Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TBIR: Africa and the Middle East

Africa and the Middle East seems like an awfully large chunk of territory to be smashed into one chapter. I'm fairly familiar with Middle Eastern food, but if you asked me to name an African dish, I wouldn't get much farther than "tagine." Because of that, I bypassed familiar standards--hummus, kebab, couscous--in favor of Ethiopian-Style Spicy Chicken Stew. I ate Ethiopian food once when I lived in DC. I remember grabbing handfuls of heavily spiced raw meat with torn-off pieces of a wet pancake-type of bread, and I remember liking it, but I don't remember what it actually tasted like.

I've been known to bypass recipes entirely, just because the first instruction is to brown bone-in, skin-on chicken. I hate doing it. It makes a huge greasy mess, I always burn myself, and it takes forever to finish up the batches. I sucked it up and carried on, bracing myself for vicious little spits of oil. Grrr. The rest of the recipe was simple. Drain most of the chicken grease, and cook an onion in it. Once soft, add a number of spices--tomato paste, garlic, fresh ginger, chili powder, cardamom, nutmeg, and something called fenugreek, which I omitted. I couldn't find it in the store (big surprise), and it was obscenely expensive online. Add some flour to thicken up the broth, then throw in red wine, chicken broth, and water, and let it cook for an hour, with the chicken pieces. After the hour, remove the chicken and allow the liquid to cook down. In the last minute of cooking, throw some already hard-boiled eggs in, just to warm them up and cover them in sauce.

I have to admit, I had my doubts about this dish 3/4 of the way through. I tasted some on a spoon after I removed the chicken, and it was awful. It tasted like watered-down socks. I added some salt and pepper, crossed my fingers, and allowed it to reduce the remainder of the way.
This wins no points for presentation. Trust me, it tasted good, though.
I am pleased to report that once the sauce cooked away and thickened up, this was really rich and delicious! It manages to taste like a beef gravy, which I did not expect. The chicken was tender and tasty, and the texture and flavor of the eggs actually complemented the whole. I served this over brown rice, though the directions say to make a flatbread and serve it with that. I've had enough flatbread baking for a while, after that naan. My pan hasn't fully recovered yet.

Conclusion: I liked this very much. I had no idea what to expect, and was delighted with what I wound up with.


  1. Awesome result! Glad you decided to continue on after the 3/4 taste test fail. It looks fabulous :)

  2. I love that you know what socks taste like! :-)

  3. I've never made Ethiopian food, so this sounds interesting! Great post!