When revision makes life feel incredibly monotonous, what better to do than go on a culinary adventure? I was ridiculously excited to discover that on Exchange Street, “Frehiwet Habesha” restaurant sells my all-time favourite food: Injera-b-wot.
During my first few years after arriving in England, Ethiopian restaurants were hard to come by. This was partly because the bread injera is traditionally made with the gluten-free supergrain teff (ጤፍ), which is hard to find outside the Ethiopian highlands. It is easy to find in London, and has now moved its way up to Leicester. Frehiwet Habesha still uses wheat flour, but it is definitely a passable alternative. Hopefully with the rising recognition of teff‘s (ጤፍ) superfood properties, it will become more widely available. Ethiopian food caters for everyone. As well as being gluten free, the fasting food is vegan friendly, but there are also plenty of traditional chicken, lamb and beef dishes.
Frehiwet Habesha makes me feel nostalgic about all the Ethiopian traditions that I miss. Firstly, there is the tactility of eating with my hands again: tearing off the spongey bread injera (እንጀራ) with my right hand and using it to scoop up the spicey stew: wot. Then there is the communal feel of everyone eating off one large plate: I love the recognition of our interdependency, rather than the selfish individualism found everywhere in the west. During Ethiopian weddings, the groom will scoop up a mouthful of injera-b-wot and pop it in his bride’s mouth and she will reciprocate in order to symbolise their mutual desire to love and provide for one another.
Ethiopia invented coffee. Tradition recounts how a young shepherd boy noticed his goats becoming incredibly energetic whenever they ate from a particular bush. Upon sampling it for himself, he brought it back to his village, and coffee was born.
After your meal, you can pay for the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony to be performed. Fresh beans are roasted over a charcoal fire, then ground with a pestle and mortar and finally left to stew in a traditional jebena (ጀበና), before being poured into tiny clay cups.
As the only African nation that was never colonised by the Europeans (apart from when Mussolini briefly invaded from 1935-1941), so much of Ethiopia’s culture and traditions are unknown in England. If one day you have had enough of the library’s monotony, this is the closest thing to jumping on a plane and exploring the world for yourself. Jump on a tram and take a trip down to Exchange Street. I can assure you that it will be the first of many.