National Vegetarian Week 2021 - a chat with Helen Mebrate from ethiopianfoodie
National Vegetarian Week 2021 – a chat with Helen Mebrate from ethiopianfoodie
Known on Instagram as ethiopianfoodie, Helen Mebrate has shared her passion for Ethiopian food with her followers since 2017.
This year, we’re delighted Helen is supporting National Vegetarian Week and the Veggie 123 challenge. She chats to us about her favourite dishes and her delicious Ethiopian Squash Stew recipe on the National Vegetarian Week website.
You have a cookbook – tell us about it.
My ebook is called Ethiopian Home Cooking and features a selection of plant-based and gluten-free Ethiopian recipes. We also recently started a spice line called Amaarech which has all the essential Ethiopian spices. These really make the recipes come alive.
What are your favourite recipes from your book?
The first dish that comes to mind is Shiro, the national Ethiopian dish, made with roasted and ground chickpeas and fava beans. It’s very simple to make, has a velvety texture, and is delicious with a simple tomato salad. Our Amaarech Shiro blend is one of our bestsellers.
What are your favourite ingredients and which do you think is most versatile?
It would have to be Amaarech Berbere, the most important Ethiopian spice blend. It’s essential in Ethiopian cooking but you can also add it to sauces, soups, marinades, and roasts. If you mix it with a little red wine, mustard, honey, and oil, you’ll have a scrumptious dip called awaze.
Which veggie or vegan fakeaway would you like to master?
Fish and chips! I’ve tried it a couple of times – with tofu rolled in nori-and-beer batter – but it’s never come out quite the way I want it. It’s hard to get the flaky texture on the tofu. I’ll keep trying!
Have you ever tweaked a recipe to make it veggie or vegan?
Yes I do it all the time. A favourite of mine is to swap out the meat for tempeh – it works great in Ethiopian stews.
Why do you think veggie and vegan food is increasing in popularity?
It’s much easier to be a vegan now than it was even a few years ago. Meat replacements are widely available and very tasty. People are also getting conscious of the effect meat and dairy industries are having on our planet.
How often do you cook from scratch and do ever just fancy a microwave meal?
In my house we nearly always cook from scratch unless we’re having burgers and chips!
Which of your veggie recipes would you say is sure to please even your meat-eating friends?
I have a pumpkin stew in my ebook that seems to go down particularly well with meat-eaters.
Who inspired you to discover more about vegetarian food?
As an Ethiopian, it’s actually part of my culture. In Ethiopia Orthodox Christians fast for more 180 days a year. On those days they will only eat vegan food. We have a word for it, tsom.
For National Vegetarian Week this year we’re encouraging people to get involved with our Veggie 123 challenge – which celeb would you nominate to go veggie for the week?
I’d love to see Paul Hollywood experiment with vegan baking.