Category Archives: Found Favourites

Ethiopian Feast!

I first tried Ethiopian food about 10 years ago, on the recommendation of a colleague. A vegetarian at the time, I was looking for new restaurants, and new flavours that didn’t involve eating Babe (or his little friends). When I go for Ethiopian food, I always get the vegetarian platter. All of the restaurants make these, and they often contain many of the same dishes (or variations of them). Comprised of a number of stews, the dishes may be spiced legumes (lentils, split peas), vegetables, collard greens, all placed in colourful mounds around a fresh salad, atop what can best be described as a sourdough pancake.

Injera, the aforementioned ‘pancake’, is an important part of the meal. It lines the platter, it provides the grain portion of the meal… and acts as your utensil. The flavourful stews are grabbed up, and masterfully rolled into a piece of injera, dipped in Awaze, and quickly popped into your mouth. Injera can be made at home, or bought from a number of stores that carry the handmade bread. It is traditionally made from Teff, the world’s smallest grain, which can be hard to find and expensive in Canada. We opted to buy Injera this time around, but my husband “the bread guy” thinks he could pull off a good batch next time (having found Teff flour at Rube’s in St. Lawrence Market).

A close-up of the platter. Clockwise from 12: Gomen, Mesir Allecha, Mesir Wat. Centre: Awaze. MMmmmmmm.

This meal is great for those who love complex flavours, varied textures, a little spicy kick and breaking ripping bread with friends.

This was my second attempt at making Ethiopian dishes. The first try did not go so well, and I gave up. This time, I figured I had a better feel for the food, hopefully a better eye for the recipes, and a new favourite condiment to devour.

In my earlier post, I mentioned Berbere, a very important spice blend in many Ethiopian dishes. I also mentioned Awaze, the bold and spicy condiment that is made from Berbere. This is my inspiration for trying again, and having successfully made a batch of Awaze, I was determined to make food worthy of being dipped in it.

Want some injera or spices? Toronto has quite a few places that carry these items, but the ones that we shopped at this time around are Piassa Ingera (260 Dundas Street East) and, oddly enough, the Hasty Market at King & Dufferin.

Looking for someone else to make it for you? Try Ethiopian House Restaurant (4 Irwin Avenue, Toronto)

Want to try making it for yourself? Here are recipes I followed (slightly modified from recipes I found online). Don’t forget to refer to the Berbere and Awaze post!!!

Niter Kebbeh (spiced, clarified butter)

This is the start of many great Ethiopian dishes. This butter is full of flavour, and really can’t be omitted from the dish (although I generally use less than recommended in the original recipes). I made this well in advance, let it cool in a rectangular dish, then chopped into cubes and frozen. I should have enough Niter Kebbeh for the next 3-4 meals, maybe more!

Modified from this Recipe


  • 1 pound butter
  • 4 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Slowly melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the other ingredients and simmer uncovered on the lowest heat for about 20-30 minutes. Do not let it brown.
  3. Strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine strainer, discarding the spices.
  4. Refrigerate until set.

Gomen (Stewed Collard Greens)

The collard greens have always been one of my favourite parts of the meal. Their slightly bitter, buttery deliciousness is a great contrast to the lentil dishes and is a must for any platter. I actually doubled this recipe when I made it, and found that this was the perfect amount.

modified from this recipe

  • 1 large bunch collard greens, about 1½ pounds
  • 1 tbsp niter kebbeh, ghee or olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh hot peppers, seeded and minced (or to taste)
  • 1 cup broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon
  • black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  1. Tear stems from collard greens, and wash greens well.
  2. In a large skillet or stir fry pan, melt the niter kebbeh (or oil). Add onion, garlic, ginger and hot peppers and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add collard greens, broth, salt, pepper and cardamom. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of water has evaporated from pan and the greens are very tender (this took me about 1/2 hour… leave some time!).

Mesir Wat (spicy red lentils)

This is my absolute favourite dish in the platter. The lentils are soft and spicy and creamy. The berbere spice is really hard to describe in this dish, as it adds not only spice but a really well-rounded warmth and flavour. This recipe makes a LOT of food, and could be halved (especially if made alongside the other two recipes here). I made the full recipe, and have quite a lot left over… but I’m fine with that. Did I mention this is my favourite? I may try freezing some to see how it holds up.

Serves 4 to 6 – modified from this recipe


  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 2-3 tbsp Niter Kibbeh (or oil or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons berbere
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups, water or broth
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and puree. Add a little water if necessary.
  2. Heat the oil, butter or niter kibbeh in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium flame. Add berbere and stir rapidly to color the oil and cook spices through, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onion puree and sauté until the excess moisture evaporates and the onion loses its raw aroma, about 5-10 minutes. Do not burn.
  4. Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out.
  5. Stir in salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Mesir Allecha (mild lentils)

These lentils are mild and buttery. Although not the most stand out dish of the bunch, for me it offers a mild balance with the other dishes. I chose this dish to round out my platter. This recipe makes a conservative amount – which was fine with me, because I eat less of this one than the other two. Notice that the recipe calls for half the amount of lentils required in the Mesir Wat above.

modified from this recipe


  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon niter kebbeh
  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal), picked over, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeño peppers
  • 4 cups water (adjusted as necessary)
  1. In a medium saucepan, soak red lentils for one hour in three cups of the water.
  2. Bring the lentils and water to boil and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft, adding more water if necessary. Drain off any extra water and mash.
  3. Heat the niter kebbeh in another pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mashed lentils, turmeric, salt and hot pepper. Stir well.
  4. Add the remaining cup of water (or less, pour slowly) and cook for 3-4 more minutes more to reduce the mixture to a thick, well spiced puree.

From the Spice Drawer: Berbere and Awaze

Berbere is a staple spice blend in Ethiopian cuisine. Made up of a number of spices that are roasted and ground, the primary components seem to be fenugreek seeds, cayenne pepper and paprika. The ratio of cayenne to paprika control just how hot the berbere becomes.

Sometimes written as ber-beri (which gives you an idea of how to pronounce it, almost like ‘Burberry’), it imparts a warm red colour to any dish that uses it as the primary seasoning.

Berbere (Ethiopian spice blend)

Berbere is also used to make a strongly flavoured condiment, called Awaze. A mix of berbere, garlic and wine, it is a deep, dark, spicy paste that can be used for dipping. This condiment is one of my favourite additions to my Ethiopian platter, adding an extra kick in combination with the injera (bread) and stews.

Watch for the Friday post for details of my attempt at making an Ethiopian platter! Sooo good!

Awaze - Ethiopian Spice Paste
Awaze – a deep and spicy paste to liven up your meal!

Awaze Paste

original recipe can be found here


  • 1 cup berbere (mild red chili pepper spice blend)
  • 1 tsp mitmita (hot chili pepper spice blend) *optional, only if you want it to be REALLY spicy
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup dry red wine or dry sherry or Tej (Ethiopian honey wine)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon fresh ginger juice
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste


  1. In small bowl, mix the berbere, mitmita (if included), garlic powder, black pepper.
  2. Add wine (or sherry or tej), oil, lemon juice, ginger juice, water, salt to taste; whisk it well.
  3. Keep in the fridge; serve it cold.


The thing about challenges is that they are, well, challenging.

Part of the reason I started this blog is to challenge myself to try new things, learn some new dishes and have fun. I was told about a site called the Daring Kitchen, where challenges are issued each month and members are required to follow the same recipe (with few alterations permitted). This was just the kick start I needed, so I signed up for an account. I won’t actually hear back about starting the challenges for a couple of weeks, however.

I decided to try one of their prior challenges to get warmed up, jumping right into an area that I have never tried before – pastry. I started with the recipe for Salmon en Croute.


Salmon en Croute – fresh out of the oven!

I’m not really much of a baker, so I enlisted the help of my husband, who helped by making the short crust and rolling it out. Neither of us have worked with pastry crusts before, so we found it to be pretty tricky to work with. It did not turn out exactly as described in the recipe, or the helpful video tutorials. After much work, and a little creativity, we managed to wrap the salmon in the pastry dough and get it into the oven.

Imperfect, yes, but still a success! It was a fun learning experience, and it tasted great!

Complete! Salmon en croute for dinner.

Complete! Salmon en croute for dinner.

Found Favourites: Playgroup Granola Bars

Playgroup Granola Bars

To start things off, I’d like to share a recipe from my now defunct recipe database, that I found many years ago. I’ve pretty much stuck to the original recipe, except that I use dried cranberries instead of raisins, and I often add things like quinoa flakes, hemp seeds, flax seeds, etc. to the mix.

I can’t say I’ve ever been able to cut them into 24, as the recipe suggests, but I probably make them too big.

These are yummy and filling, so go easy!

Original Source: – Playgroup Granola Bars
(actually, I first got this from someone on Live Journal, but I can’t seem to find the original recipe… It’s basically the same, except the wheatgerm wasn’t in the first one I tried.)


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, wheat germ, cranberries (or raisins), chocolate chips and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges.

4. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be to hard to cut.

Servings: 24 (depends how you cut them)