A normal person looks at the ingredient list for Doro Wat and says, “I think I’ll make something else.”
When I looked at the ingredient list I realized I was going to need some teff flour for my injera. I said to myself, “Well, I do need to pick up some paprika anyway.” Did I mention I live an hour away from any teff flour?
Justifying a lot of trouble for food is what separates me from normal people. I’ve woken up early on Christmas Eve to drive an hour away in order to grab one of the few Japanese Christmas cakes available. I’ve spent hours on a Sunday skating around Brooklyn trying to find a place that sold fresh scallops for a recipe I was insistent on for dinner and I was devastated when we had to give up. A foodie friend and I have walked the streets of San Fran while she was 7 months pregnant on a food trek even though someone had stolen my luggage (we did miraculously get it back). And then 8 months later we strolled her baby and my pregnant belly around NYC for 5 days eating everything in sight. We even almost made her late for her plane because of some Momofuku pork buns even though we hadn’t been hungry for days. Did I mention we left our older kids with other people so we could maximize our food appointments?
When I googled (ha ha, but yes. I really did) “classic ethnic dishes” in preparation for round two of the Foodbuzz PFB, I was immediately attracted to Doro Wat, an Ethiopian stew. This was a cuisine I had never cooked, which was a plus. I’ve cooked classic dishes from most cuisines (whether they were well cooked or not, I’ll leave that for another time). The spice list read like a love poem. I knew I wanted my daughter to try it because I want her to be well-versed in foods of the world before she is five (even if she can't pronounce them). It had the added piece of the traditionally accompanying Injera, a flat sponge like pancake made with teff flour. You get to eat it with your hands. The Injera and the Doro Wat seemed somewhat complicated, with many elements I’d never tried before: fermented starter, clarified spice butter (Niter Kibbeh), and a spice blend (Berbere). Bottom line: I knew this was going to take a long time.
I was hooked.
I spent several hours just scanning recipes and trying to determine what the most traditional methods were. I was surprised by the amount of variation from one recipe to the next, even if there were some basic similarities. Some recipes had no fenugreek while others insisted that while other spices could be left out, fenugreek was a requirement.
I love the chase. I blatantly ignored my long to-do list for the day and inconvenienced my family to run to town. I also hate driving. Okay, so at least I have views like this during my 1 hour each way drive. Should I really be complaining? To buy the teff flour I went to a store I’d never heard of before: “The Source” which is in Kailua, and boasts the label of being the only certified organic store in Hawaii. The store was only about the size of my apartment but I still got lost in the oils section, even though I had told myself I would run in and out and only put 20 minutes on the meter. It was flashing “expired” like an accusatory finger when I returned. I bought teff grain (and other things I couldn’t resist) from a woman who offered religious and health advice to her regular customers, and even reached out and massaged the shoulders of one woman who was seeking help with some sort of spiritual balance that was affecting her physical ailments.
I spent the whole next day making my injera and doro wat. There was a lot of baby holding and feeding and paying an iota of attention to my 4 year old in between stirrings, but basically I dedicated myself to this food. Which is exactly what is so cool about making a new and complicated food. Teff grain is so interesting. It is very rich in iron and has no gluten. It smells like a mix between molasses and black tea with a hint of sour. I ground it up into a flour in my vitamix (!!! I’d never done that before and I was so impressed. I guess that’s why they cost $$$).
Even though I spent hours looking at recipes, I basically ended up using the first one I found on google. I guess google is smarter than me. The only thing I changed, really, was the amount of berbere spice I used in the stew. I upped it to 2 Tablespoons, but I think this is because I did a high ratio of paprika to red pepper, since I knew my daughter was eating it. I still made it a little spicy.
The house smelled like incense and the stew became a rich and complex sauce over the course of the cooking. It’s amazing how almost the same spices added in three different forms (spice mix, spice butter, and straight in the stew) seem to change the result each time. I just read an essay about the shift in value that spices have endured and at one point in history, my stew would have been worth a king’s ransom, I’m sure. The chicken melted into the stew and the whole mix was tangy and earthy at the same time.
The injera was nutty and had a distinct flavor that melded perfectly with the stew. Since you put it down on the plate and then pour the stew over it, the bread gets soaked with flavor. You use pieces of the bread to grab up the stew and supposedly you can do this and keep your hands clean but I wasn’t too successful. My daughter ate the boiled eggs and the bread, plain. She was suspicious of the red color but declared what she ate to be good. I was very happy. My many many hours of cooking and planning were totally worth the 20 minutes it took us to eat. And now I have some spice butter and berbere in my kitchen waiting for me so I can make a faster batch next time. You can find the recipe for the doro wat (and accompanying links for berbere and niter kibbeh) HERE.
I had to play with the recipe for the injera a bit, but at least I used teff flour (which some recipes substituted with millet, which is not even close to the same thing). I say “quick” but as you can see you’ll need to start this quite a bit ahead of time. It’s not labor intensive.
“Quick” Injera makes about 5 breads
- 1/4 C quick sourdough starter (see recipe following)
- 1 3/4 C warm water
- 1 3/4 C teff flour
- 1/4 t salt
Heat a 10 inch saute pan to medium heat. Oil the pan lightly and put about 3/4 C of batter into the pan. Immediately turn and swivel the pan around as if making a crepe to cover the bottom of the pan with the batter. Cover the pan with a lid and let sit for a few minutes, until the top of the bread looks dry and has a few bubbles and darkens. Lift it out and set it aside (do not flip over and cook, only cook one side).
Quick Sourdough Starter (from the Joy of Cooking)
You’ll only need 1/4 C of this starter, so you can use the rest for a loaf of bread later.
- 2 T lukewarm water
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
- 3/4 C room temp water
- 2 C bread flour
- Mix 2 T water and yeast in a large bowl until the yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Stir the 3/4 C water and bread flour into yeast mixture. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm. Place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp for 6-8 hours or until tripled in volume. Punch down and use immediately or return to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.