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Family Style

05/25/2011

I just made Ethiopian food for a friend who was owed a favor. She and I recently went on a rotation through all of our neighborhood Ethiopian restaurants (we currently have three within walking distance of my apartment), so I thought a homemade meal in the same vein would be a treat for her to enjoy. And of course, I had my own taste buds in mind, too.

I made lamb tibs, lentils, and beet-ginger chutney, all served with injera (which I did not make). The basic recipes came from this book, with a few alterations.

The Meal

The cookbook isn’t specifically Ethiopian but a mix of African cuisines. I picked out the things I wanted to make, centered around the idea of serving tibs. The lentils and beet-ginger chutney were pretty straightforward, although I used canned beets instead of fresh. I’d made it once previously using fresh produce and I didn’t really find any advantage in doing that (although there was a great deal of mess). I also disregarded the instructions to remove the ginger slices after cooking. What’s wrong with a few tasty roots?

For the tibs, I used Prather Ranch lamb, which wasn’t at all gamey and came out really well. The first time I made this, a few months ago, I used beef, and both meats tasted very similar. The big difference is prep time; trimming lamb takes forever. Given the final results, next time I’d just stick with beef and save the extra hour.

The twist that I gave the tibs was to cook it in a crockpot for about four hours on low heat after the initial skillet simmering. Although the meal is supposedly intended to be served immediately after pan-cooking, I found that doing this at home didn’t approximate the taste of restaurant meals; somehow, the quick cooking method didn’t allow enough time for the meat to absorb the full range of spicy goodness. But don’t overcook at stage two. You still want it to taste fresh.

As for the injera, someday I might get ambitious and try to make it at home, but for now, I’m content to buy it at my local market. You just take a single (giant) piece, roll it up like a rug, slice it into four sections for hand-sized morsels, and serve like this:

Injera

The recipes I made weren’t at all hard, but they were time-consuming, mostly because of the prep. In addition to trimming the lamb, I made spiced butter (yummy!) for the tibs and beets. Plus, all of the recipes relied to varying degrees on a spice blend called Berbere, which I had already made and stored in the freezer. In order to properly make this food, you need to acquire any spices you don’t already have and then make the Berbere and spiced butter first. All of that can be done in advance to save time on meal day.

But all-in-all it’s not arduous, just something to be planned—and enjoyed with friends, family style.

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From → Crockpot, Food

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