Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ethiopia

Ethiopia
Photo courtesy of user Dietmas Temps on Flickr
Location: Eastern Africa
Background: Uniquely maintained freedom from colonial rule except between 1936-1941.
Area: Over 1 million sq km; 27th largest in the world
         Slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Coasts: Landlocked since 1993; most populated landlocked country
Agriculture: Coffee is believed to have originated there
Population: Over 91 million; 14th largest in the world
Capital: Addis Ababa
History: Oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world - at least 2000 years.
Economy: 41% agriculture
Sources: CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia

A lot of the countries that I cook from don't have well-known cuisine in the US.  Yes, there may be pockets of people that eat the food, and some influences from there, but most people don't go out to an Equatorial Guinean restaurant.  This is not true for Ethiopia.  I have eaten at multiple Ethiopian restaurants and have always enjoyed the food, so I was pretty excited for this.

Ethiopia is right next to Eritrea, so the cuisine has a lot of similarities.  The food is generally served on injera, which, as Mary Rose (you'll meet her later) says, bread that is like a pancake farted.  But in a good way.  What this really means is that it is sourdough-based, and therefore bubbly.  It also means it can take a lot of time to make.
You will see another repeat in the recipe I chose for Ethiopia: Doro Wat.  It calls for Berbere paste.  Remember when I made Kevin cut the berbere recipe into 1/16th of the original because we didn't need that much?  Oops.
Anyway, onto the cooking!

I started by mixing the chicken, lemon, and salt together and letting it marinate.  I did squeeze a real lemon, so I felt like I was off to a good start.

I really like recipes that let me puree things rather than chop them up, and this was one of those.  Additionally, my wonderful husband got me an immersion blender for Christmas, so the task became that much more fun.
I had never used one before, so it took some getting used to, but once I figured it out it went pretty well.  Onions, garlic, and ginger - pulverized.

To make berbere paste, you just take the spice mixture and mix in some oil.  For consistency, I used the same berbere recipe as I did for Eritrea, since I had a little bit left.  However, I did notice something odd.
See the color difference?  The bottom was what Kevin made last time, and the top is what I made this time.  I think it is because of the cayenne.  The top containers of it that I had were vastly different colors, probably due to age.  I am not sure if this affected the flavor.

Anyway, after adding the oil to make a paste, I put that in some butter that has been colored by paprika.
The puree mixture was next, and got cooked down a bit.  Then I added some wine, chicken stock, and the chicken and let it simmer.  I also cooked the hard-boiled eggs so they would be ready to go in as well.
The aforementioned Mary Rose came over for dinner that night so we could have a Dr Who marathon after we ate (and to see Brendan - her self proclaimed boyfriend).  Brendan also joined us for dinner, but he had some fruits and vegetables instead.

Holy mouth-on-fire, Batman.

Yes, I realize that there were a lot of spices in there, so I should have seen this coming.  But I have cooked other recipes with plenty of spices, and some of them barely had flavor.  But this, this was not like that at all.

The chicken was delicious, especially once you got through the outer-layer that burned your mouth.  It was tender and flavorful and wonderful.  But the sauce was fairly unbearable for my Midwestern palette.  Luckily Mary Rose brought some bread, which definitely came in handy.  The egg was also nice, since it wasn't in the mixture for too long.

In the end, none of us could finish it.  I am usually pretty wimpy when it comes to spice, but the others aren't.  So when I say that they couldn't eat it either, it is pretty significant.

I am sad we couldn't finish, but I think we did get to experience some true Ethiopian cooking, or at least the closest I could get.  Plus, I learned a few lessons.  If a recipe has a .25 cup of cayenne in it, it is probably not for me!  Also, don't order Doro Wat at the local Ethiopian restaurant, because it is too spicy.  I think that means that this was, in the end, a success.

Next time: Fiji