Upon first glance, there is nothing that looks “Ethiopian” about this dish, which is basically a pasta. But this trout spaghetti has a place in Ethiopian history from when Italy occupied the country during the Scramble for Africa. At the beginning of the 20th century, European powers raced to colonized African territories and Italy seized the eastern territories also known as the Horn of Africa. The Italian Facist government was met with great resistance from Ethiopians and their rule lasted for only a brief period. However, during that time cultural exchange resulted in pasta becoming popular in the country and today it is still served in major cities like Addis Ababa.
This recipe is uniquely Ethiopian due to its use of berbere which is cooked with other aromatics and olive oil to create a light but spicy and complex sauce. The dish incorporates barely “ceviched” slices of trout and adds a bright note in this dish. The pasta can be finished off with a few spoonfuls of ayib, an Ethiopian homemade cheese that is similar in texture and flavor to cottage cheese, that mellows out the strong heat of the berbere. Here, I've substituted with a ricotta and the results were perfect!
– 3 pounds of skinless boneless rainbow trout, sliced on a bias into 1/4 inch thick slices
– 1 tablespoon of chopped mint
– juice of 2 limes
– 2 tablespoons of berbere, divided
– 1/2 cup of olive oil, divided
– 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 pound of spaghetti
– 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
– 2 basil leaves, chopped
– 1 15 ounce tub of ricotta
– a large bundle of chives, minced (about 1/3 cup)
– sea or kosher salt
Start by prepping the fish and place the slices in a large bowl or dish. In a bowl mix together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of berbere, juice of 2 limes and mint. Mix well and pour over the fish and cover with plastic wrap. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours turning the fish halfway through.
In a separate bowl, fold the chives into the ricotta with a pinch of salt and set aside.
Start boiling water in a large pot for the pasta.
In a large pan (large enough to hold the pasta) melt the butter and rest of the 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of berbere and stir in the sliced onions.
Cook stirring occasionally until the onions start to caramelize then turn off the heat.
Cook off the spaghetti and transfer drained pasta into the onion mixture. Drain the fish of the marinade and set aside. Add a hefty pinch of salt and toss the pasta and onion sauce together. Gently fold in the fish the residual heat will lightly cook the fish.
Serve with the ricotta mixture and enjoy the beautiful flavors of Ethiopia!
(Recipe adapted from The Soul of a New Cuisine)