One of the precious moments with my first born and her son was cooking for them. Two years ago, I went back home to Ethiopia on a business trip.
Besides going out to eat and be merry, I did manage to curve out some time to cook for them for a couple of dinners.
What a way to bond with my teenage grandson. I even tapped to his social life meaning girls. He told me that he has a crush on some of the girls in his school, but they talk too much. I was thinking, good God ‘the boy already thinks like a man’. I mean what is with men in general about not so much trilled about us women talk. Beats me.
I have also noticed that my grandson appreciated good cooking, because he is use to good cooking and baking, since his mom is a good cook. I think it’s a family thing to cook, because my son is also a very good cook in his own right.
I have also noticed that things are expensive in Addis. The open markets for produce and grocery stores are just a block away from my daughter’s house and packed with everything, which has trilled me, but not sure if my pocket-book has shared my enuthusiasm, obviously. I walked up a few blocks to the stores and bought fresh produce and meat and back and got busy in her kitchen. Some of the grocery stores carried quite a vast collection of wines, which some of them are really good.
Fresh in my mind, the night before departing to Bahar Dar, I baked chicken with all the trimmings (mashed potato, sautéed green, yellow, red pepper and mushrooms) etc. and paired it with a good red wine. Ethiopian chickens are small and good tasting.
Now back to my shimbra asa - ሽምብራ ዓሳ savory danish filled with chickpeas dumplings marinate in exotic spicy berbere sauce.
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 .
Creating flaky danish pastry.
The key to success with danish pastry is not pushing anything too fast. Keeping the butter chilled in between laminating steps or called ‘turns’ is crucial for creating all the lovely, flaky layers of pastry. Laminating is the process of rolling and folding the dough in order to create very thin layers of butter and dough. More turns the merrier, up to 4 turns, each turn - at least 30 minutes down-time in the fridge, you do the math. If you skimp on chilling time the butter will get too warm and start being absorbed by the dough and you’ll not get that flaky confection we're aiming for. (አደባብሰው ቢያርሱ፡ ባረም ይመለሱ) kind of thing. Speaking about butter, using a good butter, sometimes labeled as "European butter" with less water and more fat helps create flakier dansih pastry. But using regular butter is just fine.
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 asked. 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 complimented the dish with more fresh chickpea nuance.