Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)

The aroma and heat in this dish come from the Ethiopian/E. African spice blend 'Berbere.' I purchased my Berbere through Amazon, an organic blend produced by The Teeny Tiny Spice Company in Vermont, which contains paprika, black pepper, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, Ajwain, allspice, birdseye chili, fenugreek, cardamom, clove, onion, garlic and Himalayan pink salt. Great with Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew) and Berbere-spiced lamb stew. For those in the know, Ethiopian dishes are typically served all together on a large platter (family style). There are no utensils - you tear off pieces of the spongy, crepe-like bread called 'Injera' (made with the flour of the ancient grain Teff) to pick up the food. How fun and cool is that? If you don't have Injera, just serve this up with some steamed basmati rice. It may not be traditional, but it's just as good! I adapted this recipe from one by Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, who was featured in the November 2012 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
8-10 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. Berbere seasoning
2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cups red lentils

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes until they just start to brown.

2. Add the tomato paste, garlic, minced ginger, Berbere, cardamom, salt & pepper. Cook about 5 minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant.

3. Add the lentils and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with additional salt, pepper and Berbere, as needed.

Red lentils.

Ground coriander and Berbere spice blend.

Chopped red onion, ginger and garlic.

Cook the onions in the olive oil 8-10 minutes until they start to brown, then add the spices and tomato paste.

Cook 5 minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant.

Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until stew has thickened. Can be cooked the day before and reheated before serving.


  1. Made the sauce with two cloves garlic, less water and poured it over chicken tenders and baked it 350° for 2 hours it turned out great!! Thanks so much for the post