June 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Northern, Middle & Eastern Africa | Leave a comment

Ethiopia is often one thinks of the absence of food given the terribly tragedy of the mid 80s. I am of course talking about the circumstances that lead to Band Aid.

Some of the things I didn’t know about Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia was one of only two countries to retain its independence when European countries divided the rest of Africa between them.
  • The last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the source of worship for the Rastafari movement who see him as the returned Messiah. His title was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Elect of God” 
  • Today Ethiopia is one of the strongest economies in East Africa
  • Ethiopia – the dust bowl we saw in the 80s – is the source of 85% of the water that makes into the Nile.
  • It is generally considered the site of the emergence of the first humans.

As it turns out, the famine that killed nearly 1,000,000 people in Ethiopia in 1984 (and lead to many of us considering Ethiopia perpetually hungry) was caused an horrific drought, but was also exacerbated by a horrendously incompetent Marxist government that spend 46% of its GDP in the year that 9m of its people were famine affected. Thankfully the government and drought eventually disappeared and today Ethiopia is a vibrant country with, as it turns out, excellent food.

The Plan

The Ethiopians have a traditional meal that involves serving a variety of stews on a large piece of flat bread, injera. In many ways, the bread is the tablecloth, and that the meal is only complete when the tablecloth is eaten.

Taken from a few sources, this dish is a Chicken Wat with garlic spinach, yoghurt and flat bread.

Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast, diced
  • 50g of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 1 tablespoon berbere
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 lugs of olive oil
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 green capsicum, sliced
  • Half a glass of red wine
  1. Fry the onions and ginger until the onions are quite well done.
  2. Add the spice mix and fry for 60 seconds, stirring vigorously.
  3. Add the chicken and the oil. Once the chicken is browned, add the capsicum, stock cubes, wine and tomatoes.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes. The stew needs to be quite thick – add a tablespoon of flour if necessary.

Make a side dish of garlic & salted silverbeet.


Makes 5 9-inch pancakes

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup water
  1. Mix together to make a batter
  2. Fry the batter into a number of pancakes. Flip when the pancakes are bubbling.

To serve: cover the table with foil. Spread the pancakes over the foil, one in front of everyone but overlapping if possible. Add a scoop of chicken wat, wilted silverbeet, and a dollup of natural yoghurt.

The Event

This was a lot of fun, except the pancakes were a disaster – a shortage of eggs and possibly plain flour isn’t as good as the correct Ethiopian Tef flour. Still, overall a lot of success – the stew needs to be thick or it will seep through the pancakes. I also cheated and had some rice on hand.

Serving was excellent – just dolling out piles of food haphazardly across the table. Also, one is supposed to use just your fingers but we reached for the utensils…

The Outcome

Chris: “I like the chicken, but the bread goes cold quickly. Good though! We’ll take forks if we got to Ethiopia”

Jacq:  “What is this I’m eating? Wat is this I’m eating!”

Liam: “What? Never mind – no-one leave till they’ve eaten the tablecloth″

Me: This was much better than expected. Lots of fun to make and to eat.


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