About a month ago, I received a copy of the new Ethiopian cookbook, Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking by Kittee Berns. I received it from the publisher for the blog tour, but I can promise you that if I hadn’t, I would have been buying it as soon as it was available. (And as soon as it was, I ordered a copy for a friend.)
I knew without question that I was going to love it. I’d already immersed myself in the recipes of Kittee’s Ethiopian zine that preceded the book and had fallen hard for it. (You may remember that her mac and cheese from the zine was one of my favorite meals of last year.)
I have it bad for Ethiopian food, but it’s not available where I live. The closest Ethiopian restaurant is four hours away. But with Kittee’s recipes, it became possible to have the flavors I crave in the convenience of my own kitchen.
After making an absurd amount of recipes from Teff Love, I can safely say that it delivers restaurant-quality food and better. It is crazy, crazy good. Plus, the food is very inexpensive and pantry-friendly. I recently had an Ethiopian dinner party, and the grocery list included a variety of lentils, beans, onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and the like. It’s easy on the pocketbook and full of no frills, good-for-you foods.
So like I said, I’ve had Teff Love for about a month. In that time, I’ve made over 20 recipes. That’s seriously more recipes from a single cookbook than I’ve made from some cookbooks I’ve had for years.
Teff Love – Ethiopian Cookbook
Teff Love starts with a bit of Ethiopian history, a description of the spices, grocery list, and menu ideas for cooking for a crowd. It then breaks down the recipes into sections including breakfast, appetizers and snacks, various wots (stews) and vegetable dishes, beverages, and sweets.
If you get a copy of Teff Love, the best place to start is with the seasoned oil, ye’qimen zeyet. I made it with organic Earth Balance, but it can also be made with coconut oil, canola oil, or a combination of both. The oil is cooked with onions, garlic, and lots of spices, until it is completely infused with flavor. It is then strained and kept in the refrigerator, where it adds deliciousness to everything it touches.
Just with the oil alone, you can cook intuitively. If you sauté onions and garlic in it and then add vegetables of your choosing or a can of drained beans, it is guaranteed to be tasty. I like making polenta for breakfast and then using the oil in place of extra virgin olive oil.
After that, head to the ye’abesha gomen (tender, stewed collard greens) and Ethiopian-style mac ‘n’ cheesie. They are two of my favorite dishes and wonderful together as a meal. Above I served them together with ye’shimbra duket kwas. They are chickpea tofu dumplings, which are kind of like a spicy Ethiopian falafel.
The nice thing about these recipes together when you’re just getting started is that they don’t require injera, the fermented pancake-style bread that is used for scooping the stews. There’s an injera recipe in the book, including a quick crepe version. Or you can track it down at Ethiopian grocery stores or restaurants, if there’s one in your area.
For a while I was buying injera on trips in large packs, dividing it into portions of three with parchment paper in between, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and freezing it. When I needed injera, I let it thaw on the counter, or put it straight into a warm oven. However, I hit some seriously good luck recently, and a friend of mine connected me with a local lady who makes and sells injera from her home for friends and neighbors. Both times I’ve gone to pick it up, it was still warm from being freshly made. Heavenly.
For a savory breakfast fan like myself, Teff Love has lots to offer.
Twice already I have made a refried beans-style dish called shehan ful with small brown fava beans cooked from scratch. The tender beans were topped with tomatoes and avocado for a substantive and delicious start to the day.
Ye’tofu enkulal firfir is an Ethiopian spin on a tofu scramble, cooked in seasoned oil and with spices like coriander, berbere, and turmeric. I served it with leftover bozena shiro and ye’atakilt alicha, which I’ll cover a little later.
These chickpea flour pancakes, ye’shimbra chechebsa, have delicious layers of flavor. I made them twice – first topped with seasoned oil and berbere and then later stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. It’s a hearty and warming start to the day.
For appetizers, I made sambusas, which are crunchy, chickpea flour pastries that are stuffed with lentils. I tend to shy away from dough recipes, because I don’t have great instincts there. I’ll admit that it did take some fussing to get the water ratio right. However, the end result was terrific, and I served them with three kinds of dipping sauces. (The sambusas flew at our dinner party, and I didn’t get a great picture of them. However, you can see the finished result on Instagram.)
When I’m serving an Ethiopian platter, I like to dish out the stews in several small repeating portions, instead of in one single pile. That way it’s like theatre-in-the-round; wherever you’re sitting, it’s a good seat.
One evening for dinner, I made bozena shiro, which is a spicy legume sauce with tomatoes and veggie meat. I used plain Upton’s seitan for the veggie meat. I served it with ye’ingudai awaze tibs, which are spicy mushrooms in a wine sauce, and ye’atakilt alicha.
The ye’atakilt alicha is a combination of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in a mild sauce. It’s an especially handy recipe, because it’s cooked in the oven. A lot of the recipes require a stovetop, and so when you’re making several things at once, it’s nice to have a dish that you can throw in the oven and forget about it.
Another night I used leftover chickpea dumplings to make ye’duket kwas be’siquar denich alicha. The dumplings are cooked in a mild sweet potato sauce that is outrageously good. This was one of my favorite recipes from the book so far. Highly recommended. I served it with ayib be’gomen, which is collard greens mixed with tangy homemade cashew cheese, and ye’misser wot, a winning red lentil dish in a spicy sauce.
For our dinner party, I made gomen, ye’misser wot be’ingudai (a spicy red lentil dish with mushrooms), and ye’nech bakela alicha. The ye’nech bakela alicha is a creamy, garlicky white bean dish. White beans are surprisingly amazing in Ethiopian dishes, because they are so mild in flavor. That means they just soak up all of the seasonings and spices like a sponge.
We had some leftovers the next day, and so I slathered the beans onto injera, rolled them into pinwheels, and cut them in sections. I served them with awaze (red hot pepper sauce), roasted dat’a (roasted green chili hot sauce), and senafich (spicy hot mustard sauce). The hot mustard sauce went especially well with the mild beans, and it was incredibly easy to make.
Finally, one day I made spicy lasagna roll-ups. I realize that may seem completely different from all of the aforementioned foods. However, Italy tried to conquer Ethiopia and failed. They did manage to leave behind some Italian remnants, which is obvious in this dish of tender kale with carrots, onions, and spices, homemade cashew and soy milk cheese, spicy tomato sauce, and noodles.
As you might have guessed from the name, the cookbook calls to make these as roll-ups. However, I made the dish like a standard lasagna, because my noodles didn’t need to be boiled first. It seemed easier to just put everything in a baking dish and call it a day. (Since the noodles needed to soak up more of the liquid, I doubled the amount of tomato sauce.) The end result was excellent with a spicy kick that’s a break from ordinary lasagna.
So after a month of endless Ethiopian dishes, am I ready to take a break?
Absolutely not. I have awaze tofu marinating in the refrigerator right this second, and I had chickpea flour pancakes for breakfast.
If you love Ethiopian food or trying new things, I absolutely recommend this cookbook. The recipes may look daunting at first, but after the seasoned oil has been made, many of the dishes are surprisingly weeknight-friendly, especially if you can pull frozen injera out of the freezer.
I also think that some people may be intimidated by the unfamiliar names of the dishes; however, there are full descriptions of all of the dishes. Just flip through the book, press on some post-its, and get started. You won’t regret it.