September 20th, 2007
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Categories: Food/Recipes

The other day I was bored with the traditional pancakes-or-eggs breakfasts that we usually have around here. I thought of the breakfast polenta that I sometimes make. I wasn’t sure if our new girls would like it, but I remembered reading that in Ethiopian there is a porridge-type food called genfo that is served with a dab of oil and berbere. I decided to make polenta and offer it with a choice of either Ethiopian (oil/berbere) or American (sugar/butter) toppings and see how it went over with the new girls.

It didn’t, and when the next day our older girl offered to make REAL genfo, I discovered why the girls had looked at mine so cross-eyed. I make polenta about the consistency of quick-set pudding–it is fairly soft and no way would a spoon stand up in it. Ethiopian genfo is very thick and firm– more like soft playdough.


Frankly, I wasn’t at all sure I would like it. But I gamely gave it a try (yes, berbere– lots of it– at 9 AM) and was surprised to find that it actually is quite good. I am not sure if the recipe would appeal to the average American palate, but I figured there have to be other parents like me, eager to give their kids something familiar to eat in the mornings. SO here is my daughter’s rendition of genfo.


1-1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups water
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil (you can use butter)
1 tsp berbere

–Mix flour, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
–In a medium saucepan boil water and stir in 1 T. oil or butter.
–Pour 1 cup boiling water into a cup for later.
–Add flour and stir well so there are no lumps. Mixture will thicken quickly and get extremely thick. Stir very hard for about a minute, leaving heat on medium-high.
–Pour 1/3 cup of the saved water into pot. Continue to stir very hard to mix in water. When water is absorbed add remaining water and again mix til absorbed. Make sure genfo does not stick to saucepan and burn.

Remove from heat. Scoop serving-sized amounts into oiled bowls. Shake the bowl gently from side to side and up and down to form genfo into a nice ball. Once ball is formed, make a well in the center of the genfo ball. Fill with oil or butter along with plenty of berbere. Serve immediately.

My daughter made this using plain white flour, but I’m sure it would be better for you if made with whole wheat flour. I’ve read you can also use barley flour.

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6 Responses to “Genfo: Ethiopian porridge”

  1. fourgoingon7 says:

    You are such an awesome mom to let your girls teach your family all of this. You are so humble and I am sure it is so soothing to your oldest daughter to be in the kitchen doing what her mother taught her. Very dear–

  2. chel says:

    have you consitered writing a Ethiopia adoption cookbook with you and your daughters? I know I would buy one. having their thoughts on the matter would be very valuable helpful for other adoptive parents with little clue on how it REALLY should be and and the children having some comfort food. thanks for taking the time write these out.

  3. I second the Ethiopian cookbook idea. I’ve had a hard time finding reliable recipes off the web — either that, or I’m just not doing things quite correctly. It would be great to have the organized in a book.

  4. Sunbonnet Sue says:

    count me in on the book idea. now you’ve already sold three copies. marketing statistics would say that counts as 300, each person who speaks up = 100……

  5. fourgoingon7 says:

    I think this sounds exciting–have you seen the cookbook in Starbucks featuring Mr. Samuelson? He is Ethiopian and was adopted and now is so successful–very empowering!

  6. goorsha says:

    By the way, the correct way of spelling this food should be “Gunfo” as “G” is pronounced as “G” in “Gun”.

    Spelling it as “Genfo” could lead to a wrong pronounciation, as for example: “G” as in “General”

    Also, Gunfo is best served with Berbere and Ethiopian spiced butter, not oil. Oil is used during fasting days (Wed and Fri thru out the year, and during Lent) as a substitute for butter.

    American processed butter will not work, it has to be Ethiopian spiced butter. You might want to check out the Ethiopian portal web directory section for recipes:

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