Perhaps it’s just been too long since I was last in Africa, but I’ve been rather homesick lately. Yes, Australia is my home. I meant my other home. Lucky girl, I have two.
Anyway, I’ve been doing what I usually do to feel a little more like I’m at home – listening to 90s Afro-pop and making my favourite childhood dishes. Perennial diva, Angelique Kidjo, was on heavy rotation until I felt like I would become physically sick if I listened to any more Wombo Lombo. Time for a change of rhythm. I rediscovered a more recent Ethio-jazz album I hadn’t listened to since dubstep became a thing (guilty pleasure).
Out came the Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics album, Inspiration Information. Mulatu (ሙላቱ አስታጥቄ) is legendary as the father of ethio-jazz and this album is pure magic. Listening to the album one night, one thing led to another and I found myself making a version of doro wat, probably the most famous of all Ethiopian dishes.
Doro what? you say. Wat, wot or wet is Amharic for stew or curry and doro wat is a chicken and egg curry that, like most Ethiopian food, is shared and eaten in a group, usually scooped up with a bit of injera, a fermented flat bread that is fluffy, tangy and wholesome.
Doro wat is undeniably a favourite in our house. Spicy, smoky, zesty, nourishing, moreish, and filling – that’s a combination that’s hard to walk away from. Berbere is the key ingredient in this recipe but don’t be put off if you can’t find it. It won’t taste the same but it is still a tasty dish. Purists will throw stones at me for tainting the traditional recipe with the addition of coconut milk. To this I say I am sorry for the blasphemy, and that you should try this version too. It’s same same but different 🙂
Doro Wat (with a twist) – serves 4 as a main with rice/injera
You will need
- 1 large lemon, juiced
- 2 large skinless chicken breast fillets, diced (use jointed chicken if you prefer)
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 1 capsicum (red is best), diced
- 2 tablespoons ghee (or nit’r qibe if you can find it)
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 x 2″ piece of root ginger, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons berbere spice mix (I make mine with berbere)
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 4 medium potatoes, parboiled and cut into quarters
- 1 stock pot + 1 cup water or 250ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 eggs, boiled (I prefer 2 hardboiled and 2 softboiled)
- 165ml tin coconut milk
- half a small bunch of coriander, chopped
It is advisable that you listen to some Mulatu while you are making this dish. Here is one of my favourite tracks from the album: An Epic Story. Have a listen to Bahta Gèbrè-Heywèt too if you’re after something a little left of the middle.
- In a glass or plastic bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the lemon juice and stir well. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. This tenderises the chicken and introduces a little tang to the dish.
- Heat a large saucepan and add the onion. It is important that you do not add any oil or fat at this stage. This is how the smoky taste is imparted to the dish. It is traditional to sweat the onions for up to an hour. We will take 5 minutes, stirring to keep the onion from catching.
- Add the capsicum to the saucepan and stir well until the ingredients soften (they may blister a little before this happens, that’s ok) ~ 7 minutes.
- Carefully add the ghee or nit’r qibe to the saucepan. As it will be very hot, it will sizzle a bit.
- Once the onions and capsicum have begun to turn golden, stir in the garlic and ginger. Sauté the mixture for about 5 minutes – it will turn fragrant and deep golden.
- Meanwhile, drain the chicken in a colander and set aside.
- Now for my favourite part of cooking doro wat (other than eating it, of course) – sprinkle the spice mix over the mixture in the pan and stir well for a minute. The aroma of the spices is just magnificent!
- Add the drained chicken pieces to the sautéed mixture and allow to seal, ensuring it is coated with the spices.
- Once the chicken is sealed (3-5 minutes), add the tomato to the saucepan. Let the tomato cook until it breaks down – be patient.
- Next up are the potatoes and stock. If you are using a stock pot, add a cup of water.
- Stir and allow to come to a boil, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes to let the flavours meld.
- Shell and quarter the hardboiled eggs. If using softboiled eggs, leave them whole.
Tip the eggs into the saucepan. If using softboiled eggs, use a wooden spoon to break the eggs. This way, the gooey yolks ooze into the sauce and make it richer.
- Purists, look away now – you, add the coconut milk and stir through taking care not to disturb the eggs too much.
- Once heated through, take off the heat and top with coriander.
- Serve piping hot with rolls of injera or rice.
Doro wat tastes better if you eat it with your hands. Licking fingers is optional but probably inevitable.
There you have it. A most sumptuous African curry fix. Give it a go and let me know what you think.
What do you crave when you’re feeling homesick or in need of some comfort food?