Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

I recently started a new job and my partner in the lab is from Ethiopia. Naturally, I quizzed him about Ethiopian food, but he doesn't cook. He did, however, loan me a cookbook from his wife's library. It is called Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by Danial J. Mesfin. In Ethiopia, I learned, the men do not cook. Women do all the cooking.

Evidently, Ethiopia is very rich in native spices and foods. Coffee originated from Ethiopia, and is frequently served with salt and spices. Each person has their own unique way of flavoring coffee. Some may use cinnamon or other spices to flavor the beverage.

I was surprised to learn that is raw beef is very popular in Ethiopia. Given that Ethiopians also eat a lot of very spicy foods, there may not be much of a problem with intestinal parasites from eating raw beef, however I could be wrong. Of course, the French serve beef tartar which is raw beef also. A person I know once got a very large tapeworm from eating rare cooked beef, so I wouldn't advocate this practice.

Lamb and chicken are also popular foods in Ethiopia, but these are always cooked. Tongue, tripe and organ meats are also popular food items. However, being a country in which most people are Muslims, Ethiopians do not eat pork.

I tend to think that the trend of many cultures not to eat pork was based originally because pork flesh carried trichinosis, a parasite that can affect humans and can be lethal. Many other animals can also carry this parasite including bears, cats, dogs, and others. Adequate cooking will kill the parasite, rendering the meat safe to eat. Pressure cooking is an excellent way to assure that cooked meat is safe to eat, and the meat will be very tender. This is definitely something you should consider when preparing wild game.

The Ethiopians seem to like stew type dishes. This is probably a cultural trend. However, many of the ingredients and methods of cooking are very similar to Mexican cooking. For example, in the U.S., fried chicken is usually something that you can pick up and eat with your hands, usually crunchy. In Ethiopia, the chicken is first boiled and then fried in a skillet with glazed onions, garlic, wine and broth. Chili is often added. This recipe sounded very Mexican to me. Their use of tripe, chili, tongue and other ingredients is also similar to Mexican tradition. The main exception is the use of pork.

As I learn more and more about cooking, I begin to realize that cooking methods, styles, recipes, spices and ingredients have so much in common between countries and nations. I don't think there are any national boundaries when it comes to food, recipes and cooking. Perhaps food is a true international language....

Now, on to the recipe! Be well, and good eating!

Leg of Lamb with Spicy Sauce

While browsing through the above referenced cookbook, I found this recipe, however I tailored it slightly to suit my own tastes. I prefer that food not be so hot as to be discomforting to my palate. However, if you like the heat, feel free to add more chili.
  • 1 leg of lamb
  • 1 cup red onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper paste
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh minced ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 cups water

Slice the leg of lamb in thin cuts leaving the meat attached to the bone. Boil the leg of lamb in a large pot of water until tender, about 1 hour.

In a skillet, sauté the onions over medium heat to caramelize using no grease. Mix the butter and red pepper paste and add to the onions, stirring constantly. Add the 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes to infuse the flavors and thicken the sauce slightly.

Serve the meat with the sauce on the side.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1.5 hours