Ethiopian stew, injera break the fast after Beta Israel holiday

The Beta Israel of Ethiopia celebrate Sigd on the 29th of Cheshvan (Nov. 14) as an acceptance of and recommitment to the Torah. Sigd is a national holiday in Israel, where this communal observance is commemorated with fasting, prayers and Torah readings.

The fast is traditionally broken with a meal including injera (a crepe-like bread) and a wot (stew).

The recipes below were inspired by my friends Welch and Kay Warren’s recent visit to Ethiopia. Kay Warren had been among the first Peace Corps volunteers there in the 1960s. An Ethiopian-American cookbook she brought back from that experience added insight into ingredients and techniques. The traditional spice mixture, berbere, can be hard to find, so below is an alternative based on chili seasoning. Injera is available in some specialty stores, but these dishes taste just as good served with crusty bread or ladled over rice or millet.

Chicken and Egg Stew

Serves 4-6

3 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in

juice of 1 lemon

6 cups chopped red onion

1⁄2 cup water

2-3 Tbs. spice mix (see recipe) or berbere

2 tsp. minced fresh garlic

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger

1⁄4 cup spice oil (see recipe) or canola oil

1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. tomato paste

11⁄2 cups chicken stock

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Place chicken in bowl, add lemon juice and cover with water.  Let sit 1 hour.  Place onion in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until onions are softened and beginning to color. Add 1⁄2 cup water, spice mix, garlic, ginger, spice oil, pepper, salt and 1 Tbs. tomato paste. Mix and add drained chicken (discard lemon water) and stock. Stir. Raise heat to high, bring to a simmer, cover and adjust heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and keep at simmer.  Mix in 1 Tbs. tomato paste.  Prick eggs with fork, add to stew.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done. (If necessary, remove chicken and eggs. Boil down sauce, stirring frequently, until it is thick but still a bit soupy.) Remove chicken skin before serving if desired.

Spice mix: Mix together the following ground spices:  4 Tbs. chili powder, 2 Tbs. paprika, 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 1⁄4 tsp. each cardamom, dried ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, black pepper and allspice.  Store in airtight container.

Spice oil: Heat 1⁄2 cup canola oil until hot. Turn off heat. Add 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. chopped fresh garlic, 2 Tbs. chopped onion and the following ground spices: 1⁄4 tsp. turmeric, 1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon, 1⁄8 tsp. cardamom. Once cool, strain, discarding solids. Store in airtight container.

Kale and Mushroom Sauté

Serves 2-3 as main course, 4-6 as a side dish

2 cups chopped red onion

1⁄2 cup plus 1 cup water

2 Tbs. spice mix (see recipe above) or berbere

1⁄4 cup spice oil (see recipe above) or canola oil

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger

2 tsp. minced fresh garlic

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. small brown or white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1 bunch (1⁄2 lb.) kale, chopped

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

In a large skillet, cook onion until softened and beginning to color, stirring often. Add 1⁄2 cup water, spice mix, spice oil, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add mushrooms and sauté until just softened. Add 1 cup water and tomato paste. Stir. Add kale. Sauté until cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.


Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].