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.