The heart of Ethiopian cooking comes from berbere, its spicy blend of herbs and chiles, as well as niter kibbeh, their spiced butter/oil. Once you have those ingredients, you are off to the races for quick, tasty Ethiopian food.
I made a huge batch of niter kibbeh with a tub of Earth Balance spiced with savoury spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, garlic, and ginger. I used the recipe from Papa Tofu but there are many recipes online as well.
In fact, when I first found the recipe for Warm Cabbage and Green Beans from the New York Times courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson, I quickly realized that the first part of the recipe was making the niter kibbeh. True to its Ethiopian roots, it uses an entire 1/2 lb of butter in the recipe but trust me, you don’t need all that fat. Trim that 1/2 cup to 1 tbsp, thank you very much. Instead of mild fassoulia, the ginger makes this a spicy and very flavourful cabbage and green beans side dish. This works really well with the mild split pea puree, for a contrast in flavour, texture and spiciness.
Typically, Ethiopian food is a combination of a lot of little dishes served overtop a sour fermented teff pancake called injera. The sauces are absorbed by the pancake as you munch away. Then you scrape up the soggy, sour greatness. Sadly, if there is one thing I know I can’t duplicate at home, it would be making a super huge injera like I had in my last post. I don’t have any skillet that would fit such a huge pancake!
That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to make my own injera, though. Living in quasi-Ethiopian town means that teff flour is easily purchased (although still quite pricy) and I was up for making my own mini injera. However, my homemade version was no comparison to the real thing. I used the Mini Injera recipe from Celebrate Vegan but they didn’t turn out so well. Dare I suggest it was a complete flop? I am not sure what went wrong but the pancakes were too holey and took way too long to cook to make it a feasible option. They still tasted nice, though, and I even tried my hand at an Ethiopian wrap with the kik alicha and cabbage (verdict: tasty but hard to photograph with all the leaky holes!). We ended becoming frustrated and threw all of the injera batter into the skillet for an injera scramble. It was suboptimal but it cooked the batter more quickly. 😉
With this trio of recipes from this week (Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) & Fasoulia (Ethiopian Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)) along with the Ethiopian Split Pea and Kabocha Squash Stew with Collards, you are able to put together a veritable Ethiopian feast. Enjoy!
Ethiopian Warm Cabbage and Green Beans
Adapted from New York Times
1 tbsp niter kibbeh (recipe here and here)
1 pound cabbage or Napa cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded (I used Napa)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
7 ounces chopped canned tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon berbere (could substitute chili powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half (I used 1 lb)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Melt 1 tbsp of the nitter kibbeh in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add cabbage and sliced onion, and sauté until the cabbage is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, garlic, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, turmeric, berbere, cardamom and ginger. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 30 minutes.
2. Fold green beans into tomatoes and cabbage. Simmer until the beans are cooked and take on flavors of the spiced sauce, about 10 minutes or until they reach your desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste. If desired, serve with kik alicha, overtop injera or with a side of rice.