great opportunities to try new places at a discount. This one was for an Ethiopian restaurant we haven’t tried yet, Demera. We love Ethiopian food and had read good things about Demera, so it was one of those things that had to be done.

Apparently we weren’t alone in our love for Ethiopian food. We didn’t have a reservation and when we got there, about 6:30 or so, we were told there was a 15-20 minute wait. No worries, we had just driven all the way up to Lawrence and Broadway, no way were we going to turn back. A few minutes of waiting and the manager came by and said there would be a 35-45 minute wait. Eh? How’d it get longer? It ended up only being about 15 minutes, so I’m glad we stuck it out.

Typically a beer drinker with Ethiopian food I saw that they have house made honey wine. Had to give that a try. Not so sure I’m glad I did. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. Honey fermented with hops. It was like a honeyweiss without the bubbles. Not a big fan of honeyweiss. Oh well, it was tolerable. Next time I’m sticking with beer though.

We started off with the Sambussa Sampler. Basically it’s one each of their sambussas…beef, chicken, tuna, lentils, and spinach. Served with a spicy little chili sauce they were all very good. Simple, but delicious and homemade.

For the main course we had to go with the Messob, traditional communal dining. That way we could sample a bunch of different items instead of each of us ordering 1 dish. Plus, it’s the Ethiopian way to eat. Why eat American-style at an ethnic restaurant? Starting at the top and going clockwise we got the quosta (spinach), ye-shimbra assa (ground chickpeas), michetabish (ground beef), ye-salmon dulet (salmon with homemade cottage cheese), doro wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish), lega tibs (lamb with rosemary), and a salad in the center. Of course, everything was served on top of a piece of injera with plenty of injera on the side to grip and scoop our food. We couldn’t finish everything, but we expected that. Gotta love Ethiopian leftovers the next day, yet another similarity between Ethiopian food and Indian food (simmered food, communal dining, similar spices, same upset stomach, etc.).

In all honesty, we probably could have finished our dinner, but not only would we have missed out on leftovers, we would have missed out on dessert! We decided to split the hibist volcano. I’ve never had hibist bread before. It’s very much like a thick sweet roll. If it weren’t for the refreshingly cold ice cream on top I don’t know that we could have eaten it all. The spiced lemon sauce was really good as well.

Overall, everything we ate was delicious! Would I call Demera the best Ethiopian food in Chicago? I don’t know about that. Ras Dashen and Abyssinia are right up there as well, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three. I think it all depends on what you are looking for. If I were in the mood for doro wat I would go to either Ras Dashen or Abyssinia. If I wanted seafood I’d come to Demera (the salmon was fantastic with the jalapeno and cheese). It’s really a toss-up. I’m sure I’ll be back at all three at some point in my life, and my digestive system will be all the better for it.

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Last night I made some delicious Lamb Kofta with the leftover berbere spice from the Doro Wat. I thought I’d stick with a Middle Eastern theme by serving it with some homemade Baba Ghanoush, roasted red pepper and yellow string beans, and an Israeli Couscous and Tomato soup. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some pita.

Before I made the kofta, I roasted two eggplants on the burner for the baba ghanoush. Once the skin was nice and charred I set them in a bowl, covered them with plastic, and let them sit for an hour.

So, to make the kofta I mixed in the berbere spice (there was about 1.5 tablespoons left), 1 teaspoon of turmeric, salt, pepper, 6 grated garlic cloves, half an onion grated, 1 jalapeno seeded and diced, 1 slice of bread crumbed, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, some chopped cilantro, and the juice from a half lemon into 1 pound of ground lamb. Once mixed I let it rest for a half hour covered in the fridge.

After the meat was rested, I wet my hands and formed 8 patties. They were set aside until time to cook.

Then I started on the couscous. I sautéed half an onion in some olive oil for about 10 minutes, then I added three grated garlic cloves. A few minutes later I threw in a diced carrot. That cooked for about 6-7 minutes, then I added a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and two cups of chicken stock. Once that was all mixed together I grated three more garlic cloves and tossed them in along with some salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of cumin and a teaspoon of cayenne. I let that simmer for about 10 minutes covered over med-low heat.

After that I turned on the broiler and drizzled olive oil on the red pepper slices and yellow string beans. I seasoned them and threw them under the broiler. I left them there for about 10-15 minutes, during which time I finished the baba ghanoush.

I peeled the skin off the eggplants and mashed them up real good with a fork. I added 2 cloves of grated garlic, about 8 tablespoons of tahini, the juice from 1 lemon, and about a half teaspoon of cumin.

Then I heated some oil in a pan and cooked the kofta. I left them on for about 6 minutes each side, that gave them a nice crust, but kept them juicy. I also added about a cup of Israeli couscous to the tomato soup at this point to let it cook while the kofta was going.

Once everything was done I added a handful of chopped cilantro to the soup and plated it all up. The leftovers made a fantastic pita sandwich for lunch today!

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I was flipping through a Jewish cookbook that I have trying to find recipes for Passover when I came across a recipe for Doro Wat, the national dish of Ethiopia. At first, I was surprised to see this. As I thought about it though, there has been a Jewish community in Ethiopia for thousands of years, untouched by the Romans or Crusaders. This allowed a more traditional interpretation of the Torah to exist, along with strict dietary Kashrut laws. I’m not saying that Doro Wat was created by the Jewish community, I don’t think anyone knows where its origins are, but it is consistent with a style of cooking prevalent throughout the Jewish diaspora during the Sabbath. Since it’s not permitted to do any work, cooking included, during the Sabbath, food is simmered on low heat for long periods of time. That way, when families get home from synagogue, a warm and filling meal is ready to go without further cooking.

I felt compelled to give it a whirl since Yuki and I both thoroughly enjoyed the two Ethiopian food experiences we’ve had. The recipe calls for a mix of spices, but I prefered to make a berbere to use instead. To make the berbere I mixed the following spices together all at a 1/2 teaspoon measurement: chili powder, paprika, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cardamom seeds, ground cloves, and dried basil. Like any spice mix, you can make much more and store in a tight container for a few months.

To make the Doro Wat I first sautéed a diced large onion in some vegetable oil until it was soft but not burned, about 7 or 8 minutes. Then I grated in 6 garlic cloves and a 1/2 inch of fresh ginger and let those cook for a couple of minutes. After that, I added one cup of chicken stock and one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and brought to a boil. I let it boil for about 10 minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Next, I salted and peppered to taste.

I was making 4 servings, so I picked up 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. You can get a whole bird and break it down, purchase 4 complete leg sections, whatever you want to make 4 portions. Just make sure to use skin-on, bone-in chicken. The skin and bones will add depth to the dish. So, just before putting the thighs in the sauce I mixed in 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of the berbere that I made. Once the chicken was added I covered it with the sauce, turned the heat down, and let it simmer for an hour covered.

While the chicken was simmering I hard-boiled 4 eggs, one per portion. The egg is what really sets this dish apart from other chicken stews, so make sure every plate gets one. When the chicken only had about 10 minutes left I peeled the eggs, pricked them all over with a fork making sure not to break them, and then added them to the stew.

To serve with the Doro Wat I made another traditional Ethiopian dish of stewed greens. Typically collard greens are used, but Stanley’s had some beautiful chard, so I used that instead. It’s a real simple recipe. Fry a diced red onion in some olive oil for a few minutes, then add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 inch grated ginger. After that, add 2 green chilis that have been seeded and sliced. Add about 1/3 cup of water and let come to a boil for a couple of minutes. Then, add one red pepper that’s been seeded and sliced as well as 1 pound of whatever green you use (collard, chard, kale, cabbage, etc.) thinly sliced. Season with salt and pepper, mix it all up and cook over a med-low heat for about 25 minutes partially covered. That’s all there is too it.

As much as I wanted to make some Injera, I have absolutely no idea where to find teff, the grain used to make it. I found a bunch of recipes, but no teff. So, I just made some basmati rice.

I have to say, this is one of the best tasting dishes I’ve ever made! The sauce is so friggin delicious, I am definitely keeping it in my regular rotation. It would be equally good with lamb instead of chicken. I would even give shrimp a try in this sauce.

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After years of wanting to head up to the far north side of Chicago for some Ethiopian food, I finally got off my ass and checked out Ras Dashen the other night. All I have to say to myself is, “What the hell took me so long?”

I had to start with some Ethiopian coffee, the mother of all beans. They serve fair-trade organic, nice and smooth cup.

For an appetizer Yuki and I ordered some Spinach Sambusas. Lightly fried pastries filled with spinach and dipped into a spiced salsa. Very tasty, not too heavy. Think of them as Ethiopian empanadas or samosas.

Since our friends ordered the Doro Wat (chicken and egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish) we had to get something different. Although, it wasn’t that different at all. We got Yebeg Wat (lamb in berbere) and Doro Alicha (chicken and egg in onions, garlic, ginger, and green peppers). We ordered the Diblik Atkilt and Misser Wat for our sides, our friends got the Misser Salata, I think. You can check out their website for descriptions of the sides. All served on top of Injera with extra on the side.

Those of you not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you don’t eat with utensils. The food gets dumped right on the Injera allowing the bread to soak up the sauces and juices. You rip off pieces of the Injera, using it to grab you rip pieces of meat off the bones or piles of lentils, and chow down. It’s absolutely delicious as well as being a fun, communal way to eat.

Berbere is Ethiopia’s most famous sauce. It’s a red pepper sauce with spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, paprika, onion, and garlic. It’s actually very similar to Indian spices, but it’s definately distinct.

Back to the meal itself, we ordered the rice pudding for dessert. It was quite nice, very mild. There was a date in the middle.

Our friends got Ras Dashen’s famous bread pudding. It’s made with varius nuts, raisins, and tons of flax seeds. It was definitely a winner in my book.

Half-way through our meal a little jazz quartet started to play. They were pretty good. Saxaphone, guitar, bass, and bongos. It wasn’t too loud so conversation was never difficult.

I guess the one disclaimer I have is what I was warned about. Once you have Ethiopian food, no matter how strong-willed you are, you will start to crave it. It was extremely reasonably priced as well for the quality and amount of food served. I have to check out a few other places before I decide just how good Ras Dashen really is, but I will say this, I would definitely go back!

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