Of injera, yasa tibs and misir wot

Cecy Kuruvilla with a plate of Injera topped with the side-dishes

Cecy Kuruvilla with a plate of Injera topped with the side-dishes  


The writer attends Cecy Kuruvilla’s workshop on Ethiopian food and finds it has similarities with Indian cuisine

One sunny morning, an excited group of home cooks arrived at a picturesque farmhouse on the outskirts of Coimbatore. We had all signed up for an Ethiopian cooking class.

Cecy Kuruvilla, in a bright red apron, greeted us at the door and led us straight to her kitchen. To break the ice, she asked, “So, have you tried Ethiopian food before?” A few hands went up and we eagerly shared our experiences. Ethiopian food is not something that most Indians are familiar with, although it seems to have a lot of similarities with Indian food, particularly south Indian.

There is the flat crepe-like Injera, similar to the dosa, made with Tef and eaten with saucy meats, lentils and stir-fried greens. Berbere, a spice blend, and Niter Kebbeh, a spiced butter similar to ghee, are the basic building blocks of Ethiopian cuisine. A communal way of eating (family and friends eating from a common plate) and coffee ceremonies are other notable traditions.

Cecy had planned a delectable menu with Injera, Doro Wat (chicken stew), Yasa Tibs (sautéed fish), Misir Wot (spiced lentils) and greens. “Traditionally, Injera is made with Tef, a millet not found in India. I find ragi the closest and hence use that to prepare my Injera,” said Cecy, as she started her cooking demonstration.

Some of us tried our hands at pouring the Injira on a hot pan before Cecy moved on to the other dishes. She multi-tasked and prepared the chicken stew, sautéed fish and lentils simultaneously. The printed recipes given to us were helpful, as she moved seamlessly between the pots, pans and the recipes.

Some of us sat down on the bench in her kitchen while a few hovered around the cooking hob to stay close to the action. Cecy had an enviable kitchen garden that included hens, ducks and turkeys in her backyard. Within a year of moving into her new home, she has set up a thriving kitchen garden with fruits trees, a bay leaf tree, lemongrass and collards.

A Malayali by birth but a Tamilian at heart — since she grew up in Tamil Nadu as the daughter of a District Medical Officer — Cecy is a psychologist specialising in leadership and gender diversity. “I use food as an entrée to engaging dialogue on cultural practices. I believe it is also a gateway to bridging cultures.” Cecy was introduced to various cuisines while living in the US. “I travelled a lot on work and my colleagues would always trust me to find the best restaurants. I even plan my holidays based on the cuisine of the country. I travelled to Morocco once, as I enjoy Moroccan food. I went to Thailand since I love Thai food. Next on my list is Vietnam,” she said.

After a fun-filled two hours in the kitchen, we helped ourselves to a plate of Injera heaped with all the side dishes. We sat down in her patio and enjoyed a delightful lunch with a lot of chatter on food-related topics.

Cecy had prepared a light and flaky Baklava to satisfy our sweet tooth. Not overly sweet it had a generous dose of nuts and a mild hint of cardamom and rose water. We bid goodbye to Cecy and piled back into our cars to head back home talking about what we wanted Cecy to teach us next.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 4:39:50 PM |

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