Today we have spun the globe and Wil’s finger landed on Ethiopia. So tonight we embrace the food and culture of this amazing country.IMG_2539

Ethiopia, is situated in the Horn of Africa and is a weathered, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, and Somalia to the east, Sudan to the northwest, South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over approximately 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world

Archaeologists have found finds dating back more than 3 million years.  Some of the oldest skeletal substantiation for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia and it certainly is a country of ancient culture.   It is widely studied as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East  beyond. Corresponding to linguists, the first Afro-asiatic-speaking inhabitants settled in the Horn region throughout the ensuing Neolithic era.

If we were to look back as far as the 2nd millennium BC, it is seen that the governmental system of Ethiopia was a realm for most of its history. Oral history tells us that the Realm was established by the Solomonic empire, also known as the House of Solomon, was the former ruling Imperial House of the Ethiopian Empire. The empire’s members claim patrilineal descent from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

During the first periods AD the Kingdom of Askum upheld a united civilisation in the territory, followed by around the time of 1137 the Ethiopian Empire. Throughout the late 19th century The Scramble for Africa was the occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by Western  European influences during the era of the New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. Around 1870 there was only 10% of Africa that was under recognised European influences. By 1914 it had augmented to almost 90% of the region, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia remaining self-governing and Ethiopia retained its sovereignty against European power.

In 1936 Ethiopia was occupied by Italy and subsequently became Italian Ethiopia, which was part of the Italian East Africa, and they remained there until 1941. Ethiopia was also the earliest independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations.

In 1974, the Ethiopian empire  under Haile Selassie was conquered by the Derg, a communist military government supported by the Soviet Union.  In 1987, the Derg formed the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the governing political union since.

Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge’ez script, this is one of the oldest alphabets in the world and something I find odd is that the Ethiopian calendar is roughly 7 years and 3 months behind our calendar – the Gregorian calendar – and it co-exists alongside the Borana calendar, which is a calendrical system once believed to have been used by the Borana Oromo, a people living in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The calendar has been alleged to be grounded on an earlier Cushitic calendar, created close to 300 BC found at Namoratunga. However, re-evaluation of the Namoratunga site guided astronomer and archaeologist Clive Ruggles to deduce that there is no connection. The Borana calendar comprise of 29.5 days and 12 months for a total 354 days in a year. The calendar has no weeks but name for each day of the month. It is a lunar-stellar calendar system.

Ethiopia is a land of innate contrasts, with its enormous bountiful west, its forests, and copious rivers, and the world’s hottest colony of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest uninterrupted mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves includes the largest cave on the continent.

Ethiopian cuisine typically comprises of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wat, a thick stew, which habitually includes beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils.  This is served upon  injera, which is a large sourdough flatbread.  Ethiopians eat mainly with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes.

Traditional ingredients include Berbere, a spice which is a combination of powdered chili pepper and other spices (somewhat similar to Southwestern American chili powder), is an important ingredient used in many dishes. Also essential is niter kibbeh, a  refined butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices.

Mitmita is a pounded seasoning mix used in Ethiopian cuisine. It is orange-red in colour and contains ground birds eye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves and salt.  It sometimes has other spices including cinnamon, cumin and ginger.

In their obedience to strict fasting, Ethiopian cooks have created a rich array of cooking oil sources—besides sesame and safflower – for use as a substitute for animal fats which are prohibited during fasting periods.

Tonight we have chosen two courses that I hope will show just a taste of what Ethiopian food is like.

Since the 1400’s, traders have pioneered some non-indigenous ingredients that have added to what we now know of as authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Portugal introduced the chili peppers, and from the Orient—ginger. India also played a part in North African trade, introducing exotic spices. However, culinary influences are not altogether obvious in Ethiopian cuisine because it is so different from all others.

Ethiopia has been portrayed as the land of bread and honey. Grains which include sorghum, millet, teff, and wheat grow well in the clement climate. And honey, collected by earliest beekeeping customs, is used in everyday meals. Ethiopian food is the fundamental in “living off of the land.”

Our main course is an Ethiopian Spiced Steak – the recipe comes from food and wine. Click the link for the recipe

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This beef recipe uses the authentic Berbere spice and instead of travelling the 7 miles to the specialist shop,we decided to make our own..

I find food is breath-taking and sharing meals with friends and family can fetch folks together, and prompts us of old customs. It is also possible to build new customs and inviting new people to share and this way make new friends by trying new things together. Food is also a good way to acquaint people new customs.

The ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice are all toasted over low heat.

The smell and the fragrance was amazing and begun to fill the house.        Spices give us aroma, colour, flavour, and sometimes even texture to food.      The balmy scent that was whizzing through my house  reaches our noses before the food reaches our mouths and we can taste it, we can imagine what we are going to taste and look forward to it eagerly. Each spice, chili, or herb has an unambiguous, exclusive chemical compounds that create these sensual qualities.

The prepared spices are rubbed all over the steak and left to flavour the beef.

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I am not going to go into details of how to cook as the recipe for this can be found here. I want to tell you how it tasted, did our guests like it and would we eat it again?

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The steak was served in a lettuce basket with a roasted tomato salad. The recipe actually asked us to cut up potatoes into chips. However, unless we missed it completely, there was no instruction what to do, so we made chips and served as the picture on the recipe showed.

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We followed the recipe to the letter and in addition I served with a typical Ethiopian Green salad.  This salad was a delightful amalgamation of different salad  elements that included fresh ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and white wine vinegar which meld with crunchy red pepper, crisp green lettuce, and very delicately sliced yellow onion that came together to create this innovative dish.

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We served flat breads and together eating a small portion of salad with the tender steak, which was actually scrumptious that delivered a unique taste and flavour.

Our dessert is a Berbere-Spiced Chocolate Avocado Pudding – recipe found here.

The mishmash of the unfathomable, poignant and intricate flavours of raw coco powder, the velvety debauchery of creamed avocado, and the smoke-filled heat of Berbere is just amazing, mind blowing, surprising and it will be a dessert I would, without hesitation, would eat again. The Berbere is the surreptitious component in this recipe. Our Berbere spice mix was delicately mixed and combined so it dispenses a deep, earthy and rich flavour with a delicate hint of heat.

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Did you know that Raw Coco powder is laden with antioxidants and can be placed as one of the healthiest super foods.  Avocados are 75% fat, of which the greater are  monounsaturated (the healthy fat), and contain oleic and linoleic acid which help with stabilising blood pressure and cholesterol levels – My sort of dessert!!!

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This meal was a gastronomical encounter that left me full up but still wanting more. Our family/guests loved also it and the steak just melted in your mouth and was totally a match for the accompaniments.

Thank you for your continued support with my blog and I hope if you ever try some of these dishes you let me know and let me know what you thought.   Happy reading and eating.

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