Lemon and cinnamon cakes and really freshly roasted coffee

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The other day I decided to ask my English friend round for breakfast. I wanted to give her the real Ethiopian experience with our beautiful coffee ritual and the dishes we eat to give us a strong feeling of energy in the morning.

The Ethiopian coffee ritual is a an important part of being hospitable in my country. I warned my friend that it can take a few hours and that it is something that you just can’t hurry.

I apologised for not dressing in the traditional Ethiopian costume of white dress with coloured woven borders and she said that I looked very nice anyway  in jeans and a pretty top. I put a round tray on a bed of long scented grasses. The coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over a tiny charcoal stove, the pungent smell mingling with the scent of incense which is always burned during the ceremony.

I washed a handful of coffee beans on  the heated pan then stirred and shook the husks away. When the coffee beans turned black and have been roasted then I wafted the gorgeous aroma under my friend’s nose and asked her to give me her blessing – which she was happy to do, although she didn’t know what to say and we laughed quite a bit. Then I ground them with a pestle and mortar and stirred them into a black clay coffee pot known as a ‘Jebena’ which is round at the bottom with a straw lid. It takes 15-20 mins to boil and then it is strained through a fine sieve several times.  I finally served the coffee in tiny china cups and tried to make my friend drink the required 3 or 4 cups. She stopped at 2 because I think it is quite strong.

I served our traditional breakfast of Bulgar (cracked wheat) mixed with special Ethiopian Butter, also ‘Frefre’ which is dry beef mixed with ‘Berbere’ ( a chilli spice mix) with ‘Injera’ (flat bread)  cut into strips and dipped into the rich sauce. I think my friend really loved a dish called’ Fu’l – which is red kidney beans mashed up with chopped up with red onion, tomatoes and green chilli. This is so delicious.

I am trying to experiment with cakes because I have realised that British people expect something sweet after their meal. It seemed the perfect opportunity to test out my new inventions on my friend. I made lemon and cinnamon cake which was so lovely and an almond and orange cake. They were light and fluffy perfect with the coffee and I decided that I would offer them as puddings on my menu.

Although my friend said it was very different from the tea and toast she usually has and that she might not have time for a coffee ritual everyday she is really glad to experience it. I think I will offer it as part of my catering business.

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I love cooking and seeing people tasting Ethiopian food for the first time

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I have always loved cooking. My mother was one of those people who always made sure that the house was full of fun and laughter and good food. To me cooking is all about pleasure and community and family. I want to try and create that feeling of warmth over here in Britain. That is why I am starting my own catering company called Keeya https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keeya-Catering/603314429708900?fref=ts ,  I am in the very early stages of setting it up – making a website, securing a kitchen where I can cook, gathering together equipment,and working out quantities and pricing.  I have cooked for the women at Women for Refugee Women many times and also cooked for the ‘Speaking Together’ media award judging lunch and despite the large numbers I have had to cater for I have found it very rewarding and never feel stressed when I am cooking. In fact I find it relaxes me.

Ethiopian food is very special. There is nothing like it. I love to see people from the UK eating it for the first time and think that Keeya might be the first Ethiopian catering company over here. Most African countries have quite a similar cuisine or some things in common but I think that Ethiopia is the only country that has ‘Injera’ which our staple bread which is a flat bread made of ‘teff’ a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. Injera is placed with a variety of dishes delicately arranged around it and we then break the bread and use it like an eating utensils. It has such a distinctive taste that I always provide an alternative grain or pasta (Ethiopians love pasta).  I cook many vegetarian dishes as well as meat dishes using pulses. Very important to the taste of Ethiopian food is ‘NitirKibe’ which is a pure clarified butter which has ginger, garlic and several other spices in it. ‘Wot’ is a dipping sauce which is prepared using a variety of meats, fish and vegetables. ‘Wot’ is cooked with ‘Berbere’ which is a spice mixture of chili pepper, garlic, and ginger that you can only get in Ethiopia.It is hard to track down in this country but I have found somewhere. It has to taste just right

I am a refugee woman who had to flee my country because of political reasons. I am so excited to try to start my own business which will hopefully give a lot of pleasure to everyone. I will be posting here regularly to tell you how setting up my business is going…..

Here is a picture of the special Ethiopians pots that I will cook and serve my food in. Look at the beautiful shapes and colours.

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