Monday Meal Review: Ethiopia


Popcorn. The final frontier.

I traced my fingers along the counter tops, navigating between a giant red bowl and a small plastic bag filled with popcorn kernels. I stopped when I reached the spot the microwave was supposed to be.

About this time last year, early one Saturday morning, I had a minor meltdown (in my baby blue bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, no less). I was bleary eyed. My head hurt. All I wanted in the whole, wide world was a giant mug of hot chai tea with milk. I walked into the kitchen and literally couldn’t see the counters for the appliances. Stuff was everywhere.

I could almost feel all 3.75 walls of my tiny windowless kitchen closing in on me.

I started crying.

All thoughts of tea forgotten, I hastily unplugged the microwave, my bread machine, and coffee maker. I began taking them, one by one, to the curb.

(If I know how to do anything, it is how to be impulsive and overtaken by emotion.)

Mr Picky stumbled into the kitchen as I struggled to lift the the microwave.

“What’s going on?” he said, taking the giant box from my hands.

“This stuff is in my way.” I said, lower lip trembling. “I can’t take it any more. I have zero counter space. I can’t work like this.”

He looked me straight in the eye with the most sincere look of affection. “I’ll take care of it.” he said and off he went.

My tiny kitchen gained 4 square feet of counter space that day. I could breathe again.

Three months later I wandered into the garage and saw something that froze me in my tracks. There was the microwave, tucked behind a large cardboard box. Turns out Mr Picky, always the practical husband, secretly stashed the microwave – in case I changed my mind.

I ran into the house and told him I was happy as a clam, melting butter on the stove and reheating pizza under the broiler. I told him that I really, really, really didn’t want the microwave. It was gone that same day.

And yet. A year later, here I was, about to make my first batch of microwave-free popcorn.

I was giddy. The oil shimmered, swirling around the golden kernels. I squealed when the first few white clouds popped their way into existence. More and more kernels popped, making a mountain that eventually reached the lid. I was doing it – I was making popcorn – just like mom did when I was little. It was no big deal.

I’d reached the final frontier thanks to Ethiopia.

Boy was I relieved.  I really didn’t feel like buying another microwave.


Spicy Lamb and Sweet Red Onion Stew (Awaze Tibs) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Tibs was one of my favorite dishes so far on this Adventure. Sweet caramelized onions make a great backdrop to the intense heat from berberé. I also love how the ginger and garlic brighten up normally gamey lamb. I would try this with chicken, too. Overall, another great recipe adapted from Laura Kelley at Silk Road Gourmet.

You’ll be happy to know Mr. Picky actually ate this one with his fingers – thanks in great part to the peer pressure exerted from you all during our Eritrean Global Table. Not only did he survive, but he actually seemed to enjoy himself. Thank you!

What I liked least about this dish:

Play around with the spice levels – 2 teaspoons of my berberé was very hot – I enjoyed it, but any hotter I would not have been able to handle it. For mild, try a teaspoon.

Stovetop Popcorn [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Anyone who makes popcorn on the stovetop is a superhero, especially to a child. Try it – it’s easy!

What I liked least about this dish:

I should have melted butter ahead of time to drizzle over the top. I forgot and by the time it was melted the popcorn was already cool. No matter, in Ethiopia they probably wouldn’t put butter on it anyway.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

This was the most fun I’ve had making coffee. There’s something about the relaxed ritual that makes a simple cup of coffee extra special. Plus, roasting the beans right before drinking the coffee makes the flavor extraordinary.

What I liked least about this dish:

The only thing that would have made this experience better is if I had had the proper equipment to do a 100% authentic Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Luckily, the flavor was still good.

Ava’s Corner


  1. Carrie says

    That lamb sounds wonderful! It looks like we may be moving there sometime this summer. I’m super excited about the food, especially after reading this post!

    Did you see Andrew Zimmern’s episode in Ethiopia? Interesting stuff.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Carrie, congratulations – let us know if you do move there. Take lots of pictures 🙂 From what I can tell, you are going to develop a great tolerance for heat! I saw part of the show – Zimmern was eating raw meat (kitfo) – including camel.

  2. Jessica Bennett says

    Nice to see the whole family enjoying the meal in the video. And glad Mr. Picky enjoyed the experience 🙂

    • Sasha Martin says

      I took great pleasure in telling him that you all expected better of him after Eritrea. He was not keen on being in the video (something about his hair not being perfect…), but I told him he gets me and my messiness all the time. Still, he managed to use the one shot where you can’t see his hair. ha ha.

      • Jessica Bennett says

        Messy is good. And one person’s messy is another person’s perfect. In other words, he shouldn’t worry about how he looks.

          • Jessica Bennett says

            Aw 🙂 Then that should be his new name now that he’s not as picky anymore. Mr. Perfect.

  3. Tina says

    Watch that video again Sasha, and watch Ava right before she puts the very first bite in her mouth. She makes a pre-emptive face like something tastes bad before it’s even out of her hand! Then she seems fine, no big deal once she actually tastes it. This cracked me up!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Ha ha.. yes, she’s more and more effected by how things look… it’s getting harder and harder to have her try new foods.

  4. Hi Sasha:

    Glad to hear you liked the tame version of tibs, sorry to hear the heat of the original was too much for you!

    It is an authentic recipe – with 2-3 tablespoons of berebere – that usually pleases all of the Ethiopian parking garage attendants I make it for. As well as the family and friends who share meals with us. I compared your Eritrean berebere to my Ethiopian one and mine is a hotter mix, and you would have had a harder time with that than with your own.

    Ethiopian food is one of the hottest foods on the planet (like Bhutanese), but it does have a lot of mild (usually pulse or vegetable) dishes to balance the very hot and spicy meat dishes.

    The video of the family was great – I especially like the stravinsky-esque tense music you set it to.


    • Sasha Martin says

      Hi Laura,

      While I’ve made great strides with heat tolerance (I used to be a strictly mild gal), I am still pretty wimpy. I loved the flavors and the 2 tsp heat level was perfect for me. Perhaps one day I’ll build up to 3 tsp 🙂 As for the video – Keith does those. Week after week he puts together a great snippet of Ava trying the food. I’m always amazed at what he comes up with.

      Thanks again for a great recipe – I’ll definitely be making Awaze Tibs again.

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