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The cuisine of Eritrea is influenced by its proximity to and historic links with Ethiopia, Sudan, Arabia and Italy. Religion has also played its part, with meat-free fasting observed by Coptic Christians resulting in striking vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Vegetable and meat stews are served on the crepe-like injera. Sharing food on a common plate signifies the bonds of friendship
Injera is the staple food of both Eritreans and Ethiopians that is the basis of your meal. It’s a round, flat, crepe-like bread made from a high-fibre, gluten-free grain known as taf (or teff), which is grown in the highlands of both countries. (Note: Due to the lack of taf/teff suppliers in the UK, we make the injera in the restaurant with a mixture of corn and wheat flour). The bread has a sour, yeasty taste and a soft, spongy texture, which helps it soak up the juices of the rest of the food. It’s used both as a food and a utensil.
Embracing the Eritrean way of eating means using your fingers. It’s pretty straightforward. Tear off a small piece of injera, about the size of your palm, and wrap its upper side around a mouthful of food. Make sure you try a piece of the bread that the food’s been resting on, so you get the most of all the tasty juices and flavours.
Eritrean dishes are prepared with a distinctive variety of ingredients. The key flavours are:
Berbere, a mixture of spices which give hot dishes their red colouring. Its ingredients usually include allspice, ajwain, chillies, cloves, coriander and rue berries. Awaze, a paste of red chilli peppers.Mitmita, a seasoning made up of ground birdseye chilli peppers, cardamom seeds, cloves, salt and other spices. T’esmi, pure clarified butter seasoned with herbs and spices.
Kulaso means mouthful and refers to a morsel of food that one person carefully places in another’s mouth, as a sign of affection.
Often Kulasos are much larger than the regular scoop due to tradition, so you might find your mouth full from front to back. It's ok to decline a Kulaso if you are uncomfortable, people won't take offense from this.
This is one way of perfecting your technique, so why not give it a go?