This time last year I was preparing to travel to Ethiopia, a long-held goal of mine. As it was also my birthday I gifted myself with a trip to Ethiopia. So on the anniversary of my trip to Abysinnia a.k.a Ethiopia this week’s Meatless Monday is all about this vegetarian/vegan-friendly east African country.
Ethiopia is one of only 2 countries in Africa never to have been colonized. There were 2 brief periods when the Italians occupied and tried to take Ethiopia (unsuccessfully) which may explain why I find tiramisu on the menu of many Ethiopian restaurants. Naturally vegetarian/vegan food highlights include:
injera bread; coffee; fasting food
Honey and porridge/oatmeal are also available and supermarkets do sell peanut butter. Lent is a good time to visit as fasting food which is mostly vegetarian/vegan is widely available. See our original post on Ethiopian food on our sister site Weal World Travel. Scroll until you see the column entitled Veg Abroad.
Injera bread is sour spongy flat bread made with teff flour. It has the added bonus of being gluten-free. Here are some photos of injera making in action. These were taken in a local outdoor market en route to the Simien mountains.
All photos taken by Kimberley, the Itinerant Introvert (c) 2012.
Spice up your life!
And spice up your lentils with berbere, a chili pepper based spice mixture. Watch Ethiopian chef Marcus Samuelson make a berbere blend (just ignore the references to meat.)
Use this spice to make your own version of wot i.e. stew. The main ingredients include onion, garlic, carrot, cabbage and lentils. Get creative and throw in any vegetable that plays nicely with the other components. Perhaps a little green e.g. kale, callaloo…?
During Lent it is easy to eat vegetarian/vegan in Ethiopia. Most restaurants serve fasting food as pictured below. Lentils, carrots, potato, onion and tomato are typical ingredients.
Did you know that Orthodox Christian Ethiopians eat a mainly vegetarian diet for the majority of a calendar year?
And to complete the meal, coffee. Ethiopia is considered the ‘birthplace’ of coffee as a drink. It all started when a goat herder noticed his goats getting giddy after nibbling from a shrub. Upon closer inspection he realized they were eating the red berries from the coffee plant and most likely were showing the signs of caffeine consumption. Somehow it was determined that these berries would be roasted, ground and mixed with hot water to make a drink. Nowadays the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is a must-do for visitors to this country. Your local Ethiopian restaurant will likely offer a version of this too.
The coffee ceremony entails frankincense, popcorn, coffee and a whole lot of burning.
The beans are roasted and then ground in special equipment in front of the guests. To make use of the fire, popcorn (and sometimes barley) is roasted and served at the ceremony. Throughout, the amber beads of frankincense sap are burned adding an ambiance of occasion. Frankincense is one of the holy oils, often finding its way into religious and spiritual rituals. Behold the coffee ceremony I attended in Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia.