A few months ago a friend gave me a packet of berbere spice that she had brought back from her trip to Ethiopia. She told me that this potent chili pepper/ginger/garlic spice was used rampantly in Ethiopian food and I could use it with almost anything! I thanked her, took a deep whiff, sneezed, and put it in my spice cabinet… where it has been sitting – untouched and unused – ever since. Until tonight.

What better way (thought I) of kicking off my Creative Cooking Challenge than with an Ethiopian feast?!?! (My energy will surely decline as the month progresses…)

The elusive Ethiopian berbere...

The elusive Ethiopian berbere…

Not in the mood to deal with meat, I decided to make berbere lentils my centerpiece. I found this recipe, which sounded pretty authentic and had gotten good ratings.

I decided to pair the lentils with an Ethiopian cabbage dish (I had a week-old cabbage in the fridge, thought that cabbage could be Ethiopian (?), and luckily, found a recipe) and Ethiopian spinach, because it seemed relatively easy (I also had a bag of spinach sitting in the fridge).

And, because you can’t eat Ethiopian food without the famous pancake-like injera bread. I found a recipe for it, too (Google is really an amazing resource), and decided to pretend that wheat flour was teff flour.

The Verdict: Delicious!

Clockwise from the back, the cabbage/potato dish, injera, spinach, lentils

Clockwise from the back, the cabbage/potato dish, injera, spinach, lentils

Quick Recap:

Lentils: I used real butter instead of spiced buttery oil. It still came out really spicy and flavorful (your eyes will water and you may even say things like, “wow, this smells like an Ethiopian restaurant”).

Cabbage dish: I halved the oil and doubled the spice. Surprisingly sweet and very hearty.

Spinach: I would have never thought of adding ginger and jalapenos to spinach, but it worked!

Injera: It probably would have been more authentic had I let the batter sit overnight for another day (I left it for 36 hours) and had used teff flour, but it did the trick!

Arranged together, it almost looks like it does in restaurants...

Arranged together, it almost looks like it does in restaurants…

Sure, a full Ethiopian meal takes time (it took me 2 hours start to finish), but if you can handle lots of vegetable chopping and can find berbere (I might even share some from my stash), it is a surprisingly doable and fun meal to make. Luckily, it also turned out to be quite tasty — good thing since it looks like I will be eating leftover Ethiopian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner… for the next three days!