Archive for April, 2011

Kik Kei Wat

First an apology in case I’m not accurate in my naming of this dish.  I took a guess, because I knew that if I gave it a descriptive title like Berbere Split Pea soup, a) it wouldn’t sound as interesting and exotic, and b) approximately 75 percent of you wouldn’t have opened this post.  So many people have had a bad experience with split peas and it’s really too bad because, cooked well, they are a delicious, healthy, and economical food.  So, read on, please!  Whether your trouble with the split peas of your past is digestive or textural, I think this recipe can turn it around for you.

Meals in Ethiopia (based on what I’ve read and heard, since I’ve never actually been there) are often thick stews, served directly on a large injera (spongy flatbread) that’s been spread out like a tablecloth, then eaten using torn pieces of injera as utensils.  The more authentic version of this stew might be very thick and consist only of split peas, but it would probably be served as one of many stews including a thick vegetable stew.  To keep things a little simpler, I like to serve a thinner version of the spiced split pea puree that is thickened with grains and vegetables, then eaten with injera.  It’s flavored with onions, garlic, ginger, and berbere spice, which is traditionally very spicy, but can be tempered according preference.  It is SO yummy. Since I don’t know where you are getting your berbere or what’s in it, I’m going to provide a very large range for the amount used.  Mine is primarily paprika, but still has quite a kick from the dried chili powder.  If you’d like to make your own Berbere, you can find recipes online.  The main components are dried chilis and fenugreek, but all kind of other spices can be in there too.  Please note: this is powder from pure dried chilis ground to a powder and is totally different than the chili powder that flavors chili and usually contains cumin and chili peppers, among other things.

For planning purposes, this is a pretty large batch of soup.  It seems silly to me to make small amounts of soup as it’s so good left over and also freezes well, but along with the Millet and Roasted Vegetables plus the Injera, this is definitely a lot of food. If you cut the recipe in half and serve per my suggestions, you can still generously feed a family of four.

  • 2 cups green split peas, soaked overnight
  • 8-10 cups of water
  • 1 strip of kombu
  • 5 large carrots, thickly sliced
  • 3 large stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium celeriac, optional, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 1/4 cup ghee (or olive oil)
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2-2 teaspoons berbere spice blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (omit if your berbere has fenugreek)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • salt, to taste

Rinse the split peas, put them in a large soup pot, add the water and bring to a boil.  Skim the gray foam that gathers on the surface of the water, then add the kombu, asofoetida, carrots, celery, and celeriac.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are very soft, stirring to keep it from cooking to the bottom of the pan and adding water as necessary.  If you are using a pressure cooker, you can cook the beans at high pressure for about 20 minutes.  While the beans are cooking, heat a large skillet to medium and add the ghee and onions.  Once the onion have started to brown, add the shallots and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Now add the ginger and dry spices, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for about five minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Once the beans are soft, add water if necessary to adjust the texture of the soup, which should be a thin puree, but not watery.  Once the texture is right, add the ghee/spice mixture and salt, taste, and adjust salt and spices if needed so all of those flavors come together.  Stir in your Millet and Roasted Vegetables and pour it all over a bowl lined with a piece of injera.  Pull off pieces of injera and scoop up the stew with it.  You’ll especially love any injera left at the bottom that has soaked up the yumminess of the wat.  Enjoy!


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Millet and Roasted Vegetables

Since I posted the injera recipe last week, I think I’ll stick this Ethiopian theme through – so next week you can probably expect a recipe for an Ethiopian stew that will bring it all together.  This will give you time to perfect your injera so you can have enjoy the full experience.

I have tried cooking millet a few times in the past and have never quite gotten the light, fluffy texture I’ve envisioned.  It always seemed like it didn’t quite cook through the middle, so there was a bit of a chalky crunch that wasn’t quite right for me.  I have been meaning to give it another try now that I am soaking all of my grains and I find that they cook so much better that way, but just hadn’t gotten to it yet.  I was inspired the other day as I was preparing an Ethiopian stew for lunch for a Kundalini teacher training session.  My new friend Ria, who is doing a fabulous job of helping me with the Market (thank goodness), told me about a yummy meal she had cooked the previous night using millet.  I happened to have a whole bunch of soaked millet ready to go into the dehydrator, so I scooped some up and gave it a try and was so happy that I did.  It was light and fluffy, mildly sweet, and delicious.  I ended up serving it with the stew and it was the perfect compliment.  Even Joshua, who hasn’t been fond of millet in the past and also isn’t partial to green split peas, which were the main component of the stew, devoured it happily.  It was a hit with my teacher trainer friends, as well, so it comes very highly recommended!

In case you aren’t very familiar with millet, it is a little, round grain most commonly used here in the US as birdseed, but popping up more as a crunchy component to baked goods, in granolas, etc.  It can apparently be gray, white, red, or yellow, but I’ve only seen yellow millet.  It is the most easily digested grain, in fact it’s the only grain that is alkalizing to our bodies.  It’s rich in B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  Cooked, I find it reminiscent of couscous; actually, couscous was originally made from cracked millet (now it’s made from wheat/semolina flour).  It is thought to have originated in Ethiopia and I have read that injera is sometimes made from millet flour rather than teff, but is also consumed as a pilaf grain or porridge in many other cultures.

So, on to the recipe…please note that you’ll need to soak the millet for about 8 hours before you use it in this recipe, so be sure to include that time in your plan.  Also, this may be a lot of roasted vegetables for the amount of millet – I typically taste (read:scarf) a lot of the veggies while they are cooking and/or want to have some for other meals, so I’ll roast a bunch and just use what seems right in the recipe.  Feel free to use any seasonal vegetables.

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 small bunch of broccoli (flowerettes and trimmed stalks)
  • three medium sweet potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt, to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons ghee or olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon berbere spice blend (or a pinch each of cayenne and fenugreek)
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup millet, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup water for cooking
  • a splash of olive oil or a bit of ghee
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower and sweet potato (without peeling) into small bite-sized pieces.  Coat vegetables generously in olive oil and stir in the minced garlic, then  spread them out on a baking tray or trays, more or less in a single layer.  Put them in the oven (no need to wait if it isn’t quite up to 375 yet).

While the veggies are roasting, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ghee and the onion and cook until the onion begins to brown, then add the ginger, garlic, and spices and cook another minute or so.  Add the water and bring it to a boil.  Rinse the soaked millet and add it to the pot once the water boils, then cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-low, and let it cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.

When the millet is done, fluff it with a fork and replace the cover.  When the vegetables are soft and browned, stir them into the millet.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Enjoy!

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For some reason, injera has come up a lot lately and it seems that people either really, really want to know how to make it, or they don’t know what it is.  The latter seems like a good place to start…injera is a traditional Ethiopian flatbread that is made from teff flour and is used as a utensil to scoop up thick stews and porridges.  Most recipes call for three days of fermentation, so it has a pleasantly sour taste.

Teff is the smallest grain in the world and it packs a powerful punch.  Because of its small size, it mainly consists of bran and germ, the healthy components of grain that provide fiber and protein.  Teff has a high calcium content and is relatively high in the amino lysine compared to other grains.  You can feel the strong, vital energy in this grain when you eat it.  Teff ranges in color, but is relatively to very dark and it has a strong, rich flavor.  It is my understanding that Ethiopian restaurants here in the US typically make injera from teff and wheat flours, rather than solely from teff, which is the authentic way to make it.  So as not to shock our American palettes, I suppose.

While I cannot make any claims as to the authenticity of my injera, since I’ve never been to Ethiopia, my method is traditional with the exception of the fact that I use whole grain teff rather than teff flour.  I like to keep things simple and fresh, so I avoid pre-ground flours and this is an easy way for you to do the same, assuming that you have a blender.  It’s made like a crepe and turns out to be a deliciously sour, spongy flatbread perfect with Wat – an Ethiopian stew seasoned with berberé spice – a recipe we’ll revisit at another time.

This is a simple recipe, though it does call for some planning ahead.  The only tricky part is finding a strainer that is fine enough to let water out, but keep teff in.  I have a cone-shaped strainer that is works well for small amounts as in this recipe.

  • 1 cup whole teff
  • water for soaking
  • 3/4 -1 cup spring water, or as needed for blending (must be spring water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak your teff in a bowl overnight in enough water to cover.  In a very fine mesh strainer, or one lined with cheesecloth, drain your teff and rinse well, then drain again thoroughly.  Place drained teff in a blender with 1/2 cup spring water and the salt and blend, adding more water until you can make a smooth batter that is thin, but not watery.  Pour it into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.  Set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 days, or even as long as 3 days, giving it a stir and a smell periodically to see if it has begun to sour.  A darker liquid will rise to the top – this is good, just stir in back in.  The batter is done when it smells pleasantly sour; the smell is a little stronger than typical sourdough, but has elements of that same piquant smell.  You’ll want to make your injera as soon as it gets to that place, because if it goes to far, it starts to smell a little smoky and that’s not what you are going for.

When you are ready to make your injera, heat a flat skillet, preferably cast iron, to medium.  When a drop of water sizzles wildly, it’s hot enough.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the middle of the pan and tilt the pan so the batter moves toward the rim of the skillet to form something resembling a circle.  Allow it to cook a couple minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the pan and it’s cooked through to the top.  Place on a plate and continue until the batter is gone, stacking the injera one on top of the other and inverting another place on top so they stay flexible.  Use the injera to scoop up a thick soup or stew – maybe a berberé-spiced lentil or split pea soup, maybe a dahl or curry, whatever you want, really.  Enjoy!

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