Monday, August 10, 2015

An Ethiopian Dinner inspired by Yes, Chef for Cook the Books Club

I actually read this book, our August and September selection, in July.  I was very excited about it because I have watched Marcus Samuelsson on the Food Network and have found him likable.  So I was surprised when I started reading his memoirs and found that I didn't like him too much.

Image result for Yes Chef

The book this month was chosen by Rachel of The Crispy Cook.  You can find her invitation post right here and you still have plenty of time to join us as we Cook the Books.


I liked the book.  I thought it was well written and that Marcus was very honest about the struggles he had breaking into the food world at such a young age.  And that was what I had to keep telling myself was that he was just a kid.  He was young and naive and self centered as most young people are.  He was happy to take advantage of people including young girls, his family and his friends to get to where he wanted to be.  And he wanted to be in the kitchen of a top restaurant in the USA.  

I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at life in Sweden where he grew up after having been born and orphaned in Ethiopia.  I loved the look at European kitchens and chefs ad the politics involved in the restaurant world.  I was intrigued at seeing the United States through his eyes and I was happy to join him as he returned to his homeland and met his father and siblings.  I was happy for Marcus when he found the love he was looking for when he met his wife.  

The book was good enough that I could ignore his incessant whining about how life was so unfair for a black man in the white cooking world.  This may be true, I haven't walked in his shoes, but I have been a woman in the predominantly male oriented realm of police work and I felt the same way towards Marcus as I felt towards the females who would whine and cry that they were treated unfairly in my job.  Quit whining and crying and get to work already.  We can all find a dark cloud just like we can all find a silver lining.  

I guess, mostly, I disliked Marcus' easy dismissal of the child he irresponsibly brought into the world and would have turned his back on completely had his mother not been a wonderful person who would not allow it.  That is a kind of self centeredness that I have a hard time writing off as a "being young" thing. Fourteen years is a long time to grow up...your child is nearly as mature as you.  In his, honest and self deprecating style, Marcus acknowledges this and tells of his attempts to develop a relationship with Zoe after so many years.

The part of the book that intrigued me the most was when Marcus returned to his homeland to learn about himself and his culture through food.  It was then that he realized how truly blessed he has been and how differently life would have been for him had he not been fortunate enough to be adopted by a loving and caring family.  This was also when Marcus realized that he needed to develop a relationship with his daughter.

I loved his descriptions of the Berbere (Spice Mix) that was commonly used and the Injera (bread) that was served with every meal as the plate and the utensils.  I decided to try my hand at the Injera and serve it up with some Misr Wat (Red Lentils) that were spiced with Berbere.

I found a recipe for the Injera on and ordered up the Teff flour.  That's all you need for the Injera.  Teff flour, water, salt and a little oil in which to cook it.

Mix together the teff flour and water.
  Allow it to ferment until bubbly and starting to sour.
This took me 2 1/2 days.

Add a pinch of salt and stir it up.
It is just a bit thicker in consistency than a crepe batter.

Put a small amount of oil into the bottom of your pan, swirl it around.
Add the batter to cover the bottom of the pan.
It is going to fry a bit so allow enough oil for that but not to drown it.
It will develop holes and start to crisp on the edges.
When the top is cooked and the sides are raising away from the pan it is done.

Injera is served a kind of a platter for the rest of the meal.

In this case the rest of the meal was Misr Wat, a red lentil stew.

Tear off a piece of the bread, scoop up some stew and enjoy.
No utensils needed.

The Misr Wat recipe was found at, but I adapted it quite a bit.  The original recipe called for making a spiced butter.  The butter recipe made a pound of spiced butter and the Misr Wat that I was making would need only 2 t. of spiced butter.  I didn't think it was important enough to bother with for my cut down version of the original recipe.  The original recipe also gave directions for making your own berbere spice mix.  It would have cost me more to buy all the spices I needed to make it myself than it was to just by some berbere so that was what I chose to do.  I only made enough Misr Wat to serve 2 people for a light brunch.

Now I do have to say that while this dish was interesting to make and I learned a lot, it is not going to be on my regular rotation.  That being said, it was tasty and would be a fun idea to share with others when you are studying or learning about other cultures.

Injera (Ethiopian Flat Bread)
as written from

1 1/2 c. ground teff 
2 c. water
salt to taste
vegetable oil for the skillet

Mix teff with water and let stand in a bowl covered with a towel at room temperature until it bubbles and has turned sour.  The fermented mixture should be the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Stir in a pinch of salt and taste, add more if desired.  Lightly oil a skillet and place over med heat. Pour in enough batter to cover the surface of the skillet, turning and rotating to spread the batter as you would for crepes but using a bit more batter for a thicker end result.  Cook until holes appear and the edges lift from the pan. Don't let it brown nor should you flip it as only one side is to be cooked.  Remove and let cool, using parchment or foil between pieces to prevent sticking.  To serve lay one injera on a plate and ladle your chosen dish on top.  Serve additional Injera to be used to scoop the main dish instead of utensils. Print Recipe

Misr Wat
adapted from

2 t. butter
half of a small onion, finely diced
1/2 t. ginger paste
1/4 t. garlic paste
1/4 t. berbere spice
1/4 c. red lentils
1 c. water
pinch of kosher salt

Melt butter on sauce pan over med heat.  Add onions and cook until golden.  Add ginger, garlic and berbere.  Cook and stir until fragrant.  Add lentils, stir to combine.  Add water, stir and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed and lentils are nearly completely cooked, half an hour or so.  Remove from heat and cover.  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes until the lentils are tender. Taste and season with salt.  Serve with Injera.  Print Recipe

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  1. Thank you for joining us with Cook the Books this time round. Looks delicious.

  2. I was actually really pleased when Zoe got really angry at him. If they'd met and everything had been plain-sailing and lovely it would have been far too unrealistic. And I was a bit shocked really, because as you say, he took advantage of people to get what he wanted and that DEFINITELY was not how his parents raised him.

  3. At least his mums kept him on the right track when it came to Zoe and as I recall probably kept up with her granddaughter much more than her father. I want to make this lentil stew and perhaps give injera another shot. Glad you joined us for this round!

  4. I do agree that it was sad he didn't find much time to visit his parents whilst on the way "up" in the food realm. Good job on tackling that injera.

  5. Nice job and wholeheartedly agree with you on the book assessment. Not likeable...and quit your whining!

  6. I agree so much about the whining! It was grating! I'm impressed that you tried traditional ethiopian food - you are braver than I!

  7. I read your take on the book with interest: nice. And nice choice of recipes! My one attempt at injera some time ago did not end well. I should try again.

    1. Yes, Simona my first attempt was awful and then my second try turned out as you see it here.


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