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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Trying to cook Ethiopian style

Learning to cook Ethiopian style at an evening session run at Central Street Cookery School was a fabulous treat. And then, no longer strangers, we ate together. This is a wonderful way to learn more about Ethiopia without having to get on a plane (because this blog is all about travelling without racking up a mega carbon footprint). Words from Nicola Baird.

Ethiopian cooking class at Central Street Cookery School, EC1
At Old Street (also known as Silicon Roundabout) there's a cooking school. It was set up five years ago for the EC1 community in London to learn about creating tasty meals. Sometimes this is for families, or for people with particular health conditions, like diabetes. Invariably it's about ways of avoiding food waste. It can also be hired and used by anyone - a wonderful way to team build.

In March 2017 I wrote up an interview with the lovely manager of the cooking school, Sofia Larrinua on Islington Faces. She then kindly invited me to join their April cooking club and learn to cook an Ethiopian meal. I had such a fun time in a packed kitchen. All the attendees were keen cooks, except me (I make a homecooked meal most nights for my family, but I'd never dare call myself a foodie). It was eye-opening watching our chef-host Tsigereda Tekletsadik show us how to create Ethiopian style cuisine - simply and efficiently. She also made it fun.

Cooking Ethiopian style
I've eaten Ethiopian food a few times and really enjoyed it but hadn't ever been able to cook something similar at home. Now I can do a couple of dishes - and all because of Tsigereda's skills and the discovery of a reddish spice called berbere. Berbere has a mix of chilli, garlic, ginger, nigella, fenugreek and other dried herbs/spices. It's quite powerful and works wonderfully with red lentils and yellow split peas.

What's in the pot? Foreground - the start of Ethiopian split pea stew
and the redder dish is  miser wot (spicy red lentils).
So what's different? I learnt to chop ingredients MUCH smaller and to cook everything a bit slower. It was a real lesson in patience equals better taste.

I'm a vegetarian so was happy to be assigned the chance to make miser wot. This is the spicy dollop of red lentils served on injera bread. It was easy to make with instructions and a real life Ethiopian chef to sort out any questions. My biggest problem was how to use the chopper to mince up the onions. At home we don't have a dish washer, blender or chopper o most cooking gadgets are quite hard for me to figure out!

After we'd cooked up a proper feast - which included meat for the non-veggie cooking club members (the majority!) of doro wat (Ethiopian spiced chicken) and minchet abish which is a beef and chickpea dish - we all ate together. People had brought wine to share but there was also real Ethiopian red wine (very nice) and the famous (and strong) Ethiopian honey wine, Tej. According to my brief research on the internet, Awash is the longest established Ethiopian vineyard.

Exploring the world via cuisine - ie, going out for a meal - is a super simple way to learn about another culture. The next stage is learning to cook a dish or two. I would love to go to Ethiopia and surprise someone there with my new cooking skills, but the next best thing is to invite around Ethiopian friends to my home in London and see if I can serve up a passable miser wat. I'll let you know how it goes...

Over to you?
Where's your favourite place to eat an Ethiopian meal?

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