Cooking Club enjoys ethnic food lesson from Ethiopian friends

Our Cooking Club celebrated the arrival of our friend Stacie's adopted son from Ethiopia with an Ethiopian Cooking lesson. Stacie's friends, Emebet and Desta, who are from Ethiopia, came over to teach us some traditional dishes. In the photo, Desta (far left) with daughter (in red) pose next to Stacie, Nathanael, me, Cori, Mary (holding Samuel) and Emebet is front and center showing off our "raw materials" before the cooking began.

Emebet and Desta first showed us how to make a garlic-ginger mixture that is used in the majority of Ethiopian dishes. They make this in large quantities so it is fresh and ready for cooking.

**To make ginger-garlic spice mixture: Cut tops off two heads of garlic. Separate cloves and peel. Chop cloves finely. Peel ginger, slice and chop finely. Add garlic and ginger together with 2 tablespoons sea salt. Use rolling pin to smash garlic and ginger together. (Used as a fresh spice for all types of Ethiopian cooking.)

Next we got to work on chopping all the vegetables and making our various dishes. This spiced red lentil dish quickly heated up the kitchen with its rich aroma. The Ethiopians use a spice mix called "berbere," which gives this lentil dish its complex flavor and spicy kick.

Split Red Lentils (Key Wot)

2 red onions
5 tablespoons berbere (Ethiopian chili powder)
2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 can tomato paste
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic mixture**
2 1/2 cups red lentils
2 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom

1. Finely chop red onions.

2. Put large pot over high heat with 1 1/2 cup olive oil to coat red onions. Sauté until very tender.

3. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over red onions. Stir onions as they cook to soften.

4. Stir frequently but keep pot covered in between.

5. Reduce heat to medium.

6. Add berbere spice to pot.

7. Add 1 tablespoon of ginger-garlic spice mixture (prepared ahead of time) to pot. Stir in. You want it to be emulsified.

8. Cook approximately 5 minutes.

9. Add one can tomato paste to pot and stir vigorously to blend in. This will look like a tomato-onion paste.

10. Add ¾ cup water to pot with lentils. Cook 5 minutes until water simmers off.

11. Add 3-4 cups water to pot with lentils.

12. Add additional ½ cup of water at a time to see how the consistency looks & lentils are soft. Lentils will continue to absorb water. (You want watery split pea soup.)

13. Add additional heaping tablespoon of ginger-garlic mixture to pot. Stir in 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom.

**See recipe above. Used as a fresh spice for all types of Ethiopian cooking.

 This yellow split pea dish is inexpensive to make and very flavorful. Turmeric is added to the peas to give it a spiced flavor and deepen the color. Turmeric is supposed to be good for combatting Alzheimer's Disease and has many other healing qualities.

Alicha (Ater Keke)


1 white onion

4 teaspoons sea salt

2 cups yellow split peas

1 teaspoon turmeric


1. Boil 2 cups yellow split peas with 6 cups water until water is fully absorbed. Set aside.

2. Heat 6 cups of water in a kettle or pot.

3. Meanwhile, peel and slice 1 large white onion.

4. Put large pot on medium-high heat with ½ cup olive oil to coat white onions.

5. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over onions.

6. Cover pot and continue to stir frequently.

7. Reduce heat to medium.

8. Add 1 ¼ teaspoon turmeric to the pot.

9. Add cooked yellow split peas to the pot.

10. Add 5 cups hot water from kettle.

11. Add 1 heaping tablespoon garlic-ginger spice mixture* to pot & blend in. Add additional two teaspoons of salt to dish (to taste).

12. Add additional teaspoon of garlic-ginger to mixture (to taste). **(Recipe above.)

This yummy vegetable dish called Gomen is made a variety of ways. Emebet explained that she likes hers plain without a lot of other spices but some Ethiopians add turmeric, which gives it a bright yellow color.

Gomen (Cabbage)


1 large head green cabbage

1 large white onion

2 red potatoes

8 carrots

4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon garlic-ginger

*1 whole jalapeno (don’t open, put in whole pepper for flavor and remove after cooking) or ¾ green pepper, coarsely chopped (remove after cooking)

1. Chop onions and saute in large pot with 2 tabespoons olive oil. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoon salt over onions.

2. Meanwhile, peel off outer layers of cabbage. Wash leaves. Coarsely chop whole cabbage head.

3. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.

4. Peel carrots, quarter them lengthwise then cut into 2-inch wedges.
5. Add chopped cabbage to pot with one cup water and cover.

6. Add potatoes when cabbage is wilted and stir together. Cover pot.

7. Stirring frequently, cover pot, then turn down to medium heat.

8. Add carrots to pot. Cook 10 minutes.

9. Add heaping tablespoon of garlic-ginger mixture** (Recipe above.) to pot.

10. Reduce heat to low and keep covered. Cook additional 10 minutes.

After our meal was cooked, we served it up on Ethiopian bread called "injera," which is like a giant pancake/crepe. These were made homemade by a woman in Fresno. It's a 3-day process to make the bread so we bought it from her. Ethiopian food is then eaten with the hands and scooped up with the injera bread. We added a fresh fruit salad to cool some of the flavors. 
 We were all stuffed by the end of this fabulous vegetarian feast!

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