After my last post, many of my readers voiced that they had never had or heard of Injera bread. This was so exciting to me (I love introducing folks to new things and Ethiopian food is one of my favs.) If you like Indian food, Arabic food or are the least bit adventurous, you will find Ethiopian food to be sensual, aromatic, and richly flavored. But, for those of you who have never had the pleasure, I had to ask myself, “What good is Injera (“the Ethiopian bread-and-plate-in-one”) if you have nothing to put on top of it?
That’s why today, I am giving you the keys to the kingdom — or at least to that platter pictured in the Injera post. An authentic Ethiopian meal.
Though you can have an entire Injera filled with different dishes, I have kept the recipes to just three dishes (besides the Injera) and the seasoned butter that is a cornerstone of many Ethiopian dishes. There’s something here for everyone (2 veg and 1 meat dish) and you can, of course, substitute another veggie for the beef dish, if you’re vegetarian and if you’re vegan, you can also switch out the butter for coconut oil.
Niter Kibbeh (seasoned, clarified butter)
You must start with this recipe, as this component is used in two of the three dishes.This is a much smaller batch of Niter Kibbeh than you will find on other recipe sites but with a family of three, I simply do not need 1 to 6 pounds of spiced, clarified butter. With this recipe, I was able to do both the beef and greens and still have some left over to use on roasted broccoli and another batch of greens. This is yummy even if you are not cooking anything else Ethiopian– try it!
- 1 stick butter
- 1 Tbsp chopped onion
- 1 finely chopped garlic clove
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Slowly melt butter in a saucepan, then bring just to boil. When the cream begins to separate from the fat, and the top is foamy, add the onions and spices, simmering uncovered until the milk solids sink to the bottom (10-15 minutes). Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Discard the solids. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a month.
Kitfo, is a finely chopped lean beef in a homemade spicy butter. Eaten traditionally, the meat is raw — the way steak tartar is served except that it has been tossed in a lovely spiced, clarified butter called Niter Kibbeh. Here in America, Kitfo is often prepared “lub lub,” which means “half-cooked” in Ethiopian or fully cooked in the spiced butter. I can tell you, from experience, that “lub lub” is “delish delish” but my favorite is Kitfo served the traditional way. When served in restaurants it often comes in a small black bowl, served in the center of your Injera (made from the ancient grain teff, which is smaller than a mustard seed.)
The deep red of this finely chopped, lean beef looks a lot like a tomatoey puree but upon closer inspection, is much firmer than salsa, though just as flavorful. There is something hedonistically gorgeous about this dish — the lush feel of the Kitfo in your mouth as you chew, the deeply spiced flavors, the sumptuous taste of the beef itself.
As if that weren’t enough, it’s served with a small dish of finely ground spices, called Mitmita (found at Ethiopian markets or online) containing African bird’s eye chile peppers, cardamom seeds, cloves and salt. This spice is what provides an extra powerful kick to the dish — should you want one. ;0
OK — so for those of you who are brave enough to want to try the raw version of this dish, I say this: Don’t get sloppy. Clean cooking utensils, counters and cutting boards are essential, as is good hand washing procedures (I do this several times before beginning.)
Also, when dealing with beef that you will be eating in a raw state, be sure to let your butcher know that you will be using this for raw prep (you can tell them steak tartar, as they most likely will not know Kitfo) and ask for a fresh cut of sirloin or Chateaubriand. Especially, when eating raw or undercooked foods, I like to make sure to get my hands on organic or free range.
I picked up my steak at Whole Foods Market. The butchers there are very friendly and helpful, (though they gave me the required warnings about eating raw beef) and they made sure I got a lovely, tender, lean, and fresh cut of beef from their counter.
Whole Foods carries local, step-rated, grass fed, and organic beef and is committed to making sure the beef you get is hormone and antibiotic free — which means a cleaner raised and healthier animal (important for when you’re looking to eat it raw!) Now for the legalese:
WARNING: Consuming raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish and eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness, especially if you have a medical condition. Do so, at your own risk.
Kitfo (Ethiopian Steak Tartar)
- 2 Tbsp Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Butter)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp mitmita (spicy powdered seasoning blend) to taste and heat
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 pound lean steak (sirloin or Chateaubriand)
Finely chop your steak by hand or using your food processor. Using the processor is preferable, but since my Cuisinart is down (and the Cuisinart Gods have neglected to bequeath me a new one– hint, hint) I can tell you that Kitfo can be prepared effectively by hand, though it is a bit more labor intensive to get your meat pieces small enough to get the right texture/flavor. Be sure that if you hand cut it, you use a sharp knife and if doing a large amount of beef, that you cut off smaller chunks to work with, keeping the rest refrigerated until needed.
Once the meat is prepped, melt the niter kibbeh with the mitmita and cardamom until warm, infusing the spices with the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the finely chopped meat into the warmed butter, coating evenly. Serve immediately on Injera bread and accompanied by a dish of mitmita for dipping.
If you wish to eat your Kitfo, “lub lub” (half-cooked) or fully cooked, do not remove the pan from the stove and add beef, continuing to cook until to your desired doneness.
Fuul (Simmered, split fava beans)
- Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 ½ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 2 cups canned or cooked fava beans
- 16 oz of vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 handful of finely chopped parsley
- Fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 handful of grape tomatoes, diced
- Crumbled goat cheese (to taste)
- Squeeze of lemon
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the onions, garlic and carrot to the olive oil and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the spices and stir to coat veg, cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and beans, covering and simmering until the carrots are tender and the broth has absorbed into the beans, softening and thickening them – about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve on Injera, topped with parsley, mint, goat cheese, tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Raafu (or Gomen– basic Ethiopian greens recipe)
Usually made with collard greens, I encourage you to try this dish with any green you like, from kale to mustard greens. Some versions add potatoes and carrots or even lentils but I prefer the basic prep — it’s easy and oh so flavorful!
- 1 to 2 Tbsp Niter Kibbeh
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bunch kale
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- salt and pepper
Rinse and de-stem your greens and drain. Chop leaves coarsely and set aside in colander to continue draining.
In a deep skillet, heat up the Niter Kibbeh and add chopped onion, sauteing until translucent. Add the chopped kale
stirring to mix onions and green and to coat the greens in the flavorful butter. Cook until greens deepen in color, adding vegetable broth and allowing the greens to steam and broth to evaporate and absorb. Cook until tender and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on injera with Kitfo and Fuul.
Feel free to eat this meal authentic Ethiopian style — with your hands, ripping pieces of Injera off to scoop up the beans, greens and beef.