I know what you might be thinking. A vegan Ethiopian book? Really? How does such a thing even exist? Why does such a thing even exist? Isn’t that a little too specialized? Well, those were my thoughts at least… at first.
I saw this one floating around the internet, but I wasn’t sold. I figured I’d get it from the library someday, eventually, if they ever got it. I was intrigued, but not enough to order my own copy. But then something happened. Everyone I follow on Instagram started posting these drool-worthy photos of things they’d made from this book. “Okay, that looks cool,” I’d think. Still, I wasn’t going to rush out to get a copy. But before long, I was getting bombarded with this amazing ethnic food in my feed, and I forget exactly which post did it, but I was sold. I promptly got myself on Amazon and ordered it (the power of social media, it is real).
I promptly started plotting my first Ethiopian feast. Saying those words sounds a little funny to me, but that is exactly the charm in this book. Before Teff Love came along, if anyone ever asked me to prepare Ethiopian food, I’d probably scoff at the idea. I wouldn’t even know where to begin! African Peanut Soup? Ask for any other ethnic cuisine, ala Mexican, Greek, Italian, hell even Russian and I might have at least a general idea of how to go about it, but Ethiopian? No way can I do that! So this is where the point in this book lies: making this intimidating, exotic cuisine accessible to the vegan masses. And accessible it is. I was a pleasantly surprised to find that the recipes called for ingredients I had or could easily get. There are a few things I’m never getting my hands on, but all of those ingredients are listed as optional. This is a big relief. I’m too lazy to track down exotic seeds in middle of the mountain west. A few random seeds or spices aside, I was ready to tackle this unique and mysterious cuisine!
For my first feast, I decided on the Ethiopian-style Mac n’ Cheesie (not exactly authentic, but who doesn’t want to eat mac n’ cheese?!), Ethiopian-style roasted brussels sprouts (same) and a more traditional dish, Ye’misser Wot be’Ingudai (red lentils with mushrooms in a spicy sauce). However, making this feast wasn’t as simple as just making those three dishes. I also had to make injera (the spongey bread you eat Ethiopian food with), berbere (the spice blend) and ye’qimem zeyet (flavored oil) that give that authentic Ethiopian taste. Well, I didn’t have to (you can buy these things or use olive oil), but I wanted to.
Injera is a fermented sourdough pancake that actually takes a full week to make. Some people have no patience for such things, but as impatient a person as I am, I do enjoy making foods like this. What I don’t have as much patience for is spending too much time on one night for a meal. And I went a little over my head with this first feast. I’d intended to make the berbere and ye’qimem zeyet a day or two ahead of time, but I ended up not. I wish I had, because between those things, the injera, and the three dishes, it was way too much cooking for a Friday night. I did it all, and it surely was delicious, but I didn’t touch anything in my kitchen for the rest of the weekend. I was so over cooking. I was exhausted. But I was now an Ethiopian food fanatic!
The next feast I plotted, a month later, I still had berbere and ye’qimem zeyet to use, so it was much faster and easier (and honestly, you can just use commercial berbere spice blends, and olive oil in place of the seasoned oil). For this feast, I used an injera recipe from another book that only takes three days instead of a week. It didn’t exactly turn out great, but it was fine (note to self: short cuts… they don’t always work). The dishes I prepared, however, were amazing. This go-round, I chose Ye’Abesha Gomen (tender stewed collard greens), Ye’Nech Bakela Alicha (creamy, garlicky white beans in an onion-turmeric sauce), and Ye’bedergan Wot (buttery soft roasted eggplant in a spicy sauce). I adored them all, and they put my first feast to shame. I can’t even pick a favorite, they were all so amazing! The next day, to eat leftovers, I made the Quick Teff Crepes in place of injera. It’s not quite as delicious, but is wonderful to have a quick substitute for traditional injera when you don’t have the time or energy to go the long route.
Those are the only two feasts I’ve made, so far, but I have many more planned in my future. In the meantime, there’s loads of recipes to make in regular day-to-day cooking. I made the Chickpea Tofu and Kale Salad with Lemon Sunflower Seed Dressing for lunch one day and it was muy delicious. And I haven’t made them yet, but you can bet your butt I’ll be shoveling the Mocha Teff Brownies into my mouth sometime soon!
Bottom line, while this is not the kind of book I see myself cooking from all the time, this is a very welcome addition to my bookshelf. This ethnic cuisine has now been demystified and is no longer scary or intimidating. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Teff Love. I (teff) love you!