Misr Wot (Ethiopian Lentil Stew)

This week is my Ethiopian week.  I never was into Ethiopian food, but lately I’ve gotten attached to it:-) This recipe came from the April 2008 issue of Saveur.    I started out by making “berbere” (Ethiopian spice mix which is essential to many Ethiopian dishes), and the whole house had wonderful fragrance of various spices (reminded me of Indian spices yet distinctly different).  As I started blending the components of the stew and started simmering, I felt like I can just float in the spices!  Such a simple dish, yet filled with such yumminess:-)  The photo may not look that appetizing, but you have to trust me when I say that the taste is wonderful.  I dare not make the Ethiopian bread, “Injera” – since we have high Ethiopian population in West Philadelpia we can get injera from Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores.  I think you either like or dislike injera – it’s spongy, taste of sourdough, and almost like a huge crepe made of tef (Ethiopian grain).  The consistency and the taste is similar to the South Indian “appam” (made of rice flour, yeast and coconut milk). 

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Serves 4-6
1 cup red lentils
4 Tablespoons nit’r qibe (Ethiopian spiced butter) or unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons berbere
1 small tomato, cored and chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water and set aside.
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the reserved lentils, 1 Tablespoon of berbere, tomato, and 4 cups water to the saucepan.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 45-50minutes.  Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt.  Serve immediately. 

Note:  Even though it says to add 4 cups of water, I recommend starting out by 3 cups and gradually adding the rest of water if you think the stew is too thick.  You also don’t want this stew to be soup like. 

Berbere:
In a small skillet, combine:
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
6 white cardamom pods
4 whole cloves

Toast spices over medium heat, swirling skillet constantly, until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.  Let cool slightly; transfer to a spice grinder along with 1/2 cup dried onion flakes and grind until fine. 

Add:
5 stemmed and seeded dried chili peppers, broken into small pieces, and grind with the other spices until fine.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir:
3 Tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.  Makes about 3/4 cup.

Note:  I also toasted the dried chili peppers to intensify the taste.  You can most definitely use the spice grinder (coffee bean grinder, regular food processor will be sufficient also), but I opted to use mortar and pestle to control the fineness of the grind.

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