Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ethiopian Chickpea Wat

I decided to try something adventurous today and cooked Ethiopian for the first time. I love the combination of aromatic, rich spices in Ethiopian food. Ethiopian cuisine actually uses many of the same spices used in Indian cooking, but in different ratios, blended together to form a spice mix called berbere. This chickpea wat, or stew, turned out really delicious, with a well-balanced, heady blend of spices, and was easy for me to put together with ingredients I already had on hand (given that I have a pretty well-stocked spice cabinet from my Indian cooking). Aside from the several spices to make the berbere, this recipe is very simple-it's just a stew of chickpeas and tomatoes dolled up with some exotic spices. It's vegetarian and healthy. It will keep for several days, freezes well, and only gets more delicious over time.

As I usually do when cooking something for the first time, I did some internet research and found a few recipes from which to build my own hybrid recipe. All Ethiopian wats start with a lot of chopped red onion that is cooked until it caramelizes. The Whole Foods site had an interesting recipe for an Ethiopian-style stew that involved roasting chickpeas to mimic a traditional wat that is made with roasted ground chickpeas. I'm a big fan of roasted chickpeas as a snack, so I decided to incorporate that into my recipe, but that is an optional step that could easily be skipped to save time.* Unlike the Whole Foods recipe, I blended half of my soup to thicken it and make it more like a wat made out of ground chickpeas. Ethiopian food is normally served with injera, a spongy, crepe-like bread made out of teff flour. Since it's difficult to find teff in the US, I just substituted store-bought naan and called it a day. I think pita, lavash, or even flour tortillas would also work. It would also be delicious served over rice.

Chickpea Wat
3 15 oz cans chickpeas or 1 lb dried chickpeas (soaked overnight)
1 T butter
1 large red onion, diced
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger

Spice mix (berbere):
1 T paprika
1 t cayenne (I like really spicy things. A normal person would probably want 1/4 t cayenne)
3/4 t cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves

salt to taste
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
10 oz frozen chopped spinach (optional)
2-3 cups veggie or chicken broth, until consistency is to your liking

To roast chickpeas (optional):*
If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight. Drain, rinse, and towel dry chickpeas. Preheat oven to 450. Toss with olive oil, and spread out on a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Roast approximately 30 minutes, until they are browned, stirring occasionally.

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté butter and onions on medium heat until they are soft and caramelized. Add garlic, ginger, and spice mix, and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes. Add chickpeas and remaining ingredients, and simmer together for 30 minutes, if using roasted or canned chickpeas. If using dried, soaked chickpeas, add enough liquid (water or more broth) to cover, and cook approximately 1.5 hours, until they are tender.

After cooking, I blended half the wat to thicken it. This is optional. You could leave it as is, blend part, or blend all of it. Experiment with it to see what you like--pull out a bowl's worth and start blending and tasting! Makes approximately 5 servings.

*After making this recipe a couple of times, I've decided that it is just as good without roasting the chickpeas, so I skip that step.

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