I was first introduced to Ethiopian cuisine in Madison, WI while in college. At the time I was a vegetarian and Ethiopian food is very plant-centric, which meant I had lots of options to try and I took full advantage. Many Ethiopian dishes are served with injera, a flatbread made from fermented teff flour batter. Teff is a tiny ancient grain with an amazing nutritional profile. It’s high in protein, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and copper and it’s also gluten-free. For those looking to increase the mineral-density of their diet, especially vegans and vegetarians who may struggle to consume enough iron, teff is an excellent choice. The fermentation process used in injera also makes the nutrients and protein more bio-available, helping to ensure optimal absorption.
Generally, Ethiopian food is served family-style and the injera flatbread is used instead of utensils. I love tearing off a piece of injera, scooping up a bite of food and then licking any sauce that had found it’s way past the flatbread to my fingers. This style of eating cultivates a feeling of community between those sharing a meal and also a connection between the eater and the food — it’s intimate and sensual.
This stew recipe plays off that sensuality with a rich, warm, and deeply-spiced flavor profile. I serve the stew with an injera recipe from a website called YumUniverse and have such outstanding results with it, I recommend you use the recipe she perfected. A note: although you can make it with a non-fermented batter, the injera batter takes twenty-four hours to ferment fully. The fermentation process produces a deliciously sour and flatbread that is well-worth the small amount of pre-planning. During the last 15 minutes of the stew’s cooking, while all the ingredients simmer slowly on the stove, cook the injera. Simply keep the cooked flatbreads warm on a plate in the oven until everything is ready.
Although a serving of this stew with two medium-sized pieces of injera will give you around twenty grams of protein, if you want more protein, many Ethiopian dishes are served with boiled eggs. A medium-boiled duck egg would be killer with this stew and if you want more protein but fewer carbohydrates, you could swap out a piece of the injera for an egg. I use Bob’s Red Mill teff flour in my injera and it should be relatively easy to find at well-stocked supermarkets. The berbere spice blend can be a little more challenging to find, but a good natural foods store should have it. I get mine from the Silk Road, a caterer here in Missoula who sell their fantastic spice blends locally and online (they owned several restaurants where they perfected their spice blends). Berbere does have a kick and I like foods that are appropriately spiced, so this recipe has some heat to it. If you’re spice-averse, try adding half as much (two tablespoons instead of four) berbere during the cooking process and then taste the stew after all the ingredients have been added — you can always add more at that time if desired. If you love spice, you could add more berbere — I recently made this recipe with six tablespoons of the spice blend and it burned so good.
- 1 large Onion, raw
- 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
- 40 oz Diced Tomatoes, canned in juice (one large 28oz can + one 12oz can)
- 1 large bunch (5 cups) chopped Kale, raw
- 3 cloves Garlic, raw
- 1 cup Water
- 1 tsp Salt, table
- ½ cup Peanut Butter, smooth style, with salt
- 4 Tbl Berbere Spice Blend
- Dice onion into 1" pieces.
- Add 1 Tbl coconut oil to large, heavy-bottomed stock pot and heat over medium onion oil is shimmering.
- Add onion to pan and stir, until all onions are lightly coated with the coconut oil. Stir frequently for 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown slightly. Turn the heat down slightly and sautée for 20 minutes (caramelize the onions).
- Mince or press the garlic cloves and add to the onions, sautée for 2 minutes.
- Add the Berbere spice blend and sautée for one minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning the spices.
- Add the canned tomatoes & stir to incorporate the spices & onions into the tomatoes. If there is crusty onions or spices at the bottom of the pot, use the moisture from the tomatoes to scrape them off and stir them into the stew (those caramelized bits have tons of flavor).
- Stir occasionally until the tomato & onion mixture is simmering.
- Add in the peanut butter and stir until it melts completely into the stew.
- Add salt.
- Add the chopped kale and stir. The kale will wilt and cook in the stew.
- If desired, add up to 1 cup of water. The stew should be thick, not watery or pasty. Consider that you'll be eating it with flatbread, not a spoon, so use that as a guide.
- Let the stew simmer on medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes to meld the flavors.
- Serve the stew hot with injera flatbread.
*Not all calories are equal.