Meera Sodha’s recipe for Ethiopian Easter bread | The new vegan

Defo dabo is the traditional fennel and orange bread, neither too sweet nor too savoury, to share with friends and family at this time of year

My good friend Meron is a part-time vegan. Like most Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, she fasts on a vegan diet twice a week all year round, and for 55 days consecutively in the run-up to Easter. When the Easter feast arrives, she bakes this festive defo dabo , a fennel and orange bread to be shared with friends and family. Last Easter, after some pestering, she shared the recipe with me, and I’ve been create it ever since.

Ethiopian Easter bread with fennel and orange

This defo dabo bread isn’t too sweet or savoury, so it can fit in anywhere, but I like it toasted for breakfast. You’ll need a 22 cm-diameter cake tin and some cleaned banana leaves( or cooking newspaper) to line it. You can buy the leaves online- try

Prep 30 min
Prove 1 hr 50 min
Cook 45 min
Makes 1 medium loaf

3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
500 g strong wholemeal bread flour , plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp nigella seeds , plus extra for decorating
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 orange , zested and juiced, to get 6 tbsp juice

Put the fenugreek seeds in a cold pan and hot for three to four minutes, until they’ve turned a shade darker, then tip-off into a mortar or spice grinder, and work to a powder. Put the fennel seeds in the same pan, toast for two minutes, then tip into a mortar or spice grinder, and break down into a coarse powder.

Put the flour in a large bowl, add the ground spices, salt, yeast and a teaspoon of nigella seeds, and mixture well. Add the petroleum, syrup, orange juice and zest, and mixture again. Slowly start adding 250 ml hand-hot water, mixing the dough as you go. Once it feels well combined and just sticky to the touch, stop adding water. Turn out the dough on to a softly floured surface and knead for five minutes, or until it’s smooth and stretchy. Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 200 C( 180 C fan )/ 390 F/ gas 6, and line the base of a 22 cm cake tin with baking paper( or banana leaves ). Knock back the dough and shape it into the tin. Cover again and put in a warm place for 40 -5 0 minutes, to prove. When it has almost doubled in size again, brush a little water on top, sprinkle with the rest of the nigella seeds and bake for 45 minutes.

Tip the loaf out of the tin and tap its base: it should voice hollow when fully cooked. If not, return it to the hot oven, this time not in its tin, and cook some more, testing the base again after 10 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool before serving Ethiopian-style, with coffee.

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