Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Birthday cook-up round up 2: Doro wat & injera

Photo courtesy of Lea at Aloha Mahalo.

A few years ago, the YM and I went to an African Fair organized by JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organization. It was a great event, a sort of trade fair cum tourist promotion cum concert cum fashion show. While we were doing the rounds, we bumped into one of the YM's classmates and her guardian and decided to have lunch together.

There were at least 20 food stalls, so the hardest thing was deciding what to eat! In the end I went for doro wat, the Ethiopian chicken stew, with injera--an Ethiopian "bread"-- rather than rice. As I remember it, the first taste of the stew nearly brought tears to my eyes it was so hot, but deeply flavourful and slightly tart, too. The injera, which looked and tasted to me more like a buckwheat (as in Japanese soba noodles) pancake than a bread, was a sharply lemony revelation. Right up my alley! By now, you probably know me well enough to know I wasn't going to sit still until I had tracked down the recipe.

I immediately ordered The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent from Amazon, but was disappointed that it did not have a recipe for doro wat. So the Ethiopian project got put on the back burner for a while.

However, some culinary Googling got me a recipe for injera, which in Ethiopia, it seems, takes the place of your table cloth and plate, with whatever dishes you may be having served right on top. I chose this recipe because it has lemon in it, and there is no way you could get the sour taste that really got my tastebuds going without it, I think, even though it is not in the authentic version, apparently.

A recipe for doro wat was not far behind, at an amazing Net resource for all things culinary from the African continent, The Congo Cookbook. I also found an adapted-for-Japan recipe on a site by a Japanese blogger who's even more of a gastro-explorer than me (!!), one Shin-san at Eline Saglik. If you can read Japanese, his food blog is a veritable treasure chest of recipes from virtually every corner of the world. I found his amazing site when looking for stockists (or another recipe) for berbere, the ubiquitous fire powder that gives Ethiopian cooking a kick. He has a recipe for the spice mix here.

Anyway, back to the injera. I know that it is customarily made with a flour called teff, but am not sure if the buckwheaty taste and colour of the version I tried at the African Fair was the result of substituting buckwheat flour for the teff, or whether this teff does actually taste like buckwheat. But given that the YM and I recently took a little trip to a hot spring in Nagano, Japan's buckwheat central, I naturally had to have some fresh buckwheat flour in my first go at injera. The type I bought, however, was white, which resulted in snowy white injera, rather than grey, but they did have a lovely springy texture that you wouldn't get from a regular pancake batter.

I only used the juice of 1 lemon, which was enough to brush one side of each injera with, but I will be brushing both sides next time.

I used the recipe for berbere in The Congo Cookbook. It calls for a "cupboard-full of herbs and spices". With two cupboards, a countertop and a drawer full, I didn't need to buy anything new, but I know not everyone is such a spice junkie, so do check the recipe before you start cooking, just in case (g). I used 1 tsp of cayenne and 4 tbsp of paprika in my mixture, which gave a mild and less red version than that of my first taste, but with Young People in attendance, I didn't want it too hot. As always, I had cayenne on the table for anyone who wanted to spice things up some more (mainly me (g)).

I didn't manage to take any good photos of the doro wat, but my good friend Lea did and put it up on her blog here. It's the second photo. The injera was reheating in the microwave at the time, but I'm sure you can imagine a white "holey" (from the addition of soda water in addition to baking powder!) pancake without too much effort (g).

Doro wat

One of the best-known of all African recipes, Doro Wat (Doro Watt, Doro Wot, Doro Wet, Doro We't, Dorowat) is a spicy Ethiopian chicken dish made with Berbere (a
spice mixture or spice paste) and Niter Kibbeg (or nit'ir qibe, a spicy clarified butter). Berberé and niter kibbeh, basic ingredients in many Ethiopian recipes, are usually made in large quantities and kept on hand for some time. No doubt using berberé and niter kibbeh gives a special quality to Doro Wat. But a very good result can be
obtained by adding the same spices directly to the Doro Wat, instead of indirectly in the berberé spice mix and niter kibbeh.

What you need

juice of one lemon
two teaspoons salt
one chicken (about 3 pounds), cleaned and cut into serving-size pieces...remove skin and score or pierce the meat with a knife to facilitate marinating
two (or more) onions, finely chopped
four tablespoons niter kebbeh (or butter)
four cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
one 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) [Saffron: I used 1 tsp of berbere, but will use more next time]
1 small tomato, chopped or a few tablespoons tomato paste or tomato sauce (optional)
1 cup chicken stock, water, or dry red wine
hard-boiled eggs (1 per person), pierced with a toothpick or the tine of a long fork.

What you do

In a glass bowl, combine the lemon juice (some cooks use lime 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. (Some cooks add the niter kebbeh at the start, but dry-cooking the onions for a few minutes gives the dish a distinctive flavor. )

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. While it's not the way Ethiopians would serve it, doro wat is very good with couscous, rice, or Middle-Eastern or Indian style flat bread.

The wine and tomato seem to be recent non-Ethiopian influences, but they are so widely used that they need to be reported here, even if their use is not traditional.


Berberé (or Berbere) is an Ethiopian spice mixture that is the flavoring
foundation of Ethiopian cuisine, a basic ingredient in Dablo Kolo, }Doro Wat, and many other dishes.

Berberé is made from a cupboard-full of herbs and spices, fresh-ground, pan-roasted, and then packed into jars for storage. Among Ethiopian cooks there are many variations of which spices and what amounts. (In the recipe below, ingredients marked "optional" seem to be the least common.) Basic berberé is made by combining roughly equal amounts of allspice, cardamom, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, black pepper, and salt with a much larger amount of hot red (cayenne) pepper. The combination of fenugreek and red pepper is essential to berberé; while one or two of the other ingredients may be left out, the fenugreek and red pepper are must-haves. Milder berberé can be made by substituting paprika for some or most of the red pepper. Berberé is sometimes made as a dry spice mix, and is sometimes made with oil or water to form a paste.

What you need
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 to 6 tablespoons of a combination of ground cayenne pepper (red pepper, dried chile peppers, or red pepper flakes) and paprika
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ginger, fresh (peeled and grated) or dried (ground) use dried ground ginger if making dry berberé
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions or shallots, omit if making dry berberé (optional) 1 teaspoon minced garlic, omit or use dried garlic if making dry berberé (optional)
1/4 cup oil, water, or red wine (omit if making dry berberé)

What you do

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast the dried spices for a few minutes -- stirring or shaking the skillet continuously to avoid scorching. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If making dry berberé powder: grind the mixture in a spice grinder or blender, or use a mortar and pestle. Store the berberé powder in a tightly-sealed container.

If making berberé paste: combine the toasted spices with the fresh ginger, onions or shallots, garlic, and oil (water, or wine). Grind together in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Store the berberé paste in a tightly-sealed container.

Starting with whole spices, the various nuts and seeds and dried red chile peppers, then pan-roasting, grinding and mixing them will produce the most authentic berberé. However, perfectly satisfactory results can be obtained using already-ground or powdered spices.


Quick Injera (Ethiopian crepe)
Yield: 6-8 each

1 1/2 cups all-purpose [S: plain] flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour [S: or buckwheat flour or teff, if you can find it]
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2-2 1/2 cups club soda
2 lemons, juice only

Mix all dry ingredients together well. Stir in club soda and mix to a smooth batter. Should have the thin consistency of a pancake batter.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium-low flame. Wipe with a paper towel soaked in a little oil. Pour about 1/2 cup of the batter at a time into the skillet and spread with a spatula to make as large a crepe as possible. Let bake in the skillet till all bubbles on the top burst and begin to dry out, about 2-3 minutes.

Carefully turn the injera and bake on second side another minute or two. Try not to brown. Remove the injera to a warm platter and repeat with the rest of the batter,
wiping the skillet clean with the paper towel each time.

After the batter is used up, brush each injera all over with the lemon juice. Serve immediately, or hold covered in a warm oven.

You can substitute buckwheat flour for the whole wheat flour if you like. Or you can just use all white flour. If you can find teff flour at a health food store, by all means use it.
This recipe approximates the true injera, which is made from a
fermented sourdough. Most recipes don't call for the lemon juice, but I find it
necessary to supply the essential sour flavor that injera adds to a meal.



Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what's harder -- making good food or taking tasty-looking pictures of food! Anyway, you seem to be handling both purty well -- ganbare. PS--My mother's been checking out the site on the regular. -V

Saffron said...


I didn't expect to see you round these parts. You haven't latterly taken up an interest in cooking, now, have you??

The photos are definitely the hard bit, but I'm trying (as you know, ha ha).

Say g'day to your mom.


Fasil said...

i dont know why but i am having a tough time finding a good picture of doro wat. this is completely wrong and the recipe is as well. also you're not supposed to use soda water or anything like that to get the "holiness." it's supposed to ferment for a day or two.

Saffron said...

Thanks for your comment, Fasil, and good luck with the photo search.

I have had authentic doro wat and injera made by Ethiopians, and it's true that this recipe was not the same, but very tasty anyway. I think the homemade berbere was the problem. When back in Melbourne recently, I managed to get some real berbere from a lovely Ethopian lady's personal stash, so I will try again soon. The colour is more of a brick red colour, probably due to the chillies, than the version I made here.

As I say in the post, the injera recipe is a quick "make-do" version. The Ethiopian restaurant I sometimes go to needs 3 days' notice to make injera due to the fermentation process!