Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa, written by Yohanis Gebreyesus, features an incredible variety of traditional and modern dishes from throughout Ethiopia. A few highlights include Traditional Injera, Chechebsa (Butter-Soaked Flatbread), Senig (Stuffed Hot Green Peppers), Teff Tagliatelle with Sprouted Fenugreek and Carrots, Siga Tibs (Fried Beef with Onions), Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Smoked Milk, Kategna, and Spris (Layered Fruit Juice). I will also be sharing his recipe for Ayib (Homemade Fresh Cheese) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Interlink Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Yohanis Gebreyesus was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He “trained at the Paul Bocuse Institute in Lyon and worked as a chef in California, before returning to Addis Ababa to found his Chef Yohanis brand, which promotes a healthy lifestyle using Ethiopian produce.”
Chapters are divided according to the following: Injera & Flatbreads; Seasonings; Breakfast; Vegetables & Fresh Cheese; Legumes & Grains; Beef, Lamb & Goat; Poultry, Eggs & Fish; and Snacks & Drinks.
Yohanis begins by introducing the vast history of Ethiopia with notes on local traditions, religion, and a map of the country and surrounding area. You will even find a guide for the foundation of Ethiopian cuisine with descriptions of notable spices and key ingredients along with a closer look at important items such as Niter Kebbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Clarified Butter), Berbere Spice Blend, Tej, and Buna (coffee).
Before getting into the rest of the recipes, an entire chapter is devoted to Injera and other popular flatbreads. I loved learning all about Teff (Ethiopia’s most widely farmed crop and the grain behind Injera- a spongy flatbread with plenty of little holes for absorbing the sauce in stews) and especially appreciated the level of detail and step-by-step illustrations on how to make a traditional week-long Injera or a quicker one-day version.
The gorgeous photography is provided by Peter Cassidy with food styling by Linda Tubby and prop styling by Wei Tang. Along with plenty of full-page photos of the recipes, there are even more of the people and landscape of Ethiopia scattered among the pages. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, tips, serving size, and menu ideas. Titles are written in English and Amharic.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to learn more about Ethiopian cuisine and traditions. Recipes range from quick and easy salads to more intricate breads and stews. Many of the ingredients are readily available in larger supermarkets, especially with the increasing popularity of teff and different spices. Some items may require finding a market with East African/Middle Eastern ingredients such as dried split red lentils, nigella seeds, fenugreek, merguez sausages, green coffee beans, pearl millet flour, ground ajowan, bulgur, banana leaves, and more.
Ayib (አይብ, Homemade Fresh Cheese)
Ayib (አይብ) is a fresh Ethiopian cheese perfect for contrasting the heat of a variety of dishes. It is also a great start for those new to cheesemaking. Simply heat milk until steaming and frothy (don’t let it boil!), then slowly mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice to separate the curds from the whey. Drain over a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow to rest until most of the moisture has been removed, 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Yohanis has also given the option to moisten the prepared Ayib with a bit of strained onion juice. This is to give the cheese a similar taste to the way it is made in an ensera- “by shaking then cooking the remaining yogurt left from making butter.”
Fresh whole milk is best for making the Ayib. Avoid using UHT- milk that has been heated above 275˚F (135˚C). The ultra heated milk will not create curds that stick together as well.
Don’t have a cheesecloth? You can also use a couple layers of plain paper towels in the large colander set over a bowl. After draining, the Ayib can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
The fresh Ayib is delicious paired with many of the spicy stews in the book along with the Whole Grain Teff Salad, Kitfo (Steak Tartar with Spiced Clarified Butter), and Gomen (Collard Greens with Onions and Fresh Ginger).
I also made the Mekelesha Spice Blend, Fetira (Layered Flatbread Pastries with Honey), Timatim Kurt (Tomato Salad), and Ethiopian Gnocchi.
I absolutely love the collection of homemade spices, seasonings, and sauces. The Mekelesha Spice Blend is an aromatic mixture of cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and cardamom used as a finishing touch to help dilute the heat from a dish. In the book, it can be paired with Misr Wat (Spicy Red Lentils), Minchet Abish (Ground Prime Beef in Spicy Fenugreek Sauce), Abish Wat (Spicy Beef and Fenugreek Stew with Potatoes), Beg Siga Wat (Spicy Lamb Stew), and Doro Wat (Slow-Cooked Spicy Chicken with Hard-Boiled Eggs).
Fetira is a layered flatbread often served for breakfast in Harar and Dire Dawa. After forming the dough and allowing it to rest briefly, each piece is rolled into a square, folded into thirds with plenty of oil, and flattened again into a thin square. It was delicious served warm with a drizzle of honey.
The Timatim Kurt (Tomato Salad) comes together very easily in less than 10 minutes. Bite-size pieces of tomatoes, onion, and green pepper (I actually used a sprinkling of Berbere) are tossed together with a light vinaigrette. Traditionally white vinegar and sunflower oil are used. Yohanis went with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a more pronounced flavor.
The Ethiopian Gnocchi is a delicious modern take on using pan-roasted flour. After toasting the flour to create a wonderfully nutty flavor, it is combined with simmering milk and butter to create a pastry dough. Eggs are beaten into the mixture, then transferred to a pastry bag to be squeezed into 1 inch pieces over a pot of boiling water to make a gnocchi-like appearance. The cooked dumplings are tossed with a creamy béchamel sauce and baked until bubbly before topping with a layer of grated cheese. The result was such a unique and comforting dish.
Ayib (Homemade Fresh Cheese) Recipe
Excerpt from Ethiopia
Ayib (Ethiopian Homemade Fresh Cheese)
- 8 1/2 cups (2 Liters) fresh whole milk
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 medium red onion optional
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk to a slow simmer. It should be foamy and steamy and read 185˚F (85˚C) on a candy thermometer. Do not let it boil. Slowly pour in the lemon juice and stir for a few seconds, then remove from the heat. Allow to stand undisturbed for about 15 minutes until curds form.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, purée the onion, if using. Place the onion purée in a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain, reserving the liquid. Discard the solids.
- Moisten a cheesecloth with water, wring it out, and use it to line a large colander. Gently ladle or pour the curds and liquid through the colander, then set aside to drain for 20-60 minutes until the curds have reached their desired level of dryness. Transfer to a bowl. If using, spoon the onion liquid over it.
- Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.