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Ethiopian Jackfruit W’et

Ethiopian Jackfruit W'et

Don’t be fooled by the unassuming appearance – this one’s a show stopper!

Recently sidelined with a cold, I was craving something fiery to clear out the sinuses. The jackfruit and eggplant combo were speaking to me, and they weren’t calling for Indian or Thai. You must respect your vegetables! So I turned to Ethiopia for inspiration, and this monster chili was born. Each component of the chili offers a unique point of view, resulting in a party in your mouth in every bite. It is more of a stew than a w’et, so if you served it traditionally (poured over injera) the injera may get soggy too quickly. But using the injera as a dipping vessel or mop would get you just the right juice-to-injera ratio, changing the stew from weekday dish to something to serve to company. Like all chilis, I imagine this recipe is infinitely adaptable depending on your pantry. The components I chose were:

– Jackfruit: Jackfruit adds a nice, firm texture to the chili. Outer pieces as they are cooked sometimes get ‘shredded’ making it a two-for-one texture vegetable!

– Eggplant: Eggplant’s meatiness and willingness to absorb flavour cannot be overlooked. With plenty of flavour to go around, this eggplant is melt in your mouth tender and delicious!

– Lentils: I used green lentils for their firmer texture in this version. Next time I will do a green/red lentil combo – the green lentils for texture and the red lentils to add creaminess to the broth

– Zucchini: You don’t notice it really. I just had some taking up room in the freezer. Delicious though!

These together in a chunky tomato base and a berber spice mix resulted in a chili that is as unique as it is delicious. Visitors to my apartment commented on the aroma, and it was all I could do to keep them from eating the whole pot! Easy enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve to even the greatest skeptic of Ethiopian food. Enjoy!

Ethiopian Jackfruit W’et

1 cup lentils
2t. niter kibeh OR extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 serrano chilis, seeded and diced (to taste)
3c. eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 can young jackfruit (in brine), drained and cut into 1″ pieces
3c. zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1.5T. berber spice mix – dry or paste
1t. ground cumin
1t. ground coriander
1/4t. ground cinnamon
1T. paprika
2 (28oz.) cans diced tomatos (~6 cups diced tomatoes) *Note: You could use whole tomatoes as well and tear with your fingers as you add to the pot!
2T. tomato paste
2c. water, as needed

Directions:

1) In medium sauce pan, cook lentils until tender. Drain and set aside.
2) In large sauce pan, sauté onion in oil until translucent
3) Add garlic and chilis. Sauté ~1 min.
4) Add eggplant and a splash of water. Cover and cook until eggplant starts to get tender.
5) Add jackfruit, zucchini, and all spices. Stir.
6) Add tomatoes slowly, stirring as you go. This will ensure an even spice mix.
7) Add tomato paste and ~2 cups water. Stir.
8) At this point your lentils should be ready – add them to the pot. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low and let simmer 15-20min., or until all veggies are done to your liking. Stir occasionally, adding water to the stew consistency of your choice.
9) Cover, turn off heat, and let sit for 5-10min. to let the flavours meld.
11) Ladle into bowls and serve with injera and a green salad.


Lentil Stew with Millet-Almond Pilaf

Another genius recipe from Eric Tucker and his Millennium Cookbook. The full recipe is found on pg. 120, and is called “Lentil Stew with Millet-Almond Pilaf and Millet Crepes”. I have learned my lesson regarding crepes during previous attempts at buckwheat crepes, and more recently at my misshaped (but tasty!) dosa attempt. This did not stop me from trying this delicious recipe. This was also my first experience with millet, and it is now in the ranks of quinoa in my eyes. A staple.

Millet is like quinoa, but remains somewhat firm and slightly crunchy even when fully cooked. The texture is welcome – I am not a fan of mush. It contrasts nicely with the lentils in the stew, and absorbs the stew flavour even better than rice would. In fact, leftovers are almost better than the fresh dish – a quick warm up in the microwave and it’s like the stew is made anew, but marinated! The stew itself is based on Ethiopian flavours, and makes use of Berber. I had some extra from Papa Tofu, and used that instead of the Millennium spice blend. The results were delicious! I don’t know if they have eggplant and plantains in Ethiopia, but they are gorgeous in this lentil stew. The plantains add a different texture to the stew deepening the flavour profile. Subtly spicy, it is a warming spice instead of a heat/spicy hot. As always, eggplant adds a nice meaty texture to the stew, absorbing all the lovely flavour and adding a toothsome texture. Do not be daunted by the number of steps to the recipe or of all the components – all in it took me less than an hour to pull the dish together, and I am one of the slowest prep cooks you will ever find! And as always, cooking from this book makes me feel like I belong on Top Chef Canada or at the very least a ticket to a cocktail party with Marcus Sameulsson.

This recipe can be found on page 120 of the Millennium Cookbook, which if you scroll ~2/3 of the way down can be found here on Google Book Previews. I highly recommend this recipe for your next weekend meal – either for yourself in your sweats or for company in your LBD, it’s sure to impress everyone!


Jackfruit W’et, Lentil Allecha, and Collard Greens

Left: Jackfruit W’et, Centre: Collard Greens, Right: Lentil Allecha

Sometimes I crave food from a specific region, just because of one ingredient that I want to try. In this case, I finally found a can of jackfruit (in brine) and I wanted to honour my first jackfruit experience with the spicy glory of an Ethiopian W’et. I cannot take credit for this idea – it is suggested in the notes of the epic zine Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food by Kittee Berns. She suggested the combination, and I will happily report that it is fantastic! I paired it with collard greens sautéed in niter kibbeh (want a challenge? Try to find collard greens in Canada!) and lentil allecha. The result was a protein packed, delicious Ethiopian feast with a kick that cleaned the sinuses – just the way I like it!

I still don’t know what a jackfruit looks like. I assume they don’t come in a can all the time, but that’s how I got mine. I made sure it was packed in brine and not syrup, because they can be used for dessert dishes (predominately Indonesian) as well. Coming out of the can the pieces were like pineapple. They were cut in a triangle shape, with the base of the triangle somewhat fibrous and the centre ‘point’ nice and firm. I will admit I had no idea how to cut the pieces, so I just hacked them to be bite size. As the jackfruit cooks, the fibrous part separates and it becomes more like pulled-pork type consistency, with the firm part staying firm. What an interesting fruit – two different textures just by cooking it! The spicy gravy of the w’et paired with the jackfruit perfectly, and the result was sheer deliciousness. The collared greens and allecha I have made versions of before, with spinach instead of collards and split peas instead of lentils and they were just as good the second go around. Injera also freezes exceptionally well – my platter of injera was from the first batch. The gravy’s for the w’et and allecha can be found on Kittee’s website here, although I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food for your collection. It is a much loved tome of excellence!

I will definitely be experimenting with jackfruit again. It stole the show from the other two – if this was a music group they would be called “Jack the Fruit and Friends”. You appreciate the friends, but it’s all about the hot lead singer, who also happens to be the drummer.


Ethiopian Feast

The complete feast!

For Christmas I gave myself one of the best present’s ever – Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, by Kittee Berns.

I could barely wait to try out the recipes – Papa Tofu lived on my nightstand for a week, and every night my dream menu changed. Finally, I made some tough decisions and cooked 6 dishes. The result? AMAZING. One review was “just as good as any Ethiopian you will get in a restaurant”. I take that as high praise indeed, and so should Kittee Berns!

The menu was as follows:

Selata (the necessary green salad with the stray jalapeno seed), Ye’Abesha Gomen (Collard Greens, made with spinach – it is difficult to find collared greens in Canada in January!), Ingudai T’ibs (Sauteed Mushrooms), Ye’Takelt Allecha (Gingery Roasted Vegetables), Ye’kik Allecha (Mild Split Peas), and Ye’Meiser W’et (Spicy Red Lentils).

Platter 1: Ye'Miser W'et (top), Ingudai T'ibs (right), Ye'Takelt Allecha (left), salad piled on top

Platter 2: Ye'Kik Allecha (top), Ye'Abesha Gomen (left), more Ye'Takelt Allecha (bottom), and more salad on top

Everything was fantastic! And since I made enough food to feed a small army, I have enough leftovers to last me through the week.W’et sandwiches with injera bread? Yes please!

I highly recommend this zine to anybody – from Ethiopian food lover to those who don’t know where Ethiopia is. The zine is clearly a labour of love, with hand-drawn titles and cute pictures sprinkled throughout. Included are instructions on how to make all those mystery ‘extra’ ingredients like niter kibbeh and berber. It’s the extras that make the difference! Humourous and educational, this is a zine that you can tweak to your taste buds!


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