Sik Sik Wat

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In Ethiopia, the word wat is basically the word for stew. But this is no ordinary stew. Ethiopian wats, no matter what meat is used, whether cooked or raw, are spicy, saucy stews of vibrant color and endless flavors.

Two main seasoning ingredients must be prepared first before following through with a wat. One is Berberé, a rich paprika-based mixture, and niter kebbeh, a fragrant infused clarified butter.

This stew is a classic example of a wat. I hope you get a chance to make it! The recipe is from African Cooking, one of many of a Foods of the World series from Time Life.

Sik Sik Wat
Beef Stewed in Red Pepper Sauce
To serve 6 to 8

2 cups finely chopped onions
1/3 cup niter kibbeh
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons berberé
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped and puréed through a food mill (I used a teaspoon of tomato paste)
2 teaspoons salt
3 pounds lean boneless beef, preferably chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy 4- to 5- quart enameled casserole, cook the onions over moderate heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until they are soft and dry. Don’t let them burn. Stir in the niter kebbeh and, when it begins to splutter, add the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, stirring well after each addition.

Add the paprika and berberé, and stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the wine, water, pureed tomato and salt, and bring the liquid to a boil.

Add the beef cubes and turn them about with a spoon until they are evenly coated with the sauce.

Then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan partially and simmer the beef for about 1 1/2 hours. Sprinkle the wat with a few grindings of pepper and taste for seasoning.

Sik sik wat is traditionally accompanied by injera or yewollo ambasha, but may also be eaten with Arab-style flat bread or hot boiled rice. Below left, injera, below right, yewollo ambasha.

Plain yoghurt may be served with the wat from a separate bowl.

Guiso de Carne

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At our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, I typically order one of two favorite items. One is shrimp Saltado, and the other is guiso de carne This is what is looks like at the restaurant.

It’s tender beef in a rich red sauce – not spicy, but very flavorful, served with rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Recently I decided to make guiso de carne at home, and I immediately had challenges. The first was that this didn’t exist in any of my Mexican cookbooks, and then online, the name guiso de carne was most often changed to carne guisado. I tried to figure out the difference, but hit a dead end.

Carne Guisado is beef braised in a seasoned red sauce, and at this point I’m thinking its a Tex-Mex creation.

So I created my own recipe, and is it exactly like what I love at the restaurant? I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test. But it’s really good.

Guiso de Carne

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 guajillo chile peppers, stemmed, seeded
8 ounces hot chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce

Place the cut up beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and toss so that all the beef is seasoned.

Starting with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over high heat, without crowding, then place in another bowl. Continue with remaining beef.

Reduce the heat and add a little more oil if necessary, and sauté the onion; don’t caramelized much.

Meanwhile, place the hot chicken broth in a small blender jar with the guajillo peppers, broken up slightly, the chipotle peppers, the oregano, and ground ancho chile. Let sit for about 5 minutes before blending until smooth.

Add the tomato sauce and blend again; set aside.

Once the onions are sautéed, stir in the minced garlic for barely a minute, then pour in the tomato sauce mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and its juices to the sauce, give everything a stir, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Check halfway through cooking – add some more broth if necessary. Make sure to give the meat a stir to make sure there is no sticking.

Serve the guiso de carne on a plate with your desired side dishes and toppings.

Rice and beans are great accompaniments, as are flour tortillas.

If you prefer eating guiso de carne in tortillas, like tacos, it’s best to make sure the pieces of chuck aren’t bigger than 1/2″.

Doro Wat

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Doro Wat, which translates to chicken stew, is a traditional Ethiopian dish.

It’s very simple to prepare, only require sautéing and poaching. But it must be made with the spice paste and the spice-infused butter to create the really unique flavors of Ethiopian cuisine.

Doro wat, as with other stews are typically eaten with injera – Ethiopian stretchy bread that looks like a large spongy crepe. It’s made with teff flour, and it’s used to pick up the meat and vegetables, and wipe up the juices. No forks!

Please go to an Ethiopian restaurant for the whole dining experience. You won’t regret it! Here is a photo of injera from one we went to in Brooklyn, New York, called Ghenet.

The recipe for Doro Wat comes from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook entitled African Cooking.

When I made this stew, I served it to friends who had never experienced Ethiopian cuisine before, along with yewollo ambasha. They loved it.

Doro Wat

3 pounds boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup niter kebbeh
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 1″ piece fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup berberé
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
6 hard boiled eggs

First, cut up the thighs into about 3 or 4 manageable pieces, and place them in a large bowl. Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl, add the salt, and toss the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the niter kibbeh to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another few minutes.

Add the fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg and berberé to the pot and cook the onion mixture for a few minutes, or until the berberé becomes completely combined with the other ingredients.

Then add the white wine and water and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes over low heat.

Pierce the hard boiled eggs with the tines of a fork, and place them in the pot with the chicken. Cover the pot again and cook for another 15 minutes. Ooops I forgot to do that.

Serve the chicken hot with plenty of sauce, and make sure each serving includes a hard boiled egg. Any kind of bread would be good with doro wat, and comes in handy with the spicy sauce.

After you’re done using the berberé, remember to put more oil over the top!

Boeuf Bourguignon

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Back when I was single, I’d often cook myself beef liver for meals. It was cheap and I loved it, especially with eggs, which were also affordable. I had no other meat experience. Nor with vegetables, other than salad.

So I marry at 25 and know I need to learn how to cook and put daily meals together for my husband and myself. Plus, my husband didn’t eat liver.

Fortunately I was fearless in the kitchen. I jumped into this set of cookbooks from Time-Life – called Foods of the World – that my mother gifted me when we married, and proceeded to cook. My naïveté helped me.

Peking duck? Sure! Tempura? Of course! Rogan Josh? Certainly. Nothing intimidated me, except crazy desserts and pastries, which still do…

When it came to the Provincial French cookbook, I dove in with the same enthusiasm I had for every other cookbook, with glorious results.

Take this boeuf bourguignon. Every aspect of this dish is prepped separately prior to being added together at the end.

I learned how to use salt pork, a new ingredient for me, poaching it first to get rid of all of the salt. I learned how to respect mushrooms, those water-gorged fungi. I peeled pearl onions, not my favorite chore. And I quickly learned how to use good wine in cooking, not one that turns everything purple.

So if you’re willing to spend a little more time to create an outstanding French Burgundian specialty, you will be so happy you did. Nothing is hard, well, except for those darn pearl onions. This recipe just takes a bit of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine
To serve 6 – 8

To ensure that no one element in your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. Although the different steps may be taken simultaneously, it is easier to deal with them one at a time.

The onions
1/2 pound lean salt pork, cut into strips about 1 1/2” long
and 1/4” in diameter
1 quart water
1 tablespoon butter
18 – 24 peeled white onions, about 1” in diameter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To remove excess saltiness, the salt pork should be blanched by simmering it in 1 quart of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry.

In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over moderate heat, and in it brown the pork, stirring the pieces frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the rendered fat left in the skillet, brown the onions lightly over moderately high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to roll them around and color them as evenly as possible.

Transfer the onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons of pork fat. (Set the skillet aside, leaving the rest of the fat in it.) Bake the onions uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until they are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, sliced in large

While the onions are baking or after they are done, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a skillet. When the foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, tossing and turning them frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are slightly soft.

Add the mushrooms to the onions and set aside.

The beef
3 pound lean boneless beef chuck or rump, cut into 2” chunks
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrots
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock
2 cups red Burgundy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350 degrees F. Pour almost all of the rendered pork fat from the skillet in which the onions browned into a small bowl, leaving just enough to make a thin film about 1/16” deep on the bottom of the pan.

Over moderately high heat, bring the fat almost to the smoking point. Dry the beef with paper towels, then brown it in the fat, 4 or 5 chunks at a time to avoid crowding the skillet.

Add more pork fat as needed. When the chunks are brown on all sides, remove them with kitchen tongs to a heavy, flameproof 5-6 quart casserole. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all the beef if browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the pan and cook them over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored. Stir in the flour. (If the mixture looks dry, add a little more pork fat.)

Return the skillet to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, let cool a moment, then pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.

Blend in the wine and the tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens.

Mix in the garlic, thyme, sautéed pork strips, salt and a few grinding of black pepper, and pour the sauce over the beef, stirring gently to moisten it thoroughly. the sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat; add more wine or stock if needed.

Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly, and place the casserole in the lower third of the oven. Let the beef cook, regulating the oven heat so the meat simmers slowly, 2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Then gently stir the browned onions and mushrooms, together with any juices that may have accumulated under them, into the casserole.

With a large spoon, gently mix the beef and vegetables with the sauce in the casserole. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the bouquet garni, and skim off any fat from the surface.

Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the beef with parsley and serve it directly from the casserole.

In the past I’ve served this luscious stew over fresh pasta, but this time I was lazy and cooked some fettuccine.

It’s also wonderful, as you can imagine, over any kind of potato – mashed, roasted, a gratin…

The full flavors of this beef stew are so intense. It’s rich in a way, but rich with flavors of wine and thyme. The onions and mushrooms add delightful texture as well.

Use a good wine – something you’d serve with this dish.

You can serve the stew as you would chili, in a warm bowl without toppings, of course, but I prefer a base of pasta or potatoes.