Doro Wat – Spicy Ethiopian Chicken, Tomato, and Onion Stew

19 01 2012

Doro what?

Okay, the easy joke’s out of the way. Doro wat is one of the most popular dishes in Ethiopia, and exemplifies all aspects of the cuisine that keep me coming back to Malasaña’s own Nuria. I tend towards restaurants that fix foods I can’t make nearly as well myself, and the spreads of saucy veg, egg, and meats ladled across spongy, slightly sour injera has always been a special treat out on the town. The particular mix of spices in each dish mesh to produce flavors wholly distinct from other schools of cooking with which I am more familiar (Thai, French, Mexican, Arabic…), and I’ve somehow always categorized them as Beyond My Kitchen Expertise.

This stereotypical shot of a kaleidoscope amalgamation of spices should be a clear enough indication: no more unfounded excuses. Casu Marzu‘s inspired me again, this time with an image of scored egg submerged in tomato paste spiked with spice. I need it immediately. I spend the morning scouring the musty, earthy shops of Lavapiés for berbere, the complex Ethiopian spice mixture based primarily on heaps of ground chile. A recurring pattern of blank shopkeeper looks send me back to the original recipe, whereupon I discover that I have nearly all the recommended spices at hand. Missing are fenugreek and allspice, which gives me the ideal excuse to poke my head in a corner of Madrid that’s been on my list for well over a year.

One jaunt through southern Malasaña later, and Spicy Yuli becomes my favorite store in the city. Spices by weight! Whole and ground! Curry mixes, galangal, ground cardamom, kaffir lime leaves, Sichuan pepper! This last one I pick up for good measure, along with the afore-sought allspice and fenugreek. Upon my proclaimed affinity for the spicy, the shopkeep gifts me a tiny packet of dry harissa, which she recommends I infuse with oil and enjoy with bread and olives. Mm-hmm.

The berbere comes together as a spectacularly red mountain of powder, insidiously coating the insides of my nostrils with hot paprika more than once. From here the prep could not be simpler, and my slight modifications to the original write-up add a splash of color in a scarlet sea.

One taste destroys me. It’s hot and earthy in a way that links me to my memories of Ethiopian eats at restaurants, yet far better. Fresher, more complicated. I find myself wanting to eat enormous amounts of the tomato-onion blend, to gobble fiery, saucy eggs until I burst. I content myself with reserving leftovers, but only just.

A small warning: I found myself absurdly hyped up after munching this around 10.30 PM, utterly unable to get any shut-eye until well into the wee hours of the morning. This morning I read up on hot paprika, and, in addition to being a top-notch source of vitamin C, it appears to be a stimulant. Doro wat may be best as afternoon food, or, alternatively, as late-night rocket fuel for long lasting groovy moves.

Doro Wat
adapted from As Warm as a July Tomato

1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup berbere
1 can tomato paste
1 can whole tomatoes
1 whole small chicken, skinned, de-boned, and divided
hard boiled eggs, one per person
several healthy handfuls spinach

berbere (makes 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/4 cup ground chili
1/4 cup hot paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch allspice

1. Over low heat, sauteé the onion and garlic in the butter until onion turns translucent around the edges. Add in berbere and toss to coat.

2. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add can of tomatoes, dividing them with your spatula.

3. Add chicken pieces to pan plus some water until the mixture is semi-liquid; bring to a simmer and let cook about 20 minutes. Add more water along the way if mixture looks dry. You’re aiming for a thick stew-like consistency here.

4. Meanwhile, boil the eggs (one per person). Cool them under cold running water, peel, and score with a knife. Settle them in the pan and let cook with the rest for a minute.

5. Add spinach and mix. Let cook until wilted. Serve, with rice, couscous, or bread if you wish.

Luchana CouchSurfers – September

27 09 2011

For some, too much is never enough: my enormous flat bulges at the seams with its ten international residents, plus their various and frequent guests, yet at the beginning of the month we collectively elect to open our couches to travelers passing through the city using the CouchSurfing website. I’ve had an account since just before I moved to Thailand, where I used it not only in terms of surfing and hosting, but also as a means to establish an ever-dynamic social base. CouchSurfers are all over the map, coming from every country and camino, sharing a passion for meeting other travelers and swapping stories.

After introducing the idea and the website to the uninitiated of the Luchana house, we collectively decide to give it a go; I use my account to filter and organize incoming requests, posting the schedule of anticipated guests on a calendar print-out in the living room. September turns out to be particularly high-traffic, owing to the frequent presence of two further guests occupying the other sofas:

1) Gio, Columbian photographer/videographer and previous resident of my very own room in the house, has just returned from months of solo travel through Spain and Portugal. He’s a Luchana institution by this point, ever the wanderer but always returning to beloved Madrid, picking up new kitchen skills in the process.

2) Max, German-American bartender/egg-eater/entrepreneur, is suddenly one of my longest-standing friends: we met six years ago living on the Earlham Wellness Hall, of all places. Philosophies have since shifted, and Max has spent the past while bartending in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He’s got his sights set on ambition, however, and I like to think I was a large part of convincing him to apply for the Madrid auxiliar program, which he’ll be beginning along with me next week (although not in the same Instituto).

Apart from couch-crashers Gio and Max, Luchana has racked up five official CouchSurfers during the month of September:

1) Viktor, Mexican currently studying Latin and Greek in Romania, inaugurates the CouchSurfing experiment the very next day; he notices my profile proclaiming me “Online Now!” and inquires as to whether he might be able to stay that same night. I waver just a moment before responding positively, deciding that getting the ball rolling immediately is the best way to keep enthusiasm high.

Viktor arrives in the afternoon and we set out for a stroll, during which he teaches me much more about Spanish history as reflected in the city statues and structures than I think I ever managed to glean from SPAN 402: Histories of Spain. He is linguist, writer, and philosopher; together we successfully complete a mission to locate blank sheets of paper, his preferred tool of the trade. Over rooftop cañas, we discuss the Meaning of Meaning, singularity vs. author vs. reader, and the above pictured Vaso de la Libertad.

Upon departure, Viktor leaves the house a lengthy letter of thanks pegged to the living room wall, complete with verbal flourishes in antiquated Spanish. He’s an ideal introduction, and has extended an invitation to visit Romania that I may just accept.

2) David, Brit touring the country by thumb, arrives shortly after my return from Berlin. He’s on the quiet side, and unfortunately we don’t end up coinciding a great deal, to the extent that I even lack a proper photo of the guy. He crashes here for a couple nights, then heads out.

3) Alessandra, Napolitan living in London for the past year, is quickly revealed to be a kindred foodie heart; we sample sardine-stuffed olives at El Mercado de San Miguel and whiskey-topped tinto de verano at La Paca. Neighborhood touring takes us further south to calle Argumosa in Lavapiés, where we talk ex-punk phases and living with mainly males. We share a lively ensalada mixta and grilled squid dinner with Max and Gio at a traditional-style Spanish spot in Malasaña.

The following evening we reconvene over a bottle of La Rioja’s best Alessandra’s thoughtfully brought to the house, and I whip up an extra-large batch of palak paneer as a spicy accompaniment. New housemate Miguel joins in the feasting, which is followed by a miniature art exhibition on the sofa consisting of of work of the present creative types. Longtime Luchanero Eugenio reveals himself to be of multiple talents.

4) Sylvain, French computer engineer brought to the city by his company, elects to extend his stay in Spain over the weekend as well. We share morcilla, pimientos de Padrón, pan de jamón y tomate, bacalao, and fried eggplant with salmorejo, along with a glass or two of cool white wine at nearby Lateral. Around 1AM, post-stuffing ourselves well beyond the point of sheer gluttony, we venture back to the piso to check out the party that’s surely happening. We enter into darkness and silence – shit! Looks like the piso’s taking the night off. However, Max arrives soon after, followed by CouchSurfer Eddie and his hosts Kaeli and Fernando, who I’ve invited to the assumed party at my place. The plan quickly shifts to checking out the Malasaña scene, and we kick it in funky Tupperware. The night wraps up with absolutely all present breaking it down on the dance floor to early 90s hip hop jams.

5) Eddie, born in Ukraine with roots in Israel and high-school experience in Boston, is currently working for CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He’s a major player in the get-down-stay-down that goes-down Friday night in Tupperware, and the beat refuses to go out for the count; next up is a daytrip to Toledo, in which I rediscover the best asadillo Manchego in España. Nighttime brings the much-anticipated piso party, including guest appearances by Kaeli and Fernando, and all proceed to boogie their pants off into some wee corner of the nearly-morning.

The next day brings gastronomic experimentation even for me; Eddie’s heard tell that they enjoy pig ear ’round these parts, and of course I’m game. Supercutre Bar El Jamón in Lavapiés has the porky goods, and I sample glutinous, vaguely meaty oreja for the first and last time. The pimientos de Padrón go down much easier, so much so that I’m beginning to think they may be a new obsession. Evening wanderings include an attempt to take part in a swing event that leads us instead to talking public art at La Tabacalera, then meeting up with Max for red wine plus caviar-flecked ensalada de mariscos at La Buga del Lobo.

Ocho y Medio Club – fotopost

13 12 2010

Street Art/Vandalism

29 11 2010

Madrid is full of incredible street art, ranging from this hyperdetailed saxophonist in Malasaña…


… to this lonely pair o’ peepers in Delicias…

… to this colorful queen on Ronda de Embajadores…

… to this exemplary piece of metro vandalism in Callao…

… to the unintentional beauty in an excess of anuncios near Gran Vía.

Tamaryn/Eat Skull – Club Nasti, Primavera Club 2010 – fotopost

25 11 2010

Club Nasti in Malasaña


hipster feets

Eat Skull

groovy baby!

Mientras Tanto

19 11 2010

The brilliant gleam of the new in Madrid has worn thin: the seductive beckon of unremarkable routine can offer too attractive a monotony to brush off like it ain’t no thang. Yet the medley of thangs continues, relentlessly, to occur, whether or not it falls subject to meticulous blogging.

The conversation of how to intermingle working with minors in a government-funded position with the Rights of the Blogger has come up several times, always concluding on a similar note: best to avoid it. I attribute part of my pause in daily wordiness to that phenomenon; this enormous part of my experience here has got to be treated as a bit of a delicate taboo. It isn’t that there’s anything specific I’m omitting – very few students ever get thrown in the Chokey, at least at José Luis Sampedro – but the weight of what I necessarily represent given my unique position can loom, heavy and ominous, when I consider regaling my clamoring international readers with sordid tales of what those sweet little beasties did this time, goddammit.

The other day, I noticed with alarm the extreme frequency with which I was talking about my job while not actually working, and made a pact with myself to immediately staunch that particular river. It grows more obvious with each day: teaching English is a means for me. That’s not what my Fulbright Personal Statement would have you believe, but let’s be straight up here (Straight BlogTalk with Torkington: Like It Ain’t No Thang). With each day, I’m allowing those myriad ingrained traditional understandings of What I Ought To Be Accomplishing With My Life to wither, and doing my damnedest to concentrate all my love and energy on unfurling leafy tendrils into self-development. I am a writer, I am a photographer, I am a chef, I am a linguist – but, more importantly, I am happy, day-to-day and long-term, in a way that makes sense for me specifically.

How ’bout THAT for stinky cheese, dear readers?

It’s okay to be a bit jealous. Let’s go out for cañas and we’ll talk about it.

Tupperware – fotopost

23 10 2010