The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Kids Make Ethiopian Chickpea Fish

April 9th, 2010 · No Comments · Posted in Ethnic, Recipes


Unlike anything we've tried before

Unlike anything we've tried before

You’re probably wondering, What the heck are chickpea fish?

Well, our food appreciation classes have resumed after the spring break and we’ve landed in Ethiopia on our virtual world culinary tour. Chickpea fish are something the Christian community makes to celebrate Lent, the fish being a traditional symbol for the Christ figure. They are most unusual–unlike anything we’ve tried before–savory fried cookies made of chickpea flour that are then further cooked in a highly aromatic sauce seasoned with chili powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

The kids weren’t quite sure to do with these unusual treats. Some were wild for it (the spice combination almost has a bit of sweetness). Others, not so much. My wife loved them and suggested something like this could make a great hors d’oeuvres, perhaps with some sort of meat and cheese spread on top.

The fun part for the kids is rolling out the dough and cutting out the “fish.” We used cookie cutters, nothing constituting a fish, exactly. But we did have a whale. I also liked the one that was shaped like a woman in a wide dress.

Start by placing a heavy sauce pan over moderately low heat and adding 1/2 cup shallots cut into small dice. Cook the shallots dry–no oil–until they are lightly browned, then add 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, then add 2/3 cup water and berbere spice mix as follows:

Combine 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 tablespoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves. (This is a shortcut version. Other berberes involve toasting many different spices, including cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, allspice, pepper.)

Bring pot to a boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer while you are making the “fish.”

For the dough, place 2 cups chickpea flower (available at health food stores or Whole Foods) in a mixing bowl, add scant 1/2 cup water and mix well. Form into a ball and knead lightly. If sticky, add more chickpea flour. Onto a well-floured work surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch. We found it helpful to flip the dough at least once and dust with flour to make sure it wasn’t sticking to the work surface.

Cut the dough into fish shapes, either by hand or with a cookie cutter. (You can choose other shapes as well.) Fry in oil until lightly browned. We used our deep-fat fryer for this. Drain the fish on paper towels, then place them a few at a time in the simmering sauce and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, gently turning them to coat both sides. They will absorb some of the liquid from the sauce.

When you have finished saucing all of the fish, you will be left with a fairly dry sauce in the pan. It is highly flavorful. I recommend spooning it over your fish in a decorative fashion. Serve immediately.

For more great stories about how we are taking back our food system, read Fight Back Friday.

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