Siljo: Exotic Ethiopian Fasting Cuisine


It is all about commemorating Abiy Tsom -55 days long LENT offering or fasting season before Fasika (Ethiopian Easter Holiday) -which has been taking place since Feb 24, 2014  and which is going to last until April 20, 2014 for this year.

In order to do so, picking one particular dish from many Ye’ Tsom Migeb (Ethiopian Fasting cuisines) and presenting it to the world was a little bit bewildering but since I find it appropriate to do so before the fasting season departs and since I had to pick one for this particular post, I present the very interesting, exotic and one of my favorite Ethiopian fasting cuisines and of course to many other Ethiopian’s too which is Siljo. Besides presenting facts and details about this particular Ethiopian fasting cuisine, its recipe is also included for adventurous food zealous out there who wants to try it at home.


Here in Ethiopia LENT has a broad and deep meaning religious wise but to express its overall implication in a very simple way, it is keeping oneself from indulging body, mind and soul in every worldly aspect and Food is one big part of it.


Since Today’s topic is all about FOOD, here is something about fasting regarding this particular topic. Besides from not eating until after 3 p.m., fasting is being reserved from eating meat and all dairy products, and for many Orthodox religious followers fasting also includes not eating Fish related dishes too even though few still do. All in all, at this fasting season simply and strictly eating vegetables and dishes made out of different kinds of legumes.


Siljo is simply a fermented puree made out of Ye’ Bakela Duket (Ethiopian Fava beans flour), unfiltered safflower seed milk, spices and herbs. Siljo serves as a side dish. Its slightly tart taste, strong mustard flavor along with a nutty and creamy texture make it a fasting dish that goes well with many Ethiopian spicy dishes.


From all the facts that makes Siljo one of the renowned dish for fasting season is that Ethiopians loves to eat their spicy stews with Ayb (like dry cottage cheese) or plain yogurt and drink their unfiltered homemade milk with a touch of Tena Adam (Rue herb) so for someone who enjoys Milk, cheese and yogurt, preparing this one particular cuisine – Siljo – is like coming closer in satisfying these yearnings all at once during the fasting season for Ethiopians.


Another interesting fact…since it takes 3 days for Siljo to get fermented and ready to be eaten, there is one particular dish and a drink to be enjoyed which is made out of unfiltered safflower seed homemade milk only.


Ye’ Suff Fitfit (crumbled pieces of Injera with unfiltered safflower seed milk, minced onion, green paper and salt to create a white milky dish that has mild, nutty flavor.)


To make the waiting worthwhile, here comes the unfiltered safflower seed milk with the touch of Tena Adam (rue)… so delicious.


As many exotic Ethiopian cuisines, preparing Siljo takes time, skill, patience, passion for food and of course a decent recipe handed down from Ethiopian grandmothers or mothers.


Witnessing our Ethiopian grandmothers or mothers preparing Siljo at home passionately for family and for the season using almost all the traditional utensils is just an earnest and beautiful experience let alone being part of it. In spite of  its time consuming and sometimes daunting, Ethiopian home cooking offers amazing values like bringing family, friends and neighbors together, beautiful memories, inspiration and of course amazingly delicious and authentic cuisines.


Using timber or stone made traditional coffee and other spice grinder (Mukecha and Zenezena in Amharic) to crush the safflower seeds after they cooked, picking all the right and appropriate spices and herbs from the flamboyant Ethiopian market as they are, putting the spices under the blazing African sun to dry so that it would be easy to grind it of course with Mukecha and Zenezena and prepare their very own spice blend at home depending on their own taste and persona that gives insight about each individual cook and which obviously makes Siljo’s recipe and even its taste slightly differs from one household to the other are just among the many beautiful details that brings unique energy to this particular cuisine.


Besides the details, it is Ethiopian elderly women who are behind the world’s best kept secret of exotic Ethiopian cooking which includes the traditional home cooking of Siljo. I am really honored to capture the process which I truly believe is so mesmerizing, need to be showcased, documented and most importantly to honor all the Ethiopian women behind it, genuine home cooking itself and of course for my passion in giving homage to the ordinary.


Now it’s about time to share the recipe of Siljo with the world… but before doing so, it is good to remember that this particular recipe adapted from a typical Ethiopian kitchen run by an elderly Ethiopian woman and probably used larger portions because it was covered at the time when this fasting Ethiopian cuisine was prepared for a typical Ethiopian large family therefore, if you want to try this at home using this recipe, it is possible to reduce the portions of the ingredients accordingly.


1 Kg of Suff (safflower seed)

1 Kg of Yebakela Duket (Ethiopian Fava Beans Flour)

2 teaspoons flour of Netch Azmud (Aswan seed / Bishop’s Weed)

2 teaspoons flour of Korerima (Cardamom)

6 teaspoons flour of Senafich (Mustard Seed)

1 teaspoon flour of TikurAzmud (Ethiopian Black Cumin)

1 teaspoon flour of Ethiopian Koseret Herb ( Lippia Adoensis )

2 teaspoons of Salt



Boil 5-6 cups of water and add the Suff (safflower seed) and cook until it cooked well.


After its cooked grind it.


Marinate the crushed safflower seed with 4 liters of water for a little while to get the unfiltered safflower seed milk and strain to remove the shell.


In a low heat boil 4 liters of safflower seed milk.


In another bowl mix the fava beans flour using 3 to 4 cups of safflower seed milk till you get a thicker mixture without lumps.


Pour the fava beans paste into the boiling safflower milk; stir continuously so you do not get lumps. After you make a very thick paste consistency – continue to cook, stir on and off for at least 45 min.


Now its time for spices and herb… so mix the spices and herb flour all together in another bowl with 1 cup of safflower seed milk and pour it into the cooking puree and add salt to taste.


Turn off the heat and let it seat till it cools off and transfer the mixture to container with a lead.


Put 5 to 6 cloves of garlic pierced with like kebab stick and fresh Tena Adam (rue) herbs to get exotic flavor and keep it in a refrigerator or room temperature for 3 days to ferment and to get a firmer paste.


After 3 days here is your Siljo looking so delicious and ready to be served with Injera along with other delicious fasting dishes and of course to be eaten.


Cooked passionately for home, for family, for loved ones, for neighbors and most importantly to honor the season…


So Ethiopian, So Natural, So Divine, So Delicious and So Healthy!

About Sara Genene

I am a traveler... on an endless journey of self-discovery!
This entry was posted in Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Ethnic Food, Food, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Uncategorized, Vegan Cooking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Siljo: Exotic Ethiopian Fasting Cuisine

  1. langano says:

    Oh wow, no wonder it is one of my favourite dish. I never knew it took soo much effort to make Silijo. But, it is soo worth it! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe and your episode about Fasting. Intriguing. Gob Bless.

  2. Tariku says:

    Siljo, ye Suff mettett & Tena Aam…is there something as healthy as these three? Thank you, dear Sara for reminding us this! I used to have a Rue plant on my balcony, now I miss it much, such a wonderful herb! Great presentation as usual, Sis!

  3. Awesome post Sara,rich culture and cuisine ,Beautiful pictures.Regards.jalal

  4. Wonderfully educational! Thank you for sharing so much about your traditions for Lent and the lovely photos as well. I have shared it on my Facebook page so others may learn more.

  5. linda says:

    Sara-thank you so much for this posting.My mother’s side of the family are Greek Orthodox.I have several recipes from my great grandmother that I cook frequently today.She observed Lent very strictly,and did not eat meat,dairy or sweets for 40 days.I make her lentil soup all the time!

  6. bekele asefa says:

    it is good ,in the future I want to learn more from you .

  7. Violet says:

    Thank you for sharing your culture and traditions through your words, recipe & beautiful photos! I always learn so much from you through your blog! 🙂 Cheers, Violet

  8. Lakech says:

    Thank you. Very helpful.

  9. Pingback: Addis Ababa: Healthy Soul Food Joint | About Addis Ababa

  10. Wow! What an informative post. I look forward to reading more of your recipes and to trying them as well. Thank you for your hard work!

  11. Mehret says:

    This aricle made my life today, I am passionate about health and I think on many ways african cuisine and herbs are not studied to the extent that asian/european foods are. As a health coach that wants to help my people live to at their optimum best, its always humbling to go back to the knowledge that we already know, that its all within us. Thank you!

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