A white (faranje) adoptive mother to two Ethiopian (habesha) girls wends her way through
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D. J. Mesfin

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lemlem Zigin (Raw Beef in Spicey [sic] Sauce)

"Lemlem Zigin is a delicious meal for people who like their meat rare and at the same time favor the spicy sauce." ~ D. J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, p. 121

If I were ever to write a children's book with a concept completely stolen from someone else, it would be titled Llama Llama's Injera Drama.  It's like I've never, ever made a decent batch of injera in my life and I'm not understanding it!  I know there's a learning curve, and I'm okay with that.  But I seem to be encountering learning peaks and valleys.  I know the adage "two steps forward, one step back"; it's just not a favorite of mine.  

I had put some buckwheat injera mixture together to ferment a day or so before we were going to be making it, and I stuck to the recipe, rather than adding my husband's sourdough starter to the mix.  After last week's injera mess, I thought it was time to get back to basics.  However, I had never just used this basic recipe -- I had always added about 4 to 5 ounces of my husband's sourdough starter (his blog is here, but he isn't the best about updating it; just trust me when I say we are up to our necks in sourdough and bread around here).  I don't know why I thought I should skip it this time, but I think it was a mistake.  The morning of Ethiopian night, the dough smelled like something that had been partially digested and regurgitated.  This may have been normal, as it happened to one of my husband's starters at one time (and we could smell it from upstairs); he mentioned something about a war between good bacteria and bad bacteria.  In the end, his starter turned to the light and it stopped smelling like something had died.  If I had left this injera starter alone for another day or so, it, too, might have turned for the better, but I needed something for dinner that night, so I turned to a new recipe that didn't require any sitting, a recipe taken from Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine (there are two different links here; his name brings you to his website, while the book's link takes you to Amazon).  While the process was more than approachable, the result was disappointing.  I really think I need to move towards an injera with less teff; the more teff injera I make, the more I think I understand why our local Ethiopian restaurant's injera is more buckwheat than teff.  Meanwhile, my husband has taken up the gauntlet and has started work on his own injera.  Between the two of us, we have to meet with success!  The other night, I was at a book discussion at the Ethiopians' school and was talking to a fellow committee member, who happens to be from Ethiopia; until then, I hadn't really had a chance to talk with her, so, as we talked, I seized my chance and asked what she does for injera.  She smiled sheepishly and admitted that she brought injera back from Ethiopia with her after their every-other-year visits and, in between that, she brings it up from Washington, DC.  She said she tried for years, but just gave up.  That makes me feel a little better, but I still refuse to believe that I can't figure this out.  Maybe I'm delusional.  

Onto dinner!  Tonight's dinner was a minimal-berbere-added dish: just one teaspoon instead of the usual 1/2 cup.  I wasn't wild about it.  It seems that, the more dishes I make from this book, the more I realize I prefer the berbere-intensive dishes.  Considering that I don't really like spicy-hot foods, in general, this comes as a complete surprise.  I can't tolerate cayenne or hot sauce or anything like that, but I sure love berbere!

I've photographed the cooking red onions so many times, I decided to try a different photo.  I just love the contrast in colors here!!

Red onions in a green bowl...is there anything prettier?  Even with the chip on the rim?

By now, I'm sure you know what is done to the onions: they're browned without grease or oil in a pan.  

After the onions were done, some meat was added.  At this point, the recipe called for "meat with bones".  I hate meat with bones, so I just cut up some steak.  

Then came the berbere, some red wine, and some nit'ir qibe.  

I love the color of nit'ir qibe!

The spices were simple: black pepper, garlic, ginger, and cardamom.  I added some water after adding the spices and let the stew simmer for about 20 minutes.  

Once done, the hot (in temperature) sauce is supposed to be poured over raw ground beef so that it cooks a little, but remains quite rare.  I would have loved to have done this, but I hadn't been able to get to Whole Foods for some very fresh ground beef and I didn't want to take a risk with supermarket (all right, I'll admit it, Aldi's) ground beef.  Instead, I put the ground beef in and let it cook.  

the end result

on the injera

And after uploading my pictures, I realize that the injera didn't look all that bad.  

But the taste was lackluster and the texture wasn't exactly right, so the quest continues!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yenqulal We't (Egg Sauce)

"Yenqulal We't may be used as a substitute for meat stews for people who don't eat meat.  When properly cooked, it can be much more delicious than meat stews." ~ D. J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, p. 144

This was all but an unmitigated disaster.  Not because of the yenqulal, which came out perfectly, but because of injera drama.  Perhaps I got a bit cocky.  I have made several great batches of injera since the CT families' Ethiopian holiday party; indeed, I haven't had a flopper batch in the bunch!  I even went to the Ethiopians' preschool to make injera, successfully, I might add!  

I'm not professing achievement of injera perfection, mind you (though, according to a picture in one of the Ethiopian's books, my first injera attempt looked much closer to perfection than it did when compared to restaurant injera); I was just churning out perfectly good injera.  

Until Sunday night, when I made the yenqulal.  

I had such high hopes.  Sunday morning, the dough was looking great!

And it smelled great, too.  This time, I had made it with teff instead of buckwheat flour, as I had finally run into Whole Foods to grab some before the weekend.  That seems to have been the downfall, as it was the only variable that I had changed.  Whereas my buckwheat injera batches had been spongy, bubbly, and light, the teff injera was flat and rubbery.  

It was awful.  I was more than a bit ticked.  I tried running off a quick batch of batter using half teff and half buckwheat, which improved things somewhat, but I wasn't getting the great bubbles and as spongy a texture as I was looking for and it hadn't fermented, so it tasted like we were eating with bland pancakes.  It was better than the 1/4 teff injera (in the injera recipe I've been using, from Lucy's Legacy, there are 2 parts of self-rising flour, 1 part all-purpose flour, and 1 part teff flour), but it was still a huge disappointment.  

But back to the yenqulal, which is really meant to be the subject of this post, not my miserable injera.  

This was a super-easy recipe and combined some of the best parts of one of my favorite dishes: the red sauce and the eggs from doro we't, except only egg yolks were used, and they were mashed.  I'm not sure if it was "properly cooked" (as quoted at the top of this post), but it sure was tasty.  

I started with the onions:

While the onions were dry sauteeing, I also boiled the eggs:

After the onions were browned, some water was added, then the berbere and the nit'ir qibe.  

At this point, I let the yenqulal simmer while the eggs finished boiling.  After they were done, I removed the yolks.

The yolks were mashed, some water was added to make a paste (though I was also cooking some minchet abish for my husband, who hates eggs, and my paste ended up being a bit lumpier than it probably should have due to my multitasking).  

The paste was added to the berbere mixture, as was some red wine and the spices: ginger, black pepper, and salt:

moving clockwise from bottom left: black pepper, salt and ginger

That's it!  Aside from the berbere, there aren't even really any exotic ingredients in this dish, and it's pretty quick and easy to throw together.  Though I think I'd like it a bit more with some whole hard-boiled eggs added to it, like in doro we't.  And I'm going to have to start dialing back the the berbere a little bit because the current bag that we're using seems to run a lot hotter, measure for measure, than the earlier bags of berbere I had.  Even my husband is asking for me to dial it back some, and he buys hot sauce by the gallon.  

This was the point where I started cooking the injera and realized that it was going to be a colossal failure, which really tainted my enjoyment of our little Ethiopian night.  I'm going to go back to the buckwheat version and play some more with adding in teff.  Or perhaps I'll try a different recipe altogether.