Each class at Salone del Gusto is unique. Many share similar formats, however a multitude of factors combine to provide a distinctive experience. The panels can be made up of cooks, experts, hosts, distillers, teachers, journalists, farmers or even just world travelers. The topic can fall anywhere between cigar pairings and the effects of ice. Walking into the At the Roots of Ethiopia workshop I knew I was in for a treat.
My only real knowledge on Ethiopian cuisine until that point had been gleaned from extensive internet research and a foray in a previous Salone del Gusto class about coffee. The aromatic scents that wafted through the room were complex and mouth-watering. I caught a few glimpses of the cooks hard at work behind kitchen curtains. The young woman who walked us through the taste workshop spoke very eloquently and passion for her culture and cuisine was very present both in her words and face.
A culinary smorgasbord awaited us and the learning began. Most meals in Ethiopia are stews also known as wats. Sauces are either red (made with chili powder) or yellow (made with turmeric). Butter is a cornerstone for almost everything, something my southern roots can thoroughly appreciate. Culturally an Ethiopian woman is judged on how well she spices her butter.
Our plates were filled with all kinds of preparations. We sampled kocho, a hard bread made from the false banana tree. I was thrilled to be served injeera, something I have always wanted to try. It is a soft flat bread made from fermented teff grain. The flavor was nutty and tart, its texture chewy but soft, perfectly designed for wrapping food into small edible packages.
The cooks prepared a meat dish by the name of Kitfo, a minced meat mixed with spiced butter and warmed through but served rare. Gomen Kitfo, a vegetarian side is usually made with collard greens, but the kitchen did a modern spin with kale, proving that even some of the oldest traditions can be modernized. The star dish was the Doro Wat, a spiced chicken stew with hard-boiled eggs.
Each thing we tasted was bursting with flavor and I dare say it was one of the best meals I had all year! The workshop was supposed to round off with a honey tasting and coffee. The honeys were unfortunately absent but the Harenna Forest Wild Coffee was strong and perfect to get me to the next workshop. The class also featured a cultural documentary that I would like to watch again. The Ethiopian workshop was bar far one of my favorites from this particular Salone del Gusto visit.