One year ago this week, I dished on the world’s best free airline snacks in a piece I wrote for Lonely Planet. While pretzels and Biscoff cookies may come to mind, the free flight food I dream about is, in fact, a potato and green bean salad.
When you fly Ethiopian Airlines, they treat everyone on the plane to a wonderful meal of doro wat, which is the country’s national dish of spicy chicken stew. They sandwich layers of it between spongy injera bread to create a kind of African lasagna, and it’s so deliciously comforting.
Their in-flight side dish — a version of yataklete kilkil, or vegetables with garlic and ginger — is served slightly chilled, which makes it a bit reminiscent of American potato salad. But not the over-mayonnaised kind that can go oh-so-wrong at a sunny picnic. The bright, fresh kind that has just enough kick to liven things up.
I loved the Ethiopian version of this salad so much that I ate my own helping, Mr. Mike Ballard’s serving, and the untouched portion belonging to the stranger across the aisle. (It’s okay. She gave it to me. I didn’t steal it while she was sleeping or anything.)
I dream about Ethiopian food often, but the dishes I love most were all eaten somewhere else, like a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. Or at a bed and breakfast in Mozambique, where a transplanted Ethiopian chef served a savory lentil stew that even my legume-averse husband requests on a regular basis.
While he’s selective about the pulses he’ll eat, I love them all. It may stem from my early childhood, when my grandfather taught me a memorable rhyme:
Beans, beans, good for the heart.
The more you eat, the more you fart.
The more you fart, the better you feel.
So let’s eat beans for every meal!
As a kid, I would do anything to get away with saying the word “fart” in front of my mother, which obviously led to asking for beans for dinner whenever possible. And giggling throughout the meal.
This week’s Mozambican take on an Ethiopian lentil stew highlights the inherent nuttiness of the pulses along with the traditional Berbere seasoning blend of chili, allspice, ginger, coriander, and clove. Some versions of Berbere also contain fenugreek, rue, and other ingredients local to the chef, but I use the classic combination since it best replicates the dishes I’ve enjoyed most in Africa.
These lentils can be served as a hearty soup that’s scooped up with flatbread, like injera or naan, or you can spoon them atop perfectly-steamed white rice. The flavors get even richer with time, so it’s a terrific recipe to make the day before you plan to serve it. Just be sure your inner child giggles while you eat it.
This week’s subscriber exclusives: Pretend you’re on a flight headed somewhere exotic by serving Hearty Lentil Stew with a side of Ethiopian Potato & Green Bean Salad. I like them both with warm, toasted flatbread.
And while we’re dreaming of travel, let’s do it over a cocktail inspired by Ethiopian te’j, a honey wine brewed with the gesho plant, also known as shiny-leaf buckthorn.
Legend has it that the recipe for te’j was gifted to King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, so of course that’s what we’re going to call our drink. The Queen of Sheba Cocktail can be served icy cold in a martini glass or warmed in a mug as a hot toddy, depending on where your mental vacation takes you.
Subscribers to Around the World in 80 Plates have access to both of these African-inspired recipes.
Hearty Lentil Stew
While red lentils are more often used in East African cuisine, brown lentils work nicely in this dish. They’re slightly larger and require a bit more cooking time, but the toothsome texture and nutty flavor are delightful. Before you add them to the pot, be sure to check your lentils and remove any that are broken along with any small rocks or other debris that may have escaped the sorting process.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or other neutral, high-heat oil)
4 tablespoons chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder (to taste)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup dried brown lentils
fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
In a heavy-bottom stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the diced onions and cook for 10–15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking for 5 minutes and stirring often. Add the vegetable stock and tomato paste and stir until blended. Add the chili powder, coriander, allspice, and clove, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
In a sieve, rinse the lentils under cool water and drain. Add the lentils to the broth mixture. Simmer, partly covered, for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro if desired. Makes six servings.
For $5 a month or $50 a year, you can get an additional weekly issue of Around the World in 80 Plates that includes bonus recipes not available to the public.
This week’s recipes for subscribers only:
- Ethiopian Potato & Green Bean Salad: A bright, fresh side dish with hints of garlic and ginger that will make you want to have a picnic. Immediately.
- Queen of Sheba Cocktail: Inspired by Ethiopian te’j — a honey wine brewed with the gesho plant — this cocktail can be served icy cold in a martini glass or warmed in a mug as a hot toddy.
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