Joe and Sophie’s flat, Deptford
19 October 2016
Little Djibouti, a population of 900K tucked into a corner between Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, is a former French colony which derives its cuisine from the main Afar and Issa ethnic groups (from Ethiopia and Somalia respectively). This means some very interesting flavours come together, making for a promising menu.
Most of the evening was set to the sound of Afar music, traditional and pop, plus the Djibouti national anthem which proved to be a very versatile piece: in one full-on version it sounded like “the sound of an evil nation crushing the world”, but in another it was “really nice, like something from a Wild West movie.”
Steve’s starter was a small yetakelt w’et, a vegetable stew made from beans and root veg cooked in tomatoes and flavoured with berbere. This was really good: strong, hot flavours from the berbere, perfectly cooked vegetables.
Sophie’s main of Skoudehkaris was then also great, but in a different way: subtler flavours from the cardamom and cloves, and a delicious contrast of texture and taste between the dry, baked aubergine and the rice cooked into the stew.
Finally, Joe’s dessert was canjeero – essentially pancakes, but perfect pancakes, thick and spongy, forming a perfect base for the bananas and honey we shovelled on top of them.
Djibouti delivered three superb courses that were straightforward to make, interestingly different and thoroughly delicious. And they have a good flag too.
100g Niter Kebbeh (or ghee or just butter)
100g Green beans, cut in thirds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tb Berbere (see below)
250ml Marigold bouillon
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
8 small tomatoes, chopped
2 new potatoes, cubed
long squeeze tomato paste
handful chopped fresh parsley
Based on the BigOven recipe: Saute the onions, garlic, berbere, and paprika in the niter kebbeh for 2 minutes. Add the beans, carrots, and potatoes and continue to saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender. Mix in the parsley (optional).
Serve with injera and yogurt or cottage cheese. (We didn’t.)
You can get this in Waitrose, apparently, but I made my own, following Helen Graves’ recipe as far as possible. (I didn’t have any fenugreek, cinammon or the crunchy dried onions, but I did put in some nigella seeds.) Toast the whole seeds below, then put them along with everything else into a spice grinder.
2 tsp chili flakes
2 tablespoons paprika
6 black peppercorns
3 allspice berries
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Djibouti Rice (Skoudehkaris)
|250 g lamb shoulder, diced
250 g rice
1 tbsp oil
250 g fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
1 large onion chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp chopped red chilliFry the chopped onions in the oil until softened. Add the meat and cook until browned then add the tomatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices, cover with water and allow to simmer gently for 45 minutes. When the meat is tender add the rice and 500 ml water, bring to the boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Cook for a few more minutes to dry the mixture immediately and serve immediately.
Djibouti Canjeero or Lahooh (Flat bread)
½ cup sorghum, millet or teff flour (or, in our case, just flour)
1 cup white corn meal
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 cup water (lukewarm)
Add the starter to the following:
4 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup sugar
4¼ cups water (lukewarm)
Step 1: Prepare the starter mixture
Combine the sorghum, millet or teff flour, white corn meal, yeast, and lukewarm water. Mix well then let the yeast activate and the mixture soak for one hour.
Step 2: Prepare the canjeero batter
Combine the starter mixture with the self-rising flour, sugar and water. If you mix by hand, add the water in stages to avoid lumps. You can also use a blender, food processor, or handheld electric mixer. After mixing the batter very well, let it ferment for at least two hours overnight is best. Fermentation is essential for an authentic canjeero taste.
Cooking the canjeero
You don’t need a special pan to cook canjeero. Any non-stick pan would do. In between batches wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in a little oil.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Using a ladle, scoop the canjeero batter into the pan. The quantity scooped will depend on the size of the pan and the size of the canjeero you want to make. Using a swirling motion, spread the batter over the pan, as if drawing a spiral with the ladle.
Cook the canjeero until brown on the bottom and the spongy top side is cooked through. You do not flip it, it is only cooked on one side. Enjoy!