About ten years ago we went to Zigni House restaurant following a Timeout magazine recommendation, never having tried East African food before. Spicy, unheard of exotic dishes were scooped up with the staple injera bread with its soft, spongy texture and tangy, sour taste, eaten at low tables. We weren’t convinced. We left pleased that we had at least tried it and chalked it up as a foodie experience that we were probably not going to repeat.
Some years later we tried again and absolutely fell for the food. It was the start of a love affair with East African (Ethiopian and Eritrean) food to the point that if I can buy fresh injera, usually in Brixton, then I happily skip home to make Doro Wot (chicken and boiled egg in red pepper sauce). I’ve not come across a supplier of injera in E17 so we usually have rice or wraps.
As I had some good quality mince steak in the fridge from the Woodhouse Farm stall on the Walthamstow Farmer’s Market, I decided to make Kitfo with berbere spices (spicy mince with a chilli blend bought from Kitfo House) and Kik Alicha (yellow split pea stew). When I tried a platter of assorted East African dishes, I fell in love with the creamy yellow split pea puree, similar to a dhal. It is definitely a comfort food, and a real contrast against the more fiery hot dishes. We wanted to make this lovely veggie dish at home but needed a recipe. We adapted a recipe from the Low Fat Vegan Chef blogger, Veronica Grace.
Kik Alicha – serves 4
200g dried yellow split peas
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
2 medium onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
salt and pepper to taste
Bring to the boil in a large pan the water, stock cube and split peas. Reduce heat to and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook until for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the chilli, garlic, ginger and turmeric; cook for another 5 minutes.
Next add the onion mixture to cooked peas, have a quick taste and decide if it needs any salt and pepper adding. We found that the stock cube had seasoned it enough. Now simmer for another 30 minutes until the peas are very soft and creamy. Serve warm.
This is not spicy dish but is reassuring, comfort food. It lasts for a couple of days in the fridge and makes a brilliant quick ready cooked dinner after work. Thinned down it would make a great soup too.
Does anyone know if there is an East African restaurant in the borough?
East African restaurants are usually very affordable; we go to and happily recommend:
40-42 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, N1 9DT
45 Roman Way, Holloway, N7 8X
330 Essex Road, Islington, N1 3PB
49 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, SW8 1RH
339 Harrow Road, Maida Vale, W9 3RB