Recipes With Julie Van Rosendaal: East African Dishes


Local East African communities partnered with CBC Calgary last weekend to launch a new, community-driven storytelling project with a celebration of culture, fashion, art and food.

With over 600 in attendance, everyone was well fed by a few of the city’s best-loved African restaurants and catering businesses.

Central Halal Restaurant on 17th Avenue S.E. brought Somali dishes, EC Fusion & Lounge and Haniel Ethiopian Breakfast House specialize in Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine, and MJ’s African Food store offers catering.

MJ herself brought food representing Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

There’s no better way to connect with people than through food. I was so grateful to have the chance to participate, to hang out in the kitchen and ask questions, and to try so many dishes. Many of them were familiar to me, many not. I drew inspiration from the dishes I tried and conversations with each cook, to share some recipes on this week’s Calgary Eyeopener.

While I didn’t ask each cook for their recipes — cooking on a restaurant scale is different — I did learn about some of their techniques.

I referred to two of my favourite books, In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan, and A Spicy Touch by Noorbanu Nimji. She was a much-loved Calgary cookbook author, educator and community builder who passed away in 2020.

I also referred to a couple of websites: A Congo Cookbook and a Somali food blog called Xawaash, written by a Canadian husband and wife team, Leila and Abdullahi Kassim.

Eggs in a stew.
Doro Wat is one of the best-known Ethiopian dishes. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Doro Wat 

Doro Wat is one of the best-known Ethiopian dishes, a stew of chicken legs with berbere and eggs. I adapted recipes for the doro wat as well as the berbere (a blend of chilies, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, pepper, garlic, onion, fenugreek and nutmeg, which you can buy pre-blended) from In Bibi’s Kitchen, by Hawa Hassan.

  • 3 butter or ghee
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp berbere spice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, finely diced (or half a large can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 6 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the berbere and salt and cook, stirring, until very aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring until they’ve reduced down and the mixture is almost dry, about 10 minutes. 

Add the water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and then nestle them into the pot. Cover and cook, uncovering the pot every so often to stir, until the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour.

Add the eggs and cook, stirring every so often, until the eggs are heated through and nicely coated with the sauce, about 10 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken legs and eggs to a serving dish. Increase the heat to high, return the sauce to a boil, and cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and eggs.

Serves 4-6.

Two pieces of dough.
To make layers, roll out each piece, brush with oil, melted butter or ghee and fold in thirds. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Somali Chapati (Sabaayad)

There are so many versions of chapati throughout the Indian subcontinent. Somali chapati is often folded after it’s rolled, and then rolled again to create flaky layers, like parathas. I took direction for this version from In Bibi’s Kitchen as well as the Xawaash website. 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups milk, warmed
  • 2 tbsp canola or other neutral oil, plus extra for cooking
  • melted butter or ghee (for parathas)

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and oil and stir until the dough comes together. Knead for several minutes, until smooth and elastic, then cover and let rest on the countertop for at least half an hour.

To make plain chapati, pull off egg-sized pieces of dough and roll them very thin on your countertop (don’t flour it because it needs to grip the surface slightly to get very thin). Set a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil or ghee and cook each chapati until it’s blistered on both sides.

To make layers, roll out each piece, brush with oil, melted butter or ghee, and fold in thirds, like a letter; fold again into thirds, making a square package. Let rest for 20 minutes and then roll out very thin, and cook in the skillet as described above. 

Makes about 10 chapati.

Balls of dough.
Mondazi are slightly sweet coconut beignets. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


Mondazi are wonderful, slightly sweet coconut beignets. MJ of MJ’s African Food Store brought them to the event, but this recipe comes from Noorbanu Nimji’s fantastic cookbook, A Spicy Touch.

  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp active dry or instant yeast
  • 50 g creamed coconut or coconut oil, softened
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼-½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • sunflower or canola oil, for frying

Place the warm water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer, if you have a dough hook) and sprinkle with the sugar and yeast. If it’s not instant, or if you want to make sure it’s active, let it dissolve and foam. If it doesn’t foam, you likely need fresh yeast.

Add the creamed coconut, flour, sugar, cardamom and salt and knead for several minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let sit overnight (on the countertop is fine).

Divide the dough into three pieces and pat or roll each into a 4- to 6-inch circle. Cut each into four pieces.

Heat an inch or two of oil in a shallow pot over medium-high heat, and when it’s hot, but not smoking (if you have a thermometer, it should read about 350-375˚F), cook the doughnuts in batches, flipping as needed, until deep golden. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Makes about a dozen mondazi.

Source : CBC