Citizens, I am saddened to report that the Haruspex of Health – the usually hale and hearty TFD! – has been severely under the weather the last week, prompting me to miss posting this recipe on Thursday the 12th as I had originally planned. This particular day was a cause for great celebration in Ethiopia, where it marked the start of their Lunar New Year, known as Enkutatash (this year, it was a day late due to this being a Leap Year in the Ethiopian calendar). One of the great treats of the holiday are these delightful baked snacks of spiced dough, known as ‘dabo kolo’. Think Ethiopian bar snack or pretzel and you’re not totally off-the-mark.
The Ethiopian new year signifies the promise of good harvest weather–this noble tradition is also said to have biblical origins. The Queen of Sheba Makeda returned from her visit to King Solomon, and the elders of the tribes offered her Jewels known as “enku”. Hence ‘”Enkutatash” translates to the “Gift of Jewels”. Dabo kolo are a traditional snack in both Ethiopia and Eritrea during this festive time.
Enkutatash (Ethiopic: እንቁጣጣሽ), as previously noted, is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is 11 September (or, during a leap year, 12 September) according to the Gregorian calendar.
This holiday is based on the Ethiopian calendar, which was fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 BCE by Emperor Augustus of Rome with a start date of 29 August J.C., thus establishing the New Year on this day. The date marks the approximate end of the “rainy season”. It has also been associated traditionally with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in ca. 980 BCE.
Large celebrations are held around the country, notably at the Ragual Church on Entoto mountain.
According to InCultureParent, “after attending church in the morning, families gather to share a traditional meal of injera (flat bread) and wat (stew). Later in the day, young girls donning new clothes, gather daisies and present friends with a bouquet, singing New Year’s songs.” According to the Ethiopian Tourism Commission, “Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Modern Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated – in lieu of the traditional bouquet of flowers.”
The Ethiopian counting of years begins in the year 8 of the common era (CE). This is because the common era follows the calculations of Dionysius, a 6th-century monk, while the non-Chalcedonian countries continued to use the calculations of Annius, a 5th-century monk, which had placed the Annunciation of Christ exactly 8 years later. For this reason, on Enkutatash in the year 2016 of the Gregorian calendar, it became 2009 in the Ethiopian calendar.
My version of dabo kolo is basically the traditional one, but with a few sprinklings of TFD fairy dust to really make it sing! Instead of just regular old butter or oil to toss them with, I strongly prefer to massively up the spice factor by using Ethiopian curried butter, known as Nit’ir qibe. My recipe for this may be found here. You’ll also want to spice these dabo kolo up the proper Ethiopian way, using my recipe for the unmatched flavors of Berbere.
Next, I also call for a bit of turmeric in the dough for color and flavor and also a decidedly untraditional sprinkling of smoked salt, bringing them even closer into pretzel territory. Leave the smoked salt and turmeric out for a more classic rendition of the recipe. I also recommend a bit of Teff flour, which is native to Ethiopia and is a renowned superfood and traditional for use in the cuisine. I prefer the ‘ivory’-colored variant for this recipe, but you can leave it out if you so choose – buy it here.
Citizens, these little crunchy bites are spicy, salty, buttery, delicious and totally addictive – I hope you try them forthwith and think fondly of your suffering Leader as you do so…
Battle on – the Generalissimo