Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Zigni- Spicy Chicken Stew

Feeling hot, hot, hot!! This is a very spicy chicken dish that originated in Ethiopia. It can also be made with cubed Lamb or Beef also.  The best part of this dish, I believe, is the amount of onions that seem to give this dish a sweet taste. Reading through the recipe you might think... "WOW 12 onions...sounds offensive...no thank you!"  But let me tell you it's all worth it in the end!!!

Traditionally, this dish is eaten with some peeled hard-boiled eggs and a flat-bread called Injera.  Growing up in an Arabic speaking household, we call this flat-bread "Kisra".  It has a sour taste and a texture of a rubbery pancake.  In fact, it looks like how pancake batter looks on the griddle right before you know it's ready to be turned over -it has a lot of holes in it.  The Cousins, although we agree on our love for food in general, do not agree on Injera/ Kisra. Vallia doesn't really care for Injera/ Kisra (and prefers pita bread) but Marlene absolutely loves to eat Zigni with Injera (but enjoys it with pita bread also).  But because we love each other, we can just agree to disagree and just keep on cookin'!  Now, onto to the task at hand -to stimulate senses in your taste buds that you didn't know existed (like the time I decided to do 100 sit-ups and 100 leg presses after not having stepped foot in a gym in ages).

So here goes, a little bit of our enjoyable childhood...We hope you enjoy it also.

Recipe by The Cousins

12 medium to large onions, chopped
3/4 cup ghee (clarified butter), you could use oil, but I believe the ghee gives a better flavour
12-14 chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on... I used drumsticks, because it's what I had on hand
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 cups tomato sauce
2 cups water or chicken stock
5 Tbsp of berbere spice, more or less depending on how hot you like it (Recipe follows)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Here is a link to make Berbere Spice Mix 

The Berbere recipe link calls for chili flakes, but I used cayenne pepper instead. I can do that because I'm fiery.  For the less fiery, you could always reduce the amount of chili flakes/ cayenne pepper and substitute that amount for paprika instead, noting of course that the taste will be altered slightly but still be delicious.

This recipe makes a large amount but could easily be halved, but I decided to do it ALL, because I'm fiery.

               My batch of onions! 

Doesn't look like much... But that's 12 onions chopped, took me awhile :) 

Saute onions with ghee until translucent, this will take about 30 mins due to the amount of onions. Once the onions have cooked down add the tomato paste and stir to combine and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  This will cook out some of the acidity of the tomato paste and give it more depth of flavour. Add the tomato sauce, water (or chicken stock if using instead of water) stir and simmer for 20 mins. 

In the meantime, salt and pepper your chicken (or beef or lamb, if using) and brown in a little ghee or oil on all sides. You do not need to have your chicken (or beef/ lamb) cook all the way through at this point since the rest of the cooking process will happen with the sauce. We want a nice brown sear on all sides. Remember, colour = flavour.

                 Yum! Yum! My chicken is browning....

Once, the sauce has simmered, please add your gorgeous browned chicken to the sauce along with the Berbere spice mix and the brown sugar. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow this sauce to simmer on a very low heat for about 45 mins to 1 hour.  Some wonderful things will be taking place during this time.  The Berbere spices are coming alive to fulfill their destiny of enhancing the sauce and giving the ho-hum chicken meaning to its life. The chicken will not only be fall-apart tender but will absorb to the core of its being, all the riches the sauce has to offer.  The sauce will thicken slightly and the ghee will have settled on top of the sauce. This is when you know the sauce is cooked.
             My sauce bubbling away... It's almost done

Serve with peeled hard boiled eggs, Injera/ Kisra, Pita Bread, or with Rice.

Some things you could do as a spin on this dish (but pleeeeease, do not tell our mothers we said this):

-Add cubed potatoes
-Add a veggie of your choice


                         Now that's a thing of beauty!