Traditionally, this perfectly seasoned luscious garbanzo (chickpea) dumplings stew - ሺምብራ አሳ ወጥ shown on display above is served during those long days of lent - የዓብይ ጾም.
If memory serves … Ethiopian Orthodox families observed Lents (ጾም) throughout the course of the year. The 60 days lent (የዓብይ ጾም) before Easter, 16 days during the rainy season spell right before the Ethiopian New Year (around September 11), 45 days before Christmas and more. So, actually different kind of vegetarian dish was served during these designated vegetarian days - lent (ጾም) and everyone maintained a strictly vegan diet with the tradition continuing for followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox.
In order to relieve the monotony of the vegan diet, many exotic traditional vegetarian dishes were served. Each matron would try and outdo the other with the diversity of her spread. Though, time consuming and detail oriented, I suspect that shimbra asa - ሽምብራ ዓሳ ወጥ (chickpeas dumplings marinate in exotic spicy berbere sauce) might be created by a desperate matron to that end, which the name even implies - chickpea fish. This dish is considered as delicacy and secured the front seat.
The traditional way of doing the shimbra asa (chickpeas dumplings) is make a chickpeas flour paste and fry it, which is divine on the palate, but not good for the body.
Scientists have discovered that heating up vegetable oils, because of the low smoking point leads to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia.
I baked my chickpeas paste and poured olive oil to coat the dumplings. I like it even better than the fried dumplings and even tasted fresh. Frying in purified butter (ghee) ንጥር ቅቤ is not as bad as it possesses a high smoke point, but using butter might not do justice to the authentic nuance of this traditional dish.
The perfectly balanced chickpea dumplings (shimbra asa) ሺምብራ አሳ shown on display are scrumptious and fluffy and not heavy owing to their potato fillings. The mashed boiled chickpeas fillings lends the dumplings a fresh nuance.
I socked dried chickpeas overnight, boiled and puréed it in food processor. You wouldn’t be caught dead with a store bought jar of chickpeas, if you come this far to do these dumplings. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, if you don’t mind sacrificing flavor for convenience. Just by adding this freshly made chickpeas puree to the paste, you add complex and nuance to the dumplings.
As shown below in the display, I also arranged some boiled chickpeas alongside the dumplings on the pastry, which also add more fresh chickpea nuance.
Preparing the stew
I made exotic spicy berbere sauce and marinated the dumplings overnight.
I say you need to take a little more time to prepare the sauce. Sauté lots of onion in water and then add berbere and caramelize it on high heat for a while and add garlic and ginger and continue on. Do not think about multitasking and step away from the stove, it only takes minutes to burn it.
Deglaze it with tej (ጠጅ) - Ethiopian honey mead and simmer it to perfection over very low heat with just a touch of seasonings like korerima ኮረሬማ [a unique spice indigenous to Ethiopia, closely related to coriander], cumin ከሙን, and cloves - ቅርንፉድ. I added the olive oil after I removed the sauce from heat, because olive oil has a low smoke point and not good to your heath to cook with it. The sweetness of the tej - Ethiopian honey mead perfectly balanced out the spicy sauce and rendered complex sweet and spicy nuance .