An Ethiopian Adventure with Sarah Parfitt

It’s not often that we get to escape the comfort zone, that’s because it’s nice being comfortable. But once in a while, an opportunity arises that pushes you out into a world that’s very different from your own daily experience. Sarah Parfitt was fortunate enough to have one of these adventures when she went to Gende Tesfa in Eastern Ethiopia for a week. Her goal was to set up a community journalism project and a school link between Holy Trinity School here in Cookham and the Gende Tesfa School. It’s been 30 years since the famine in Ethiopia and Sarah has been doing a lot of fundraising for Partners for Change Ethiopia, a charity established to aid the 1984 crisis in Ethiopia.
Today’s post is about Sarah’s culinary experience in Ethiopia, this is a food blog after all. Considering the country was plunged into famine in recent history, it’s interesting to look at how and what the villagers are eating today and it gives us a chance to reflect and compare their eating habits to our own abundant, often wasteful ones. Sarah enjoyed the privilege of spending time in Gende Tesfa with a local family.
Sarah, can you describe meal time with an Ethiopian  family?
Generally speaking you will sit on the floor, but if you are a guest you will be found something to sit on. Typically people live in one room and so it can be very cramped. Somebody will come round with a bowl and some water, they will pour it on your hands – sometimes there is soap. It is part of the ceremony of eating in Ethiopia. Then everybody shakes their hands dry – there aren’t any towels.People eat with their hands – most meals come with the Ethiopian version of bread called injera. It is like a spongy pancake – made with a grain that is only grown in Ethiopia called teff. It is highly nutritious and normally served flat on a big round dish. On top of the injera they serve different types of stews, usually lamb or beef but most people can’t afford meat so they have a lentil stew. People will then tear off bits of the pancake and make little parcels with the sauce and pop it into their mouths.
Everybody shares the from the same plate, helping themselves to more of the pancake (if there is any) which is placed on the side of the main dish in fat little rolls. If you are a guest and have stopped eating the hosts will force feed you saying ‘gursha’ as they push injera and sauce into your mouth!
What were some of the more confronting elements of eating in Ethiopia? 
It is very difficult sometimes because when you visit a house (which is normally a one room shack) people insist on offering you food. You know they don’t have much and feel terrible taking what little they have, but you cannot offend them by refusing. It’s a humbling experience and a lesson in generosity we can all learn from.
Hygiene can be challenging. Most people don’t have running water and the water they do have may not be totally clean. Ethiopian digestion has adapted to this and they have a higher tolerance but foreigners can experience real stomach problems.  But it’s a risk you take in order not to cause offence.
What were some of the most memorable eating experiences from your trip? 
The first day I was invited to go to the Chicken House in Dire Dawa with a colleague from PFC Ethiopia. It’s a very popular place in the heart of the city which was buzzing with tuk-tuk drivers. Opposite is the Chicken House is an Ethiopian Orthodox Church where local people chew on khat, a local plant stimulant.
My colleague bought me two chickens. I noticed some feathers flying around and he told me that all the birds were killed on site.
 I also had the most amazing night with one of the PFC Ethiopia community volunteers called Selam – she is one of our case studies for the community journalism project. She cooked injera and a bean dish for me, and then organised an Ethiopian coffee ceremony for me (which included popcorn!) and invited friends and family around – it was amazing. I felt very privileged. I spent the night in her home. Even when people have nothing, they give it away…True Ethiopian hospitality, very special indeed.
Can you describe some of the flavours and textures of the food? 
Ethiopian food is distinctive. Injera is unlike any other food – and for some people it takes some getting used to. The ground teff is fermented for three days in water and so the taste is a bit sour like sourdough. The texture is odd and a bit spongy and the gray colour can be a bit off-putting for some. Ethiopians are mad for it and it’s a huge part of their culture.

The sauces are normally spicy – most have berbere in them which is a combination of ground chillies, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek. You can smell berbere as soon as you get off the plane when you arrive in Ethiopia. Berbere and roasting coffee are the smells of Ethiopia and accompany you wherever you travel in the country.

To read more about Sarah’s fundraising for PFC, which includes the upcoming Virgin London marathon, visit her blog Diary of a Marathon Mum and please donate to her Just Giving Page.

If you’re curious about the sound of Ethiopia, listen to Haymanot Tesfa sing. Haymanot is an Ethiopian born artist who performs regularly in London to promote cultural awareness and supporting PFC. She sang recently in the House of Commons for a PFC event which Sarah also attended.

Double Chocolate Muffins

Double Chocolate Muffins

Well…we can’t be good all the time. Here are the rules. Think of it like Fight Club but instead of fighting to escape spiritual somnambulance we’re fighting to escape the disappointment of below-average chocolate muffins. We’re fighting to make a chocolate muffin … Continue reading

Rocky Road

Rocky Road

I was chatting to another mum in the school yard the other day and we were talking about how hard it is to choose those incidental gifts; the ones you give to your neighbour, your hairdresser, teachers and workmates. It can … Continue reading

Lemon Myrtle Yoghurt and Macadamia Shortbread

A friend from home sent me an Australian bush food recipe book for Christmas, along with a couple of packets of wattle seed and a chilli, wild lime and lemon myrtle seasoning blend. What a thoughtful gift and it truly got me thinking about the good friends I have left behind. It also got me thinking about this really nice yoghurt I used to try-not-to-buy because it was loaded with calories. It was a lemon myrtle yoghurt. Lemon scented myrtle or Backhousia citriodora was named after the British botanist James Backhouse, and shortened to lemon myrtle to market the dried leaf for culinary use. It has an unusual strong lemon scent that is somehow more fragrant and sharply floral than actual lemon.


I love this seasoning in sweet dishes. I can imagine it would go very nicely in a cheesecake, but today I’ve made my own dessert creation in honour of the lemon myrtle yoghurt I left behind. To turn this yoghurt into an exotic Australian ‘bush food’ dessert that will shock and amaze your friends and family, serve it up with macadamia nut shortbread. Sliced into fingers, you dip the pieces of shortbread into the yoghurt.

To get your hands on some lemon myrtle, and most likely any other strange and exotic spice, visit Seasoned Pioneers online. The gang at Season Pioneers specialise in authentic herbs and spices, and they kindly sent me a package of lemon myrtle so that I could create this fragrant yoghurt recipe to share with my readers. When it comes to the macadamia nuts, you’ll find them at Waitrose and any decent health food shop. They’re kind of pricey, so if you can’t find them or don’t want to spend too much, you could replace them with Brazil nuts and get a similar texture and flavour.


Lemon Myrtle Yoghurt Recipe

1 cup of FAGE Greek yoghurt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp of lemon myrtle, ground finely as possible.
1 tbs lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients, and leave overnight for the flavours to develop.
Taste it, to adjust the flavours to your preference which might be sweeter, stronger or more tangy than these ratios.

Macadamia Shortbread Recipe

225g softened butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (reduce the flour by half a cup for a softer, more cakey shortbread)
1/2 cup chopped, unsalted, raw macadamia nuts

Oven 180C

Mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a bowl, as opposed to in a mixer.
Press into a lined slice pan (approx. 20cm x 30cm).
Bake until golden, and then slice into fingers.
Serve with lemon myrtle yoghurt.



Cooper’s Coffee Marlow

Cooper’s Coffee Marlow

As London’s coffee culture moves at light speed, with the likes of Monmouth marching across the terrain like caffeinated Kiwi warriors, and hole-in-the-wall cafes springing up in unlikely places, Maidenhead seems to have been overlooked by the destination-coffee house revolution. Costa, Nero and Starbucks … Continue reading

Healthy and Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Healthy and Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

It gets harder to be enthusiastic about salads when the weather turns. Fresh, raw vegetables suddenly don’t seem as appetising or satisfying when there’s a chill in the air. But don’t let a craving for comfort food be an excuse … Continue reading

Coconut and Ginger Slice

Coconut and Ginger Slice

If you ever wanted to cunningly plot the demise of an enemy with a cake-induced-heart-attack, this recipe would be your weapon of choice. It is one of the most supernaturally seductive slices I’ve ever tasted and contains a whopping one and … Continue reading

Creamy raw broccoli and roasted nut salad


It’s salad mayhem here. This will be the last one for the season. I promise. This raw broccoli salad is the jewel in the crown. The first time I tried it was at my turkey-carving masterclass at Copas Turkeys last year. They had put on a lunch for the visitors and this was one of the salads on offer. It’s been 6 months – and finally I got my hands on Brenda Copas’ raw broccoli salad. It’s similar to a popular American recipe that features bacon and raisins and fried lardons was an option for this dish but I left it out. If something tastes great without bacon, always best to leave it out really. I know that sounds frugal but bacon is the last thing I need these days.

It might come as a surprise from someone who talks a lot about healthy eating and vegetables, but I’ve never liked raw broccoli, I only sometimes like it steamed, so this recipe was a stretch for me. But let me tell you – it is a salad miracle that broccoli tastes so good in this salad. I think the secret is in the dressing and the marinading. You can feel free to make this salad and eat it up straight away – but if Brenda says to marinade the broccoli then I’ll marinade it because whatever it is – it works.

Sweet and creamy, this amazing dressing contains a confronting amount of sugar, but it’s so delicious it’s worth every calorie. Needless to say this is more of a celebration salad than a virtuous daily meal type of recipe.

Broccoli, Cheese and Roasted Nut Salad Recipe

1 x head of broccoli
1 x cup of nuts/seeds (hazelnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds)
1 cup grated cheese
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
1 cup of mayonnaise
50g sugar
2 tbs cider vinegar

Roast the nuts, leave to cool.
For the dressing, mix up the mayo, vinegar and sugar.
Cut the broccoli into small florets and grate the stalk.
Toss the broccoli, cheese and onion into the dressing and leave over night.
When you’re ready to serve give it a mix, stirring in the nuts.



Cornflakes; not just for breakfast

Cornflakes; not just for breakfast

The only time I buy cereal is when Kellogg’s have their annual Grown-ups Go Free promotion. Last year we used them to take the boys to Lego Land for the first time and I’ve got my tokens on the fridge ready … Continue reading