One of my best friends growing up was from Ethiopia, and our group of friends would go to her house after school on a regular basis (i.e. basically every day) and chow down on all sorts of Ethiopian dishes. We sure felt lucky. To add to that, her family owned an Ethiopian restaurant, so we also got to go to the restaurant on a regular basis and feast some more. I remember this massive injera maker in her kitchen, like a giant pancake iron, and it always had a stack of fresh injera. It was awe-inspiring. For those of you that have had injera, you can imagine how it must have felt: just think, being able to make that bread whenever you wanted, with a contraption specifically designed for it. WOW! Anyways, in college I traveled a few times with this friend. Every time we went to the airport, her family would give us Ethiopian lentils and enjera to take with us on the plane. Once we went to Europe together, and in various countries, including England and Holland, we met up with her Ethiopian friends and family and were introduced to the thriving and vibrant Ethiopian communities in these cities – and again, feasted on tons of Ethiopian food. So, in a nutshell, I was immersed in Ethiopian culture growing up and was spoiled rotten when it came to Ehtiopian food.
I also had an Ethiopian roommate in college, and her mother lived with us for some time. I remember seeing her at the stove in the morning when I went to school, and in the same spot when I got back later in the day. She would tell me that this is how long it takes to make good Ethiopian food – sometimes even a few days for one dish – and that you also need all the right spices (our freezer was full of giant plastic bags of spices brought from Ethiopia, so I knew she meant business when she talked about spice).
Here in New York, we have our share of Ethiopian restaurants, but the best ones I’ve found are in Harlem and quite a trek from Jackson Heights. Ethiopian food is one of those cuisines that I haven’t dared try to make in the past, but now that I am mostly home-bound, I have decided to give it a shot. Atakilt Wat was the first dish I attempted because it seemed the most simple – and it is just that! This recipe also tastes exactly as I remember in Ethiopian restaurants, making it authentic, quick and easy. It is usually served on top of injera as part of a veggie combo. I will eventually attempt to make injera as well, but for now, these chickpea pancakes satisfy the same craving, and also add protein to complete this dish. If you don’t feel like making pancakes from scratch, you could alternatively use tortillas, or middle eastern flat bread.
CABBAGE POTATOES AND CARROTS (ATAKILT WAT)*
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 jalapeño, chopped (optional)
- One onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp cumin or berbere **
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 head of large cabbage, or one head small cabbage, cut into 1-inch by about 2-inch pieces (or just thinly sliced)
- Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
- Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.
- Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño and onion and cook for about five minutes.
- Add cumin, turmeric, and pepper, and cook for an additional two minutes.
- Add the carrots, potato and cabbage, along with 1/4 tsp salt. Mix well and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring once.
- Add another 1/4 tsp salt or more to taste, cover again and cook about 10 more minutes, over low-medium heat, until the potatoes are well cooked and soft.
CHICKPEA PANCAKES ***
- 1 cup chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour, or besan (gram flour)
- 1½ cups water
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ cup minced red onion
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- Spray oil for the skillet
- In a bowl, combine the chickpea flour and ¾ cup water, and whisk until the batter is combined. Whisk in another ½ to ¾ cup water to make a thin lump-free batter. (If using besan, you will need less water to get the same consistency).
- Add the salt, turmeric, cayenne, onion, and oil, and mix well.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, spray generously with oil. Pour around 1/3 cup of the batter onto the skillet. Spread around immediately by moving the pan around, making the pancake as thin as you can.
- Cook until the edges start to pull up from the pan and the bottom is golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook 2 to 4 additional minutes.
- *Photo includes a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and jalapeño dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt, a typical dish with Ethiopian combo meals.
- **Not sure adding either spice is that authentic, but I’ve tried both and they taste great. However if you want to just use turmeric that would work fine as well.
- ***Adapted from VeganRicha.com