This year we are participating in a series from Multicultural Kid Blogs about Easter around the world. I thought it would be really interesting to “visit” a country outside Europe and North America; however, for the most part it is quite difficult to find out about Easter celebrations in those countries unless you happen to know someone from there or are lucky enough to have witnessed it yourself.
Ethiopia is one of the countries that has been written about a bit more. It does make a brief appearance in a couple books I found at the library, but for the most part I relied on online sources. Again, most mentions of it are brief, though you can find some great pictures!
One of the main things to know is that Easter (Fasika) is celebrated in Ethiopia according to the Orthodox calendar, which tends to run a week or two later than the western Church calendar. (The Ethiopian Church is associated with the Coptic Church of Egypt). Also, the eight weeks leading up to Easter are marked by a fast from meat and dairy.
When Easter itself comes, it is a national holiday celebrated with great festivity. The best resource I found about it is this article which explores the food, drink, and customs of Ethiopian Easter. It really gives you a sense of what it might be like to celebrate Fasika in Ethiopia, enjoying a special meal with your family or perhaps visiting the market.
To explore further with my Monkeys, I chose to make Defo Dabo, a recipe mentioned in the above article as being traditional for Easter as well as other festive occasions, such as weddings and birthdays.
For the recipe itself I followed this one from Celtnet Recipes. Please, please, visit their site to get an authentic recipe for Defo Dabo. What follows it not authentic. What follows is what happens when you can’t find the traditional spices (bishop’s weed, black cumin seeds) and instead let your 5 year old talk you into adding chocolate chips and cinnamon. At least we used banana leaves to cook it!
Keep in mind also that the recipe below is on a much smaller scale than what is typically done in Ethiopia, where it is meant to be enjoyed by large groups of people celebrating a festive occasion. The Celtnet recipe is for a loaf one-sixth the traditional size, and I cut the size in half again for my small gang of little revelers.
Traditionally, the dough is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a large clay pot over an open fire. As much as the boys would have preferred this method, I followed Celtnet’s lead in keeping the banana leaves but using a deep dish pan and a conventional oven.
A note about banana leaves: If you don’t live in a tropical country, look for them in an Asian or Mexican market. We got ours from the latter, where they sold large plastic bags of them in the produce section. (They are often used to make tamales).
And layer more of them on top of the bread than you would think you’d need, as they tend to shrink when baked. They do make the house smell wonderful, though! And if you have tons of them left over, as we do, you can always do some more cooking with these great international recipes or do a craft!
Ethiopian Recipe for Easter: Defo Dabo Bread
400 g of flour (approx 3 1/4 c)
1 packet yeast
cinnamon (enough so that each little helper gets several shakes)
chocolate chips (we used about 1/3 of a 11.5 oz bag, since that was all I had in the pantry!)
2 T olive oil
4 T sugar
1/2 T salt
1 very large banana leaf, cut into manageable pieces*
*Don’t attempt to just rip the banana leaf into pieces – the main part of the leaf will tear easily, but the central stem can be difficult to tear and becomes rather sticky.
Mix the yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add about 1 cup of warm water and stir to dissolve the dry ingredients. Cover the bowl and let rest for about 10 minutes, so the yeast can activate. The mixture should be bubbling at this point. Mix in the oil and cinnamon then add the flour.
Mix with your hands to make a soft dough (add more water or flour as needed to get the right consistency). Add the chocolate chips and knead so that they are evenly distributed. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and let it rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
When it has risen, line a deep baking dish with the banana leaf (can substitute greased baking parchment). Punch the dough down then add it to the pan. Wrap the banana leaves over the top and cover the top with the remaining leaves.
Set aside to rise for another 20 minutes. During this time, start preheating your oven to 350 degrees then bake the bread for about an hour or until cooked through.
Take the bread out of the pan and careful remove the banana leaves. Let cool before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
This post is part of the Easter Around the World series on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Follow along as we explore how Easter is celebrated in different countries!