In this week’s edition of the Forward, Ingredients columnist Leah Koenig writes about the Shabbat traditions of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Savor the recipes below.
The use of spice is very subjective in Ethiopian cuisine, so add or subtract to your liking. You can find berbere at specialty food shops, and order a kosher-certified blend online at teenytinyspice.com.
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
6–7 garlic cloves, grated
1 piece (2-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 ½ pounds chicken legs or thighs (or a combination), skin removed
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon berbere
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil over high heat; turn off heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Rinse eggs under cold water, peel them and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, add the oil, onions, garlic and ginger to a Dutch oven or large pot set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover pot with lid and let cook until very soft, 5–6 minutes.
3) Add the chicken and about 2 cups of water; raise heat to medium. Stir in the tomato paste and spices, and season generously with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook until sauce thickens, about 35 minutes. If mixture begins to look dry, add more water as needed.
4) Add peeled eggs to pot, and continue to cook until chicken is fully cooked through, an additional 10–15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings; arrange chicken on a piece of injera, or divide onto plates, and spoon sauce over top.
When the Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel with Operation Moses in 1984, they brought with them a spice mixture called berbere — the mix gives Ethiopian cuisine its distinctive flavor. The fiery taste of berbere evokes my early childhood, as my family lived in Ethiopia from 1969 to 1973.
Berbere is the food of my infancy. My father was an Israeli diplomat, sent to Ethiopia to help improve its agricultural output. My family lived in the Rift Valley, south of Addis Ababa. We lived on an experimental farm called Abba Dir.