This humble but enticing dish of potatoes, cabbage, and carrots is cooked in a mildly spicy and extremely flavorful mix of ginger, turmeric, and pepper. This whole thing is inspired by a traditional Ethiopian vegetable stew called tikil gomen. It is traditional element on a vegetarian platter, known as fasting foods in Ethiopia. This winningly simple dish is definitely one of those easy dishes that tastes like way more than its individual parts. Serve it alongside lentils, grilled meats, roasted chicken, or broiled fish.
While this dish is delicious with just a tablespoon of butter or oil, the flavors really jump if you're willing to up it a bit! Go for the full 4 tablespoons for the best flavor.
Warning: this dish contains turmeric, which stains pretty much anything it touches (it colors things so well that it's used as a natural dye). Consider putting away the white linen napkins when you serve it!
- Prep the aromatics: Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the garlic cloves and smash them with the side of a chef's knife, the flat side of a meat tenderizer, or the bottom of a small frying pan. Do not chop or mince the garlic, just smashing it releases the right amount of garlic intensity for this dish and will help it stay sweet and not get too pungent when marrying with the other flavors.
- Melt the butter or heat the oil in a large frying pan or medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and salt and cook, stirring frequently. After 1 minute, add the smashed garlic cloves. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and turning translucent, about 5 more minutes.
- While the onion cooks, prep the vegetables: Cut the cabbage in half, if needed, cut out and discard the core, and then chop the leaves into bite-size pieces. Peel the potatoes and chop them into bite-size pieces. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size pieces. Having the potatoes. cabbage, and carrots all more or less the same size is part of the final charm of this dish, so keeping them all roughly similarly sized is a good idea. Set all of the vegetables aside.
- Add the ginger, turmeric, and pepper to the onion and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped cabbage, stir to combine, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the cabbage starts to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir, cover, and cook until completely wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped potatoes, carrots, and 2 cups of water. Increase the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the vegetables are completely tender, about 15 minutes. If necessary, cook with the cover off to boil off and reduce the liquid before serving.