Sparkle Kitchen
Sparkle Kitchen: A Trip to the City (Ethiopian Food!)

Sparkle Kitchen: A Trip to the City (Ethiopian Food!)
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This week, Martin and Sylvia take “A Trip to the City”. And the most exciting part of all: they get to go to a “surprise” restaurant.

“Is it Alabama food?” asked Sylvia.

“No,” giggled Momma, “It's not Alabama – it's Ethiopian food.”

“Ethiopian?” asked Martin.

“I don’t like Ethiopian food,” said Sylvia with a frown.

“You have never had Ethiopian food, Sylvia – and I think you will like it, because we all sit down on the floor…”

On the floor?” gasped both children.

“On the floor. And you each take a piece of special soft bread, and you dip it into your favorite dips. And the best part is the dips are all on a table that spins.”

Martin and Sylvia looked at each other with mouths wide open...

- from Martin & Sylvia's story, “[A Trip to the City]("

In anticipation of Martin and Sylvia’s big adventure to their first Ethiopian restaurant, we created an adventure of our own: an Ethiopian meal prepared in our own kitchen! And a good adventure it was — an adventure in new tastes and techniques. We made traditional Doro Wat and Gomen Wat and Missir Wat and even Injera, all of which were as new to us as Ethiopian cuisine is to Martin and Sylvia.

And what are all of these lovely sounding dishes? Read on! It’s all below.

First, we have to start with berbere!

Berbere (Ethiopian spice mix)

The Ethiopian spice mix called “berbere” is a central ingredient to many traditional dishes, and was used in two of the dishes that we prepared. It has thirteen different ingredients!

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You simply combine the following ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek powder
  • ½ cup ground dried “New Mexico” chiles
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice

We left out the dried chiles, as I couldn’t find a reasonable substitute (and I was hesitant to use normal chili powder), and I wanted the dish to be completely mild. Even with the missing dried chiles — which is a large part of the mix above — it was delicious.

The full recipe can be found on Epicurious.

Doro Wat

Doro Wat is one of Ethiopia’s national dishes, and is the first you’ll find if you google “Ethiopian recipes” online (which is how we picked all of our dishes. You’ll find the recipe I adapted here.). It requires berbere, as mentioned above, and is richly spiced and delicious.

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  • 2 lbs chicken legs and thighs
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 onions, chipped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbl ginger, chopped
  • ⅓ cup of oil (or butter)
  • 2 tbl paprika
  • ¼ cup berbere spice mix
  • ¾ cup water (or stock)
  • ¼ cup red wine

In a large bowl, marinate chicken in lemon juice and salt for 30 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 375°. Meanwhile, place the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor, and puree. Add a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over a medium flame. Add the paprika to the oil and cook for 1 minute, stirring. (Being careful that the spice doesn’t burn.) Add the berbere spice mix, and cook for another 3 minutes, while stirring.

Add the onion-garlic-ginger puree to the pot, and sauté until most of the moisture evaporates: 7-10 minutes or so. The onion mixture should no longer smell raw. (Again, be careful that the sauce doesn’t burn.)

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Add the water (or stock) and wine, and stir to combine. Add the chicken, bring to a simmer, and cover.

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Place the pot into the 375° oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is tender. (Or longer if you want the chicken to be really tender.)

Serve hot with injera bread or rice. So satisfyingly good! (It was the boys’ favorite dish.)

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Gomen Wat

I love kale. And we have lots in our garden. So when I saw a recipe for Ethiopian greens, I had to try it. (You’ll find the recipe that I adapted here). Cooked for a long time with lovely spices, it becomes soft and savory.

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  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ginger, chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
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Place the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor, and puree. (Add a little water if necessary.) Heat the oil in a large, lidded pan. Add the onion mixture. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the onion no longer smells raw. Add the kale and water, stir to combine, and cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until very tender.

Add salt to taste, and serve with injera. Really delicious. (And relatively simple!)

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Missir Wat

Of course, we had to include a red lentil dish. We wanted lots of options to scoop and eat with our inerja. And I wanted a third dish that was easy to prepare. And so, here it is!

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  • 1 onion, finely diced in food processor
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tbl berbere
  • ½ cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 2+ cups water
  • cup split red lentils, rinsed well
  • 1 tbl ginger, minced
  • 1 tbl garlic, crushed
  • salt to taste

Heat oil in a large pot, and cook onions until they become translucent and no longer smell raw. Add the berbere and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add the lentils. Stir to combine. Simmer over a low heat, covered and stirring occasionally, until the lentils are completely soft. Add water as needed. Toss in the ginger, garlic and salt to taste, and simmer for 2 minutes more.

And, of course, serve with inerja or rice!

You can find the original recipe that I adapted here.


Injera is the spongy, pancake-like bread that is the part of Ethiopian meals that people seem to think of first — as well as a national dish in Ethiopia. It’s torn in small pieces and used to scoop and eat a variety of dishes. It’s traditionally made with teff flower, but as we didn’t have access to teff flower, we did a gluten-free version, using buckwheat baking mix and gluten free baking mix. Our recipe was based closely on the one found here — and it turned out surprisingly well!

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  • 1 cup buckwheat pancake mix
  • 1 cup gluten free baking mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbl oil
  • 1½ to 2 cups of water
  • butter
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Preheat the oven to 325°.

Combine the first five ingredients into a pourable batter. Add enough water to create the desired consistency.

Heat an 10-inch skilled over medium heat. When hot (but not too hot) add ½ tbl butter, and tilt pan to coat base with melting butter.

Pour enough batter to make a thin pancake, tilting pan to spread the batter evenly.

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As soon as the pancake has bubbles throughout, remove it from the hot pan and place it on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven, and allow the pancake to cook gently for several minutes. Remove when the top looks dry (but not brown).

Serve with your favorite Ethiopian dishes.

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And how did it all go? Outside of making for a lovely and enticing presentation, it was a huge hit. (I should have taken a picture of the happy faces afterwards!)

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Feeling adventurous? You might be, after this week’s Martin & Sylvia story. Give these dishes a try — they aren’t as hard as you might imagine, and they are delicious. And tell us how it goes!

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About the Author

Lisabeth Sewell

Doer of Many Wonderful and Odd Things (including CEO)

Lisabeth Sewell has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO.

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