Food Memories: Alicha Doro
Words by Fikir AssefaPhotography by Lil Dix
My favourite thing about alicha is the way my finger tips are stained yellow after I have eaten it. It is something that transports me back to being a child, looking at my turmeric fingers wondering how long they would be yellow for.
Traditionally, Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, with stews and other accompaniments spooned onto a plate of injera, a dark, sourdough pancake. You then tear off pieces of the injera and use them to scoop up bite size morsels.
Alicha is a good place to start with Ethiopian food. Slowly cooked, minced onion and garlic forms the body of the sauce and is an essential building block in Ethiopian cooking. Kibbeh, a clarified butter similar to ghee, is then added to make the base for different stews using various spice mixes. The spice mixes can be fairly complex, in the case of berbere for example, a deeply flavoured and spicy combination of up to ten different spices. Alicha is a simpler sauce, using turmeric which is easily found in the UK, but can also include ginger, ajwain and black cardomom.
Ethiopian cooking also includes many vegan dishes, as the omission of meat, dairy and eggs is common place throughout the country during periods of fasting, which add up to about half of the year. This means that dishes like alicha are easily made without the kibbeh or meat, instead using oil and vegetables. The chicken in this recipe can be replaced with potatoes, carrots or white cabbage. Simply chop into bite sized pieces, and add to the pot instead of chicken. Simmer until the vegetables are just cooked, and take care not too add too much water, as you won’t be able to continue cooking the sauce once the vegetables are cooked.
4 chicken thighs or 2 chicken leg
8 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps oil (sunflower or vegetable are fine)
1.5 tbsp turmeric
2 tsps salt
You will also need:
Large Saucepan with lid
Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Put the chicken in a bowl, and squeeze over the juice of the lemon. Cover in cling film and keep in the fridge. You can do this the night before, or just before you start cooking the dish.
Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic, then blitz in the food processor. Take care to pulse them down to a puree – if you blitz them for too long or too fast, you may end up with onion juice.
Put the onion, garlic and oil in the pan and cook on a gentle heat for 10 – 30 minutes. The puree should not take any colour. Stir occasionally, adding water to the pan if the puree becomes very dry.
Once the onions are cooked, mix in the turmeric and cook the onions for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken with enough water to cover them, put on the lid, and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot and add water if necessary, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks.
Once the chicken is cooked, if the sauce is still very thin, simmer for a while longer. Add the salt and serve the sauce on injera, or with rice.