You might know that we have an Ethiopian exchange student for the year (who is from Norway). Her Aunt Zeleka (originally from Gulele, Addis Ababa) came to visit us for the weekend and offered to make my kids breakfast this morning: “It’s kinche… Ethiopian oatmeal.” I vaguely remembered eating this while in Ethiopia, and was excited to have someone show us how to make it.
I was surprised when I saw that there were only 3 ingredients…cracked wheat, water, and oil or butter! Super-easy, nutritious, cheap, relatively fast– and kids love hot breakfast foods (as do grown-ups!).
Many- if not most- cultures have a porridge-type food or drink that consists of a grain heated in water. In Mexico, hot water and corn masa makes atole, in China there is rice-based congee, and in Peru they boil quinoa for breakfast. I have been told in all of these places a similar story: their hot, thick drink warms kids up in the morning (especially in the cool mountains, or in places with no heat), and fills up their tummies so they can pay attention in school or with whatever work they have to do. In many cases, this is the first food a baby will eat and be able to digest.
In Ethiopia, one of these common breakfast porridges is kinche, and is made from boiled cracked wheat (bulgar). Zeleka first took about a cup of the cracked wheat, and put it in a saucepan full of water (I would guess 4-5 cups of water). She asked if I had any kibbeh (aka “ghee,” or clarified butter) on hand, and I did not. She told me not to worry, that when it’s not available they simply add 1/4 c of vegetable oil. We boiled it until the water disappeared and then added a bit of salt. Although I have read numerous times to add different spices or onions, Aunt Zeleka insisted that they eat this alone where she is from. It is common for breakfast, and then many times is reheated and eaten on injera for dinner with the rest of the meal. When you make it, show the kids where Ethiopia is. It’s an easy country to remember- notice how it fills up the Horn of Africa, yet has no coastline. My kids call it the rhino’s horn, and it was one of the first countries they could identify in Africa. Enjoy!