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Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba…

Claiming a lineage which goes all the way back to King Solomon of Jerusalem was an important source of legitimacy and prestige for the Ethiopian monarchy throughout the many centuries of its existence. The Kebra Nagast is similar in importance to the Old Testament and the Qur’an.

The story goes that Solomon (King of Israel) and the Queen of Sheeba, who ruled over the ancient Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum met in Jerusalem. During that stay, Sheeba and Solomon sleep together and the Queen becomes pregnant with a baby who would be called Menelik. The myth continues with the story of the Ark of the Covenant, a very important historical christian artifact which is claimed, by believers, to contain the original stones in which the ten commandments were written.

The story goes that when Menelik grows up, he visits King Solomon in Israel, and when he returns he brings the Ark of the Covenant with him back to Ethiopia, where it still resides today. The only problem with the story is that no one has ever seen the Ark. It is claimed to be residing in a guarded place in Ethiopia, but no one is allowed to view it because it is deemed to be to holy to be in its presence.

 

The video above is a playlist of 6 videos which plays an episode of “Lost Kingdoms of Africa” about the Kingdom of Ethiopia.

A Little Background:

Ethiopia is widely considered to be the birthplace of humanity. First with the discovery of “Lucy” in 1974, who was a 3.2 million year old human ancestor, and then later with some discoveries of remains dating almost 5 million years old. These were discovered in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia can also claim to be the oldest country in Africa. Officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia since 1974 when it dissolved its monarchy and formed a democratic state. It is the 27th largest country on Earth, and at over 91 million people is the most populous land-locked country in the world.

Missionaries visited Ethiopia sometime during the 4th century and introduced the Kingdom to Christianity. In fact, coins provide evidence that after Armenia, Ethiopia is the 2nd nation in history to officially convert to Christianity.

In the 7th century, the rise of Islam isolated Ethiopia from European Christianity. When the Portugese attempted to re-establish contact and convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism, a century of conflict followed and resulted in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries.

From the 1700’s for about 100 years there was no central power in Ethiopia. It was known as the “Era of the Princes”. Local rulers would compete against each other for land and power. In 1869, emperor Tewodros brought many of the ruling princes together. He was succeeded by Emperor Yohannes, who would build on this unity and fight off invasions by the Dervish and the Sudanese.

From 1889 to 1913, Emeror Menelik II (who claimed to be a direct descendant from Solomon and Sheeba) became a unifying hero after his army became the first African nation to defeat a colonial power when Ethiopia defeated Italy at the Battle of Adwa.

In 1916, the Christian nobility deposed of Lij Iyassu, the sitting king, because of his Muslim ties. They announced his predecessor to be King Menelik’s daughter, Zewditu. Her cousin, Ras Tafari Makonnen, was appointed regent and successor to the throne.

After Zewditu’s death in 1930, the regent Makonnen changed his nam to Haileselassie and became Emperor. He would reign over Ethiopia until 1974, when he was overthrown and subsequently executed by being strangled in his basement.

The Recipe:

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Today we are making a most luxurious and fascinating dish known as Doro Wat. In traditional methods of cooking Doro Wat, a hard boiled egg is always served along with each helping. Doro Wat is a spicy chicken dish made with a distinctive spice mix known as Berbere`. We were able to find it in our spice store, but if you are having trouble locating the mix, check the credits at the end for a recipe to make it yourself. The other special ingredient is known as Niter Kebbeh, which is a spicy clarified butter used in Ethiopian cooking. We could not find this anywhere in Sydney, but there is a recipe to make it yourself which is rather time-consuming. We decided to substitute for regular butter and it turned out great, but if you are feeling extra motivated, I have provided the recipe to make Niter Kebbeh in the credits at the end.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Chicken (about 1 kg)
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Tablespoons Niter Kebbeh (or substitute Butter)
  • 2 Onions (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 inch piece (1 teaspoon) Fresh Ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Berbere` (if you don’t want to make Berber, use 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika as a substitute)
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 Cup Dry Red Wine
  • 2/3 Cup Boiling Water
  • 1 Maggi Cube (or chicken stock cube)
  • 4 Hard-boiled eggs

Method:

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First thing you need to do is to cut up the whole chicken. There are tons of videos online on how to do this. Once it is chopped up, remove the skin from the pieces and place in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and the lemon. Let this marinate for about 20 minutes.

While this is going, you should hard-boil the 4 eggs. Place them in a saucepan and fill with water. Bring water to a boil and let cook for 8 minutes. then remove from heat and let the eggs cool in the water.

Get out a large pot that will hold all of the ingredients. Chop the onions, garlic and ginger, and mix the spices and the rest of the salt together in a small bowl.

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Cook the onions on medium heat dry for 4-5 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Make sure to stir constantly to avoid burning them.

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Next, add the butter, garlic, ginger and spices to the onions and cook for a few minutes.

Once the onions are nice and soft, add the tomato paste and cook for one minute.

Boil 2/3 cup of water and crumble the Maggi cube (or chicken stock cube) into the water and dissolve.

Now add the red wine and the boiling water to the pot.

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Add the chicken pieces and make sure they are covered in the sauce. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

After about 20 minutes of cooking, peel the hard boiled eggs and skewer them with a toothpick or fork. Place them in the pot with the sauce and chicken and let them cook in the sauce for the remaining time.

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After you put the eggs into the pot, it is time to prepare your grain. Traditionally a bread is made called Injera using Teff flour which is very hard to find.We used couscous which was fantastic! Just follow the instructions on the package to prepare either couscous or rice if you prefer.

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Once the chicken is cooked through and tender, you are ready to serve.

Fill a bowl with your grain and then pour the sauce over it. top with a few pieces of chicken and one hard-boiled egg and enjoy!

Further Reading:

Living In Thin Air:

This video was taken from a documentary series from BBC called “Human Planet”. It is about a group of people living in the Ethiopian Highlands who have a very strange way of surviving and growing food.

 

Wildlife:

It’s always interesting to learn a bit about the indigenous wildlife in a country. Here is a nice little video to help you out!

 

Credits:

The original recipe used was from a great site called The Congo Cookbook.

To make the Berbere spice mix, you can use this recipe here.

If you are feeling extra adventurous and want to make your own Niter Kebbeh, use this recipe.

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2 thoughts on “Ethiopia: Doro Wat

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