Quick Ethiopian Dinner – gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and really yummy!

Quick Ethiopian Dinner

Quick Ethiopian DinnerI love
Ethiopian food! The salty complex flavors, the variety of different dishes, the unusual way of eating it family-style with flatbread instead of silverware. Fun and yummy!

When my family first went gluten-free, I thought we would still be able to eat at our local Ethiopian restaurants, because all of the Ethiopian stews are gluten-free, and the Ethiopian flatbread, called injera, is made with teff flour — and teff is gluten-free. Alas, when I asked the local Ethiopian restaurants about it, I found out that they all use regular American flour, made from wheat, in their injera. So I could not eat there. How sad!

Cooking Ethiopian

In the front you can see three pans that are cooking injera. In the background is a pot of split pea alecha. To the left you can see the batter for the flatbread. In front of the batter, I keep a saucer with a metal 1/4 cup measuring cup, for scooping batter into the frying pans.

So, of course I had to learn to make my own!

Ethiopian food is usually served family style, with a single platter shared by everybody at the table. You are served a huge metal platter, covered in injera, with about six piles of different types of Ethiopian stew on top of the injera. Sharing food with your tablemates is hygienic because instead of silverware, you use pieces of injera to pick up your food — and then you eat the injera and the food together. I think of it as eating my silverware after every bite, so that there is always brand new, fresh, clean silverware for the next bite.  :)

Injera

A stack of cooked injera.

I wanted to be able to make Ethiopian food as a weeknight dinner, so I have greatly simplified this recipe, in order to be able to make it quickly enough to serve it as a regular dinner for my family. It isn’t nearly as fancy as a real Ethiopian feast at a restaurant. But it has that same yummy Ethiopian flavor. Plus, because it is quicker to cook, I make it a lot more often, so we end up eating it much more often than we would if it was a more elaborate recipe.

Split Pea Alecha

Split Pea Alecha

 

Quick Ethiopian DinnerRelatedly: I recently bought a cookbook called Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, which is an entire cookbook of vegan Ethiopian recipes, made with Americanized ingredients. I haven’t cooked anything from it yet, but I bought a copy and am eagerly looking forward to experimenting with it. I’ve linked its title to the book on Amazon in case you are interested in finding a copy too.

My Ethiopian recipes in this posting are heavily adapted from the wonderful cookbook Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! — another really wonderful cookbook.

There are three parts to this meal: Injera (the flatbread), a split pea stew called Split Pea Alecha, and some broccoli.

I make Injera from my crepe recipe, but replacing most of the gluten-free flour mix with teff flour. Teff is the smallest grain, and the highest in iron. It is from Africa. It gives a “wheaty” taste to gluten-free baked goods.

The timing for this recipe works like this:

  1. Start cooking the Split Pea Alecha.
  2. While it cooks, make the injera. IMPORTANT: Make a triple batch of injera, so that you’ll have enough.
  3. Toward the end of making the injera, cook a pound of frozen broccoli as a side dish. See my quick and easy broccoli recipe here.
  4. To serve, put a piece of injera on each plate. Add a scoop of Split Pea Alecha, a scoop of cooked broccoli, and a folded piece of injera.
  5. Serve!
  6. Eaters tear off a piece of injera and use that to scoop up a bite of stew or broccoli, then eat it. They may need some extra injera to eat their meal. When you finish your folded piece of injera, you can also eat the injera that is under the food on the plate. Yummy!

To make injera, make a triple batch of my crepe recipe. You can optionally replace up to three quarters of the flour mix with teff flour, to make it more Ethiopian.

My broccoli recipe is here. It is quick and yummy.

Split Pea Alecha - gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, Ethiopian food and really yummy!
 
Prep time
Total time
 
This is the main component of a quick weeknight Ethiopian dinner. It has the lovely allure of Ethiopian spices, but it is simple enough to cook for dinner on a weeknight.
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Serves: serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups dried split peas - either green (cooks faster) or yellow (more authentic) is okay
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 slices (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 2 pods, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (or 1 clove, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Put the split peas into a big pot, with water. Sprinkle with the turmeric. Check the package from the split peas for how much water to use, or use 6 cups if you are using green split peas, or 10 cups if you have yellow split peas. (Yellow seems to be more absorbent.)
  2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat.
  3. Simmer until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the stew is starting to look thickened. The amount of time that this takes varies widely depending on the variety of split peas and how long ago they were harvested. In my experience it can take anything from 30 to 90 minutes. Green split peas cook faster; yellow ones take longer.
  4. Stir in all of the other ingredients.
  5. Serve on injera (see recipe notes), with broccoli and more injera for scooping.

 

This recipe has been entered into the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck. Yum!!!

This recipe has been shared on Gluten-Free Fridays.  Yum!!!

Riz Bi Har – an addictive recipe with eggplant, vegan Tzatziki sauce, and rice

Riz Bi Har
cutting eggplant

To cube an eggplant, cut off the stem end, then cut it in half to make a flat surface. Then cut parallel lines the long way, half an inch apart. Turn the cut strips of eggplant on their sides, flat side down, and cut the long way again, so that you have long thin pieces of eggplant. Then cut crosswise to get cubes.

Once upon a time, there was a local Ann Arbor restaurant called Sharayar. Whenever I ate there, I always ordered a dish called Riz Bi Har. They had lots of other good food on the menu too, but I really especially adored the Riz Bi Har, so I started to order it every time I went there.

The restaurant Sharayar was a favorite for many years of happy eating. It was a sad day when they closed.

After years without Riz Bi Har, I decided to undertake making my own.

eggplant ready to cookI started by asking people on the Ann Arbor Parenting e-mail list, Arborparents, if they remembered the Riz Bi Har from Sharayar, and what they thought was in it.

People remembered eggplant, rice, cauliflower, other veggies, vermicelli noodles, and a tantalizing white garlicky sauce, wrapped in a cylinder of flatbread.

cooked eggplant

This is the same tray of eggplant after cooking. The volume decreases a lot as it cooks.

So, I set out to make that.  My experiments led to something really good, even on the first try. But over time this dish has evolved into something less like Sharayar’s version and more truly my own.

The magic in this is the combination of eggplant with a creamy, tangy, garlicky, vegan Tzatziki sauce. All of the other ingredients in this recipe can be swapped around and the results will still taste good. As a variation, you can serve it in a bowl

assembled riz bi har

Here is a filled tortilla, ready for folding or rolling. This one is really full, so I folded it in half rather than trying to roll it up.

instead of wrapped in a tortilla. You can swap around which vegetables you choose. If you are not a fan of eggplant, you can swap it out and replace it with some additional grilled or roasted veggies instead.

I am so glad that I tried making my own Riz Bi Har. If it was gone forever I would have missed it — it is very yummy and one of my favorite recipes.

riz bi har after folding

Folded, the yummy stuff inside gets covered up, which is harder to photograph. But it is still yummy. :)

 

Riz Bi Har - an addictive recipe with eggplant, vegan Tzatziki sauce, and rice
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A mix of rice, grilled veggies, and an addictive, garlicky, vegan tzatziki sauce, rolled up in a tortilla, makes a really delicious meal!
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: Middle Eastern-ish
Serves: serves 5
Ingredients
  • 11 tortillas (or a double batch of my homemade tortilla recipe, made with a little salt added to the batter)
  • tzatziki sauce or creamy white salad dressing (click to see my recipe for it)
  • 1 small to medium sized eggplant
  • 4 cups of assorted veggies (can be red bell peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
  • optional: a 15-ounce can of beans, eg. pinto beans
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • brown rice
Instructions
  1. Start cooking the rice, according to package directions.
  2. Cut the eggplant and other veggies (but not broccoli or cauliflower) into bite-sized pieces or half-inch cubes. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Bake at 400 to 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are getting well-browned and the eggplant looks toasted.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the broccoli and/or cauliflower in the microwave.
To assemble:
  1. If the tortillas are not warm, warm them up.
  2. Inside each tortilla, place a few tablespoons of rice, a few tablespoons of veggies, a few tablespoons of tzatziki sauce, and optionally the beans, if you are including beans.
  3. Roll up the tortilla and serve! Or, if it is too full to roll, then fold it in half -- that works nicely too. Mine are always too full to roll! :)

 

International Enchiladas

International Enchiladas

international_enchiladasThis is a special occasion recipe. It takes time to prepare, but the results are very much worth it – it is a truly wonderful food, quite possibly the yummiest dinner recipe I’ve ever made.

I invented this recipe when I found a yummy-looking recipe for Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas on the Internet, back in the 1980s when nobody had heard of the Internet.  I converted the recipe to be vegetarian by replacing the chicken with an addictively delicious recipe for Fried Spiced Tofu, from the cookbook “Diet for a Small Planet“.  And I replaced the chili powder with curry powder, which blends harmoniously with the creamy white sauce for a fabulous taste combination.  This recipe was originally called Tofuladas.

I’ve been making this recipe for so long that it has a lot of variations included.  I usually make it corn-free, dairy-free, tomato-free, and it can be vegan.  Every one of these variations is delicious!

Serve this with a salad, or cooked broccoli.

Cooking time: 70 minutes + a few minutes of broiling — but worth the time it takes!

International Enchiladas
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
My favorite special-occasion dinner! Salty, curried tofu, rolled up in tortillas, with a cheesey sauce that can be vegan, and a creamy curried white sauce on top. Yum!!!
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: International
Serves: serves 4-6
Ingredients
Tofu:
  • 2 pounds tofu
Red Sauce:
  • 1 can Campbell's tomato soup OR 1/2 of a little box of Imagine Organic Creamy Tomato Soup OR (1-2 tablespoons of pesto + 1 cup baby carrots, rinsed, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water -- blended until smooth)
  • 1-2 tablespoons curry powder
White Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch or flour
  • 1/2 cup nondairy milk, or cow's milk, or homemade cashew milk, or water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened yogurt, or more nondairy milk
  • salt
  • pepper
Cheese:
  • 6 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups), shredded OR 1 cup of "lasagna cheese"
Tortillas:
  • 20 corn tortillas OR two batches of crepes
Instructions
Tortillas:
  1. If you are making tortillas, start on that first.
Tofu:
  1. Cook 1 1/3 blocks of tofu according to the Golden Curried Tofu recipe. Do not wash out the pot; you'll be using it for the white sauce.
Cheese:
  1. While the other parts cook, grate the cheese, if you are using cheese, or use the remaining 2/3 of a pound of tofu in my vegan lasagna cheese recipe.
Red Sauce:
  1. If you are using tomato soup, mix the soup, curry powder, and about 1/4 soup can of water. If you are using the blended mixture with the pesto and carrots, also blend in the curry powder.
White Sauce:
  1. Put the oil in the pot you used for the fried spiced tofu. Add the potato starch or flour and stir to mix thoroughly.
  2. If you are using flour, stir and heat it until it is bubbly. (Potato starch does not need heating.)
  3. Stir in the milk and water.
  4. Simmer slowly until thickened.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Stir in either unsweetened yogurt or more milk.
  7. Simmer until heated through.
  8. Remove from heat.
To assemble:
  1. Set out a 9x13 inch baking pan and an 8x8 inch baking pan. Take a tortilla and spread a dinnertable tablespoon of red sauce on one side. Turn the tortilla over and repeat. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the tofu down the center of the tortilla. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the cheese over the tofu. Roll up the tortilla and place seam side down in the pan. Repeat for each tortilla.
  2. Pour the white sauce over the enchiladas, and sprinkle with any remaining cheese.
  3. Place under the broiler until hot and bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown. Serve immediately. This dish reheats nicely.
  4. Serves 4 to 6.