Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Berbere Lentil & Seitan Stew with Injera and Awase (E.A.T. World: Ethiopia)

berbere stew injera 022
Once in a while I get mildly obsessed with finding a food I've never eaten before, and for a few months that's been the case with injera.  And it may come as a surprise, but injera isn't exactly easy to find in North Dakota.  So in the spirit of E.A.T. World, fasten your seat belts - we're off to Ethiopia.

Injera is a spongy, soft, and slightly sour bread (the batter is fermented, like sourdough) that blurs the line between bread and table cloth.  Saucy stews or stir frys are served over injera, and the bread acts as plate and utensil, with scraps of injera used to scoop up portions of stew.  It's one of the trademarks of Ethiopian cooking, but since I've never been to an Ethiopian restaurant, or for that matter Ethiopia, it was just one of those things I read about. That's why I was happy to find it at a new east African market in Fargo - it's actually made at the East Africa Injera restaurant down the road in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

I've even tried making injera a couple of times.  Once I just ended up with sour pancakes - lame, but edible - and another time with a gooey batter that was impossible to flip over.  Just lame.  I'm not giving up, and even have a little bag of teff flour - injera's main grain - on the shelf.  But for now, I'm happy with the stuff made by the professionals in Saint Paul.

OK, enough with my injera relationship.  We've got a meal to get to: an Ethiopian stew of lentils, seitan, onions, and tomatoes, seasoned with a berbere spice blend, and an additional red-hot sauce on the side, awase.  I did a little searching online for guides, but this is mostly out of Marcus Samuelsson's beautiful book The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa.  It's full of gorgeous photos, and plenty of techniques, spice blends, and ideas to make a vegan cook happy.

berbere stew injera 009_thumb[4]
Berbere is a wonderfully multi-dimensional spice blend, heavy on hot chili peppers, and another foundation of Ethiopian food.  I made my own, first pounding the whole spices - coriander, fenugreek, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves, and onion flakes - to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.  Then I mixed in the chili powder and other spices.
berbere stew injera 011_thumb[1]



















Here's the quantities I used:
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
6 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
3 tsp. onion flakes (or powder)
2 tsp. ground ginger
3 tbsp. paprika
1/3 cup guajillo chili powder*
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. salt

I like guajillo for it's balance of bright flavor and heat - it's hot, but not blazing.  You can use any chili powder you like, but mind the heat, since a third cup is a lot of chili powder.  A third cup of cayenne, for example, would be pretty damn intense.  Here's my finished spice volcano, Mount Berbere.

berbere stew injera 019_thumb[1]
On to the main course.  I used brown baby lentils (masoor matki at your Indian grocery) and seitan for a dish based on Samuelsson's recipe for a stir-fried beef stew.  Thin sliced red onion and seitan are sauteed in 4 tbsp. (you know you love that) of Earth Balance margarine, standing in for the traditional butter.  When the seitan and onions are browned, add 1 cup of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of cooked lentils, 3 cloves of diced garlic, 2 heaping tbsp. of berbere powder, a dash of ground cumin, and a half cup of dry red wine.  Simmer for another few minutes, letting the alcohol from the wine cook off.

The sauce in the little plastic bowl is awase, a hot condiment that lets each diner regulate the spiciness for individual taste.  It's a couple tablespoons of berbere powder, with a heaping teaspoon of cayenne pepper to make for serious heat.  The spices are mixed with a tbsp. each of water, lemon juice, and red wine.  Tear off a piece of injera, scoop up a bit of stew, and dip the roll in awase to your liking.  One final note: if you're not a fan of seitan, or have a problem with wheat gluten, this is also excellent with diced eggplant replacing the seitan.  I made that too, and it was every bit as good as the seitan version.
berbere stew injera 036_thumb[1]

50 comments:

nora said...

i absolutely love ethiopian food. injera is the best!

Theresa said...

Oh yum. I had a serious love affair with injera when I was in ethiopia -- it's such an amazing flavour and texture. I ate SO much of it over there. How cool that you can buy it now!

Tami (Vegan Appetite) said...

I've never had the pleasure of injera, but have some teff flour to give it a go...sometime. In the meantime, I've made more homemade batches of berbere than I ever imagined and love it in just about everything. That volcano is beautiful!

I'm really enjoying your E.A.T.World posts.

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

That looks so good! I've only had Ethiopian food once, in a land far away from North Texas (aka San Francisco). I long for it... maybe Dallas has some Inerja somewhere, cause I'm sure if I made it myself it would turn out as a lame goopy pancake.

Anardana said...

I've never been able to make injera either! Luckily I can buy it at a store around here. Your recipe looks great!

Mihl said...

Berbere is definitely my favourite spice mix! And I can't beliefe you got a place where you can buy injeera. That's awesome!

Tanya said...

I LOVE injera....can't get it around here. Last year we were lucky enough to live near an Ethiopian restaurant that had veg food (in Cinci). We miss it.

Bianca said...

I LOVE ETHIOPIAN FOOD! And thank goddess Memphis has an Ethiopian restaurant because I'm totally intimidated by injera-makin'. I respect you for not giving up.

River - The Crafty Kook said...

Another awesome culinary trip! You made your own spice blend? That is so badass! Mount Berbere is very impressive! I was intimidated by Ethiopian cuisine and decided to choose a different country for my E entry. You are way braver than me! :-)

How convenient that you can buy a store-bought injera. I am sure though, that your third attempt at making your own will be a success!

The eggplant version sounds so good! I've been on an eggplant kick lately. And I like how you can control how much heat you want by dipping the injera in awase.

Thank you for taking us on a yummy trip to Ethiopia! Your international noms rock! :-D

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

This was a mistake to read while at the salon because now I'm starving! Great post.

The Voracious Vegan said...

STUNNING photos, you really are so talented! I absolutely love Ethiopian food, especially injera. Thank you for this post, you've got me drooling!

BJ said...

This sounds very very good. Can't believe you have injera in North Dakota. (I grew up there so I know what it's like, in many many ways!) I will have to look for that in Dallas.

miss v said...

although i love indian food, i have to say that i'm not a fan of injera bread. i'd much rather eat it with pita or naan... would it still be ethopian? however, the fact that you made it yourself earns you 5 gold stars in my book.

oh, and i just now realized you live in north dakota... which is midwest like me. so if you are ever heading south to nebraska, i'll head north, and we could meet up. :)

aredcardigan said...

Mike you tried to make your OWN Ingera?!?! You are way too cool!

I love ethiopian food! Sigh... if only I get to try your food.

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I loved, since the first time. I hope we can share more recipes from Ethiopia. In my country people doens't know anything about Ethiopian restaurant, we need to build a African market, or something like that.

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Kristal said...

I grew up eating Ethiopian food and my mother has never once attempted Berbere. The true process to making Berbere takes several days because the spices are sun-dried before they are blended together. I suggest cooking Ethiopian inspired dishes with imported berbere from www.myrealspice.com It is packaged conveniently for everyday people since most imported berbere in only sold in bulk.

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