Ethiopia - Cooking Around the World - Kid Style

It is highly unlikely that we will travel to Africa any time soon, but we did bring Ethiopia to us by way of our kitchen! I am always thinking of new ways to get kids to love flavorful food. This time the idea came from my daughter who loves to eat with her hands. My husband suggested we make Ethiopian food because it is traditionally eaten with your hands and it may be fun to eat. We all decided to start our trip around the world from home, a kind of staycation. We explained to our daughter that in Ethiopia people use their bread to scoop up the food instead of forks. She was really excited about that, because she loves to eat with her hands. (you know that now!)

We decided on a vegetarian stew, a crispy crunchy buckwheat fritter and injera a spongy flat bread.
We printed the recipes and I shopped during the week and we planned to cook on Sunday. We all got into the kitchen and in a fury or bubbling pots, sticky dough, and a fine dusting of flour, and created a great feast. Claire measured flour, Matt peeled and I orchestrated it all, tossing sweet potatoes in here, chickpeas in there. During the fury Matthew found some great Ethiopian music and started tossing out facts about the people, food and culture, it was controlled chaos but somehow it all turned out great. It was fun, it was one of the first times all three of us worked in the kitchen together, and we will do it again! We chose recipes that we could tailor to our spice level and create the recipes just how we want them.
The final judgment was a thumbs up from the whole family.

The recipes below have been adjusted to be very kid friendly, I cut the spices way down and simplified the veggies for speed! If you can't find Berbere spice you can fudge it by mixing your own and omitting the chilies. An online search will give you a bunch of recipes to play with. Claire ended up liking Turmeric so much she
named her new sock cat we made that day, Turmeric! I just love introducing new spices and flavors!
Get creative and chose a destination for your family, who says you can only do Geography in school?
Next stop Hawaii!

Injera (Ethiopian Flat bread)

Our bread was far from sourdough, but I think for kids it is perfect.

Injera can be tricky, but once you get it down you will love making it.

The temperature of the grill, the type of grill (mitad), the temperature of the dough during fermentation, quality of the flour and how you mix the dough, can all affect the flavor and texture.

We made batter with very low fermentation to get the kids used to the texture; next time I will up the sourdough flavor.


4 cups flour, self-rising

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups club soda

Whisk flours and baking powder together in a bowl. Add club soda plus about 4 cups water. Whisk into a smooth thin batter, a few lumps are OK. Heat a large, non-stick skillet.

When a drop of water bounces on the pan's surface, quickly pour enough batter from the bowl to cover the bottom of the skillet.

Swirl the pan so that the entire bottom is evenly coated, then set it back on the heat. You may need to use a spatula to quickly smooth the batter.

When the moisture has evaporated and small holes appear on the surface, remove the injera. It should be cooked only on one side, and not too browned.

If your first one is a little pasty and undercooked, you may need to cook a little longer or to make the next one thinner.

Like a French crepe, be careful not to cook them too long, or you'll have a crispy bread that may be tasty but won't fold around bits of stew.

Stack the injera one on top of the other as you cook, covering with a clean cloth or keep in foil to prevent drying out.

Vegetable Mafe

The kids won’t even know there is cabbage in here, just chop it small!

1 large onion, diced

2 sweet potatoes

4 carrots

½ head of cabbage, chopped, very small

2 teaspoons Berbere spice mix

3 cups tomato sauce

¾ cup peanut butter

Cut all vegetables into bite sized pieces 
In a saute pan add 1 tablespoon of ghee or olive oil, cook the onions until wilted, add the root vegetables. Sauté veggies for a few minutes more, then add the spices, cabbage, and tomato sauce. 

Simmer for approx 45 minutes until veggies are soft. 
Remove ½ cup hot tomato sauce and stir in the peanut butter until incorporated.

Return to pot and simmer for a few minutes more. Adjust thickness by adding more tomato sauce or a little water, if necessary.

Ethiopian Spiced Ghee (Spicy Niter Kibbeh)

Don't be intimidated this is easy if you keep the flame low. Use ghee in place of butter or oil in any recipes. I always have a jar of unflavored ghee in my kitchen. Once you remove the milk solids the ghee won’t burn like butter, it is perfect to cook pancakes in.

Ghee can be stored at room temperature without going rancid but I keep mine in fridge. Keep it clean and well sealed and it will last months.

We ate this on the Kibbeh on the bread and on the stew!

If you have a small mortar and pestle, let your kids grind up all the spices, ginger and garlic in it first. It is fun and lets them smell the ingredients before they taste the butter.

1/2 lb butter

1/4 chopped onion

1 clove of garlic, smashed

1 tbs chopped ginger (skin on is OK)

1 tsp of turmeric,

1/4 tsp cumin,

8 cardamom seeds pods, smashed

1 tsp fennel seed

Pinch nutmeg

To make the spiced butter, melt butter in a pot. Skim the foam as it forms with a spoon and discard. Keep the butter on low it may bubble up if there is any water in it. When the butter is clear, mix in all the remaining ingredients. Stir and simmer on very low for about 15 minutes Let the spices settle, and then drain through a cheesecloth or fine strainer in to a clean jar.

Pumpkin Kibbeh Stuffed with Spinach, Chick Peas, and Walnuts

This has a similar look to falafel, but tastes very different. It is mild in flavor and kids will like the crunch, plus it packs a ton of fiber. You adjust the spice level for your kids; we used regular paprika for a more mild taste.

Note on Bulgur- it is best if the bulgur is fine, like coarse polenta. You should look for “Fine Bulgur”. If you can’t just use a food processor or blender and mix it until it is like coarse sand.

Have the filling prepared and all the ingredients ready to go for your kids to help put these together.

For the Filling:

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup cooked chick peas, peeled and slightly mashed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup cooked and chopped spinach (frozen is fine)

Salt and pepper

Pinch of Hungarian paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the Pumpkin Shell:

1 cup cooked pureed pumpkin

2 cups fine grain bulgur, unwashed dry

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons grated onion

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch of hot Hungarian paprika (or regular)

Vegetable oil for frying

Chopped parsley and quartered lemons


In a deep saute pan add enough vegetable oil to come no more than 1/3 up the sides of the pan. Heat until a deep fat fry thermometer registers 375 ˚F. If you don’t have a thermometer use medium high heat. Meanwhile, make the filling.

In a small sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, when hot add onions, cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the chickpeas, walnuts, spinach, seasonings, and lemon juice, stir to incorporate, remove from heat.

Now make the pumpkin shell. In a mixing bowl, place the pumpkin, dry bulgur, flour, onion, and seasonings. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. If the dough becomes dry, add a few drops of water and then knead well.

(Get your kids with clean hands to knead the dough in the bowl.)

This is a perfect place to get the kids to help. It really doesn’t matter what they end up looking look like. I’d go smaller rather than large to shorten cooking time.

Now shape the kibbeh.

Knead about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture until it holds together. Keeping your hands moist, form a smooth football shaped oval. Poke your index finger through the end and fill with 1 teaspoon of filling. Close the end and reshape, if necessary. Carefully place in the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until they turn dark brown. You will have to fry them in batches. Drain on paper towels and and sprinkle with some chopped parsley, serve immediately with lemon slices.

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Michelle (What's Cooking) said...

What fun! Our after school cooking classes also have an around the world theme right now! The kids love it and can't wait to see what country they will be "visiting" next :)

Alex Evelyn said...

Hi Jennifer, this would make a great new book for you - children cooking food from around the world. I love the idea of having a 'staycation' and experiencing the world from your own room (especially as we have no money for travel at the moment!) I'd love you to visit my blog when you have a minute - http://mixmashandmunch.blogspot.com, I'm asking for people to talk about where they shop for their family food, it would be great to have an American example on there. Did you find most of the food for your Ethiopian adventure at your local shop or did you have to look further afield?
Alex x

Alex Evelyn said...

Hi Jennifer
Thanks for the comment on my blog, so glad you like it, I am having fun doing it.
I'll be looking out for your next book!