OK, here is a random question; how much do you know about Eritrea? A couple of my mates confessed they had not heard of the country before and others said they knew it was somewhere near Ethiopia but that was it. Fact is, I knew little about Eritrea until I discovered Eritrean food. London is great like that. You find most most cultures represented there, even if in tiny proportions. My first encounter with Eritrean food and culture was a couple of years ago at a lovely restaurant called Mosob in Westbourne Park. The restaurant owner provided us with lots of insights into Eritrean culture and even organised a little quiz to test our knowledge of the country.
Westbourne Park is a bit of trek from Kings Cross and we like to spare a few hours to visit Mosob. It gets a bit tricky as we often tend to go down to London with work or on day trips. Also, they only open after 6 PM on weekdays, another point worth noting. Nevertheless, it is a great place to check out. More recently, I also discovered Adulis, another Eritrean restaurant, which is easier to get to from my London Offices. I like having a few different options at hand.
Eritrean food is has many similarities to South Indian cuisine. Injera, the staple on Eritrean menus, is a bit like the South Indian dosa. It is eaten in a similar fashion, expect that it is not served at room temperature. Similarly, Eritrean food is eaten with your fingers and without cutlery. You use the Injera to scoop the side dishes, a bit like a pseudo spoon. And the side dishes are often spicy-even by my Indian standards! And like Indian food, Eritrean cuisine is hearty, flavoursome and makes you feel happy in your tummy. Except, if you are wimpish and can't handle a spicy dish.
No Eritrean meal feels complete without a coffee ceremony. Fresh coffee beans are are roasted over hot coals (you are encouraged to sample its rich aroma) and then ground. The ground coffee is then emptied into a Jebena and boiling water added to brew the coffee. The coffee is served with pop corn and accompanied by the burning of frankincense- my all time favourite fragrance. In fact, it was after one such coffee ceremony that I decided to buy some frankincense for our garden chimnea. I'm just hoping we have at least a few days of summer this year to use it again.
If you want to learn more about Eritrea, I suggest checking out the Visit Eritrea website or Lonely Planet. If are happy staying in blighty and travelling via food experiences, I'd recommend both Mosob and Adulis. Ann x
* First photo via http://www.mvmtravel.com/