Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shelf Gleaning - Niter Kibbeh

I saw an ad in a parenting publication a while ago that still irritates me to this day.  It was an ad for a prepackaged cake mix, cookie dough, or something of the sort.  The image was of a mother beatifically gazing upon her child drawing a picture, and the tag line was something like "Saves you time so you can do more important things in life".  When I saw it, mother-guilt - that old companion - flared up.  Am I a bad mother, I thought, because I make my own stock, bake my own bread and (shock) make my own biscuits?  Am I depriving my children of my time, by spending time doing these things?

I don't believe so at all.  Being born close together, my kids are used to me being busy with their siblings, housework, or cooking.  That's not to say I don't spend time with them, but in my mind, the lines between "quality time" and domestic duties are fairly blurred.  They like to "hang out" with me while I do various jobs around the house.  Sometimes they chop mushrooms with butter knives for pasta, while I chop the onions.  They watch what goes into the stockpot and we talk about chickens, bones, and where our food comes from.  They draw at the kitchen table while I whip up a quick batch of Anzacs.

Before you strangle me with my starched, frilly apron, let me tell you, I am far from perfect.  The house is often a mess.  When we walk to kinder, often only the oldest child is dressed properly, and I am more often that not literally still in my pyjamas.  The kids get bored (and so do I!) and they get "under my feet" when I'm trying to return some sense of order to the house.  Seedlings shrivel up unwatered, bread overproves and goes flat, and we are no stranger to the good old can of baked beans for dinner.

Tammi - a fellow mother of three and also a passionate fellow student, gardener, baker, and cook - recently wrote a wonderful post in reply to the question, "How do you do it?"  She makes an important connection between skills and good use of time.  Cooking skills are by and large not inherent in our nature.  They are developed with practice, as many a trilling smoke alarm and full-bellied dog can attest.

I love adding recipes to our family's weeknight meals from cuisines that are new to me.  This is partly because cooking is one of my hobbies and in this way, I can make my leisure time and domestic duties intersect.  Also, and at the risk of sounding pat, I believe that food, like music, can "cross the cultural divide".  Through my cooking, I hope my kids will grow up to be open-minded and culturally aware, and that they will think of "sausages" as anything from kolbasi, to lap cheong, to $2 snags from Bunnings.

Arsenic hour is not conducive to grappling with a cookbook, however.  I tend to cook new things on a weekend for pleasure, and then modify them so they are easy to whip up.  Multiple ingredients in a curry sauce - meant for careful, sequential adding to a pan whilst being lovingly stirred - are whizzed in a blender, with surprisingly good results.  Practice also means I can make a great salad dressing in a jar, and a great sauce for noodles with no recipe.

I recently posted my recipe for misir wat (Ethiopian red lentil dal), made with berbere, a spice paste that can be bought from various Ethiopian grocers in Footscray.  Along with tikil gomen and fresh injera, this is a healthy, quick, and above all delicious weeknight meal.  I cook my tikil gomen in niter kibbeh, which is spiced ghee.  It's used as a base for various dishes, such as doro wat, a kind of chicken curry.  Mesnoy in Irving St sell it for $10/kg and have 500g tubs in their fridge.  I don't believe using niter kibbeh for tikil gomen is traditional, as most Ethiopian vegetarian dishes are cooked in vegetable oil so that they are totally vegan.  But I say, the more butter, the better!

Tikil gomen

Adapted from "The Berbere Diaries"- note all quantities are rough

1/3 cup niter kibbeh
1/4 cabbage, shredded
2-3 carrots, cut on the diagonal
1 tsp turmeric
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
4-5 large green chillies, cut on the diagonal

Melt niter kibbeh in pan.  Add cabbage and carrots.  When well-mixed, add turmeric and salt to taste, and mix until evenly coated.  Cook to desired doneness.  Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add garlic, ginger and green chillies (I prefer the chillies crunchy).  Serve on injera.

I look forward to broadening our food horizons further.  I cannot say, however, that I will ever give up my Achilles heel - the taco kit.  You can take the girl out of El Paso... but you can't take El Paso out of the girl.


  1. Surely feeding your children proper home-cooked food vs prepackaged mixes makes one a better mother? I think your children are incredibly lucky - anyone can make chocolate chip cookies from a tube. NOT anyone can feed their children an entire cornucopia of culture (prepared from scratch!)

  2. Nice post. I was spoilt rotten as a child with home-cooked food, home made cakes. My brothers school friends were envious of him because of the home-made cakes and biscuits in his lunch box.

    There's just me and The Bloke at home but I struggle with the meal thing too. I've started cooking things that will do for two nights or something to freeze. After being at work all day sometimes it's all too much.

    I admire people who manage all this with kids!

  3. I admire you and Tammy! You guys are such inspiration! I am struggling to feed myself and my family healthy meals. We are adults (no kid yet, just a difficult teen sister) so it's not that hard compared to you. :)

  4. thanks for the recipe, yum!

    1. My pleasure! Still one of my faves and sooo yummy. Sometimes now I just use plain ghee.

  5. Well done wrassling in the mom-guilt. I think you're going about it the right way!

    Great recipe, am keen to try it. Am in Footscray area too; where did you get your niter kibbeh from? Or did you make it yourself :P

    1. Woohoo great! I must say I am lazy now and just use regular ghee. You can get niter kibbeh from Mesnoy in Irving Street but I'm sure many of the other places would sell it - they are lovely people too at the grocery in Albert Street, kind of diagonally opposite Savers.

      Let me know how you get on!


I love getting your comments! They're what make blogging worthwhile. Unfortunately, the amount of spam I get is obscene and it is so tiresome to have to moderate every comment, so I have had to turn on annoying word verification. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please know how much I love you having your say!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Related Posts with Thumbnails