On a cold February evening, during the last few days of school’s winter break, I organized a small recipe testing dinner for those few recipes I had left to test and taste. The menu was the following, and although a mix of cuisines and cultures, came together very well at the dinner itself:
Ethiopian T’ej: Quick Chilled Honey Ginger Wine. (Notes: I added a small amount of a light bodied beer to this version of T’ej to impart a slight yeasty flavor to the wine, and served it very cold at the beginning of the meal.)
Ethiopian Injera: Quick Yeast “Pancake” Bread with Teff Flour. (Notes: I mixed the traditional Ethiopian teff flour, which is naturally gluten-free, with regular white flour so that the flavor would not be too strong and the final texture would be soft and pliable. Traditionally Injera is supposed to sit for several days to allow the batter to ferment, but because my version is meant to be made quickly at the end of Passover as a way to break the fast of leaven for the holiday, I allowed to sit only an hour before baking in the skillet. The result was a bread that was less yeasty in flavor than the traditional bread, but one that still had a spongy texture and tasted delicious with either savory dishes or spread with honey like a crêpe.
Ethiopian Chickpea Wat: Spicy Chickpea Stew with Carrots, Potatoes, Ginger, and Berbere Spice Mix. (Notes: Chickpeas are not necessarily prepared during Passover, but I wanted to test another vegetarian Ethiopian recipe that could be served with my Injera bread, and possibly as a savory Passover break-fast option. What I liked about this dish is that it was slightly hot, but not so much so that you could not taste the flavor. I used my own homemade Ethiopian spice mix known as Berbere, made up of black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, red pepper flakes, hot chili pepper, and hot paprika.)
Iraqi Plau: Basmati Rice with Tomatoes, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon Stick. (Notes: Jim felt that this was a simple recipe to follow, and was surprised in the technique of steaming the rice over a very low heat with the tomatoes and spices instead of boiling it more like pasta. The guests also commented on the pretty yellow color acquired from the turmeric, and liked that it was served in a long platter as opposed to the more western style in a bowl. The overall flavor was reminiscent of Indian cooking, with the addition of whole cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, which are ingredients that are used in some parts of Iraqi cooking as well as by the Baghdadi Jews that once migrated and settled in India.)
Iraqi Kubbah Shooendar Hamuth: Sweet & Sour Beet Stew with Stuffed Meatballs. (Notes: Brian said that the recipe was very different from what he was used to preparing, and he was struck by the very bright red color from the beets and its unusual tangy-sweet flavor. He felt that it was a little tricky to stuff the meatballs into the rice dough and then form it into a torpedo shape, and that if he ever did it again, would work on making the outer shell even thinner.)
Spanish Bolo de Laranxa: Orange-Olive Oil Cake with Ground Almonds, Farina, and Orange Blossom Water. (Notes: Kasaya noted that the recipe was very easy to follow and that she didn’t feel that anything needed to be noted or changed. She was concerned about whether it had been baked properly, but when I tasted it I was very pleased and thought that it was prepared perfectly!)