Saturday, September 25, 2010

Project Food Blog- Challenge # 2 Comfort Zones and Inspiration

For Project Food Blog Challenge 2 my recipe for this post is : take inspiration from a group of cooks in Africa, add the passion of an extraordinary photographer, mix in a touch of research , stir with laughter from a sweet Ethiopian Grandmother, add a pinch of serendipity and a large cup of willingness to try new things and ta da ..a delicious bowl of Doro Wat.

But first a few words : CONGRATULATIONS to my fellow bloggers who have advanced to this round ! I am so excited I've just been bursting with joy and sharing my good fortune with anyone who will listen ! Thanks to my readers,friends and family who always support me.

And now back to Round 2-Stepping out of our comfort zones . The official challenge prompt is : Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

When I first read this challenge I knew exactly what cuisine I was going to tackle out of my comfort zone. African cuisine-why ? A couple of weeks ago I read Appetite, the blog by the fabulous photographer Penny De Los Santos. Specifically, the posting and photos of African women and the street stalls of Bamako, West Africa. Looking at that blog and reading about the time it took to prepare a beautiful meal,  all I could think of was how much I wanted to be there cooking along side them and learning how they do what they do,tasting and seasoning slowly over the entire afternoon. What little I learned of life in that village, was that it's not an easy life, but you could feel and see the love and joy that went into the cooking by those women. And that is what inspired me.  Thank you to Penny De Los Santos for her extraordinary talent and the passion that can be seen and felt in her work- an inspiration for the rest of us.

So I headed to the Internet and found the web site The Congo Cookbook-African Recipes . What caught my attention immediately was the Doro Wat, one of the best known dishes in African cuisine. It's a spicy chicken dish made with seasonings unique to African cuisine. When I read the ingredients and Googled images of the dish I knew it was going to be my dish for this post. The ingredients unique to this dish were not going to be found at my local Metropolitan Market !  Berbere-a spicy pepper mixture; Niter Kibbeh, a spicy clarified butter, and the African version of flat bread-Enjera. So I started searching for Ethiopian grocery stores in Seattle. Here I am more than half way around the world from the center of that culture and guess what ? There is a large Ethiopian Community in Seattle . And guess what else ? There are several fantastic Ethiopian grocery stores within 20 miles of where I live ! I picked Zuma, mainly because of all of the write ups about the store and cafe.

The Niter Kibbeh, spicy clarified butter, is the yellow container in the forefront

Saturday morning , armed with the address,  I headed out in search of Zuma and the ingredients I needed to complete this challenge. When I pulled up to the address, I knew it was going to be an adventure. The storefront was a pale washed out yellow building with a door missing the screen but a nice little sign that said "Ethiopian Ingredients and Gifts". It looked like what I imagine I would find wandering the streets of a village in Africa. I was about 10 feet from the front door and the smells hit me-exotic spiciness with a hint of curry or cardamom -or something I just couldn't put a name to. A slight acridness,vinegary-not unpleasant when mixed with the other aromas that were coming out of the store.
Inside I found 2 little tables with small menus for the cafe and behind the counter a woman dressed in a lapis blue dress with a matching wrap around her head. She didn't hear me at first, she was watching something televised from Africa on her laptop behind the counter. Sitting on her lap was a little boy with bright brown eyes and a smile that made you just want to hug him forever. He spotted me first but didn't say anything as I searched the few shelves inside for the ingredients I needed. Challenge #1, other than the soda in the cooler all, the rest of the ingredients and supplies were labeled in Ethiopian. I walked over to the counter to ask the woman, who turned out to be the little boy's grandmother, where I could find Berbere, Niter Kibbeh and Enjera. She smiled at me and I knew immediately she didn't speak English. I pointed to my list of ingredients hoping they translated to the same in Ethiopian. She kept smiling and talking to me in Ethiopian, so smiling back at her I tried the little boy.  His name was Matias and he was 5years old. Challenge #2, explaining to a 5 year old what I was trying to make and what I was looking for. He didn't understand my explanation of Doro Wat but he knew where the Niter Kibbeh was. I grabbed a container of that and in the meantime his lovely grandmother was calling her daughter on the phone. She  passed the phone to me after what I guessed to be a description of what was going on inside the store with her,me and Matias ! The woman on the other end of the phone described the burnt red color of the Berbere and where it could be found-success #2,right on the shelf in front of me ! After asking her about the Enjera and discussing what the price of everything would be, I was directed to pass the phone back to her mother. Matias's grandmother went into the kitchen where another Ethiopian woman was cooking and came out with what I knew was the Enjera ( thankfully I had Googled that image too ! ) She wrote down my total so I could understand it and then challenge #3-while she knew how much to charge me, she wasn't so sure about returning correct change. We laughed a lot. Matias showed us he could count and I got my right change, all of my ingredients and a wonderful experience . I walked out of the store knowing that when it was time to cook Ethiopian again, I would head right back to Zuma.

Enjera, or Injera, a fermented flat bread made with Teff Flour

If you follow my posts, you know I'm big on Serendipity and the belief that with every action there is a reason and lesson to be learned. I'm grateful for this challenge.   It's opened my eyes up to a cuisine I knew very little about and still have lots to learn. It also gave me that little moment in time with Matias and his grandmother that I never would have experienced but for this challenge.

I encourage  you to  try this recipe  if you can find the ingredients.  If you can't find the ingredients head over to Serious Eats for a recipe for Niter kibbeh ; and to Whats4Eats for a Berbere spice recipe , and for Enjera stop by .Bon Appetit or as they say in Africa,  Smaaklike ete ! Lekker eet !

Doro Watt

Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1 chicken (about 3 pounds), cleaned and cut into serving-size pieces
2 (or more) onions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons niter kebbeh (or butter)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 piece fresh ginger root -- cleaned, scraped, and chopped (about a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon berberé -- or -- 1 - 2 tablespoons of a combination of cayenne pepper and paprika (if berberé and niter kebbeh are not used)
1 small tomato, chopped or a few tablespoons tomato paste or tomato sauce (optional)
1 cup chicken stock, water, or dry red wine

Note: The addition of wine and tomatoes are not traditional Ethiopian additions but have become common to this dish.

In a glass bowl, combine the lemon juice , half the salt, and chicken pieces. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cook the onions over medium heat for a few minutes in a dry (no oil) pot or dutch oven large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients. Stir constantly to prevent them from browning or burning; reduce heat or remove the pot from the heat if necessary.

Add the niter kebbeh or butter to the onions, along with the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg, remaining salt, berberé (or cayenne pepper and paprika), and tomato. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. The onions should be soft, tender, and translucent, but not browned.

Add the chicken stock, water, or dry red wine. Bring the mixture to a low boil while stirring gently. Cook for a few minutes, then reduce heat.

Add the chicken pieces, making sure to cover them with the sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes — or until the chicken is done — turning the chicken a few times.

After the chicken has been cooking for 20 minutes, gently add the hard-boiled eggs and ladle sauce over them.

Serve hot. The only traditional way to serve doro wat is with a spongy flat bread called injera, which can only be properly made with difficult-to-obtain teff flour. And by the way , Zuma does carry teff flour, but in bags too large for my personal use !

Closeup of Enjera-it's so pretty !

And to end this challenge, my family and I just finished the Doro Wat and Enjera, needless to say I have turned my whole family into lovers of Ethiopian Cuisine !  


Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Having issues with my comments posting..testing this now :)

Queen of Cuisine said...

Nice step up to the challenge! I'm very impressed- you have my vote.

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Thanks for stopping by with the words of encouragement !

Peggy said...

I love the back story of this post! Great choice on the Ethiopian dish and good luck in the competition!

riceandwheat said...

Hehe we think alike because I also made Doro Wat for this challenge! Your story is so incredibly awesome that I must vote for you! :) Good luck!

Lingbo said...

This looks wonderful! I adore injera (although I haven't had it often). Good job on finding all the ingredients!

Lingbo said...

This looks wonderful! I love injera. Great job finding all the ingredients, just voted for you. :)

BlondieandBrownie said...

Nice job with this challenge. I've always wanted to try making Ethiopian food. Hats off to you! You have our vote!

Foodiva said...

I'd wanted to cook Ethiopian food too, but unlike you, there isn't an Ethiopian store nor restaurant here. So I went with Botswanan instead! Your injera looks amazing, I'm voting for you. ;-)

Dan Clapson said...

Enjera has such an interesting feel to it. Very unique recipe! 1 vote for you!

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

Very cool post. Looks great. Voted for you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I love the Congo Cookbook and African cuisine. Good luck! You have my vote.

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Thank you to all of you for taking the time to stop by ! And thanks for voting :)

Anonymous said...

I love your inspiration to create an African dish... it sounds like the women in that small town put a lot of love and pride into their cooking. It looks like oyu did a wonderful job paying homage to them with this delicious soup! Good luck in round 2!

Reeni said...

This sounds wonderful! Hearty and warming. I'm intrigued by the eggs in it - so unique. And what a great experience you had shopping for the ingredients. Good luck in this round - I voted for you!