This month we review a book that instructs home cooks in preparing delicious vegan versions of Ethiopian dishes.
By Kittee Berns
Book Publishing Company, 2014
Super-star blogger Kittee Berns has logged a mountain of cyber miles and more than a few physical miles to create Teff Love, a stunning cookbook that makes exotic Ethiopian food easily accessible to the American kitchen.
Kittee's passion for this unique cuisine stirred for many years before she turned her focus to creating a cookbook. Though she never had the opportunity to actually travel to Ethiopia, her thorough research about the country and its unique food traditions provided her with the knowledge she needed to author Teff Love and share what she learned.
The book opens with a foreword by Mesfin Hailemariam, one of the first vegans in Ethiopia who helped found Vegan Association Ethiopia, the first organization to promote veganism in that country.
Kittee explains the standard way to present an Ethiopian meal is to line a large platter with a layer of injera, a special fermented sourdough-pancake-like bread made from a grain called teff. Traditionally, various wots, or flavorful stews, are placed in mounds on top of the teff layer.
The exceptional feature that makes Ethiopian dining stand apart is that it brings people together at a special basket table called messob. Everyone usually eats with the hands by tearing off portions of injera and using the injera to scoop up bits of tasty stew. The dining experience becomes more than a meal--it's a delightful and delicious social gathering.
Thoroughly covered is detailed information about the typical ingredients used in preparing the dishes and where to purchase those not found at local groceries. Some of the unique items include shiro powder, berbere, koseret, mitmita, and injera, ingredients available from locations listed in Resources and Suppliers.
The first chapter, The Holy Trinity, introduces fully-detailed recipes for three essential mainstays in Ethiopian food preparation: a quintessential spice blend called berbere, seasoned oil called ye'qimem zeyet, and injera, the all-important fermented sourdough pancake made from a grain called teff. Berbere flavors many of the stews that can vary in spice by adjusting the quantity. Those dishes without berbere, Kittee explains, may still contain green chiles and could be fiery hot or tamed for those not comfortable with spice.
The Foundation chapter covers recipes for all the typical condiments, sauces, relishes, and spice blends that flavor the stews. Breakfast dishes sound just as zesty and delicious as the recipes for hearty dining. To start the day Ethiopian style, there's even a tofu scramble called ye'tofu enkulal firfir, a tasty fava bean and tomato stew called shehan ful, and savory chickpea pancakes flavored with coriander, cumin, ginger, and berbere.
Dinner guests might enjoy a meal starter of Ethiopians-style Hummus spiced with berbere. The hearty dishes feature two main categories of wot, Kay Wot with a spicy berbere-based red sauce and Alicha Wot that focuses on golden sauces and stews that can be milder. For both categories, there's a tempting selection of stews made of lentils and beans as well as dishes that center on almost any vegetable one can think of.
Shiro, a seasoned powder made from cooked and ground legumes, forms the base of a delicious, thin gravy perfect for dunking any leftover injera, or a sauce used in a flavorful wot.
Ethiopian cuisine also features cold vegetable dishes as well as appealing salads like Azifa, a lentil salad that combines tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and jalapeno tossed with horseradish, lemon juice and zest.
The author's final chapter, Resources and Suppliers, contains invaluable websites where home cooks can find all the ingredients needed to prepare the recipes.
Some of the most delightful features of the book are the gorgeous, full-color photos that whet the appetite. The dishes are stunning and attractively styled and do a great job of stirring the cooking urge.
In Teff Love, Kittee Berns does an amazing job of introducing the Western world to Ethiopian cuisine from fitfit to firfir. While Ethiopian cuisine may seem complex, this author breaks it down so anyone can recreate a tasty meal at home. The tantalizing results are irresistible dishes to delight the palate with lively, complex flavors.