Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Misir Wot)

If you can’t stand the heat, then you better stay out the Ethiopian Kitchen!

It’s not that Ethiopian food doesn’t have a range of mild flavoured dishes, they do, but pepper is so essential to the cuisine that to avoid it is to essentially ban yourself from the whole experience!

Ethiopian Cuisine: I haven’t tasted anything so lip-smackingly delicious in a good long time! I’m gonna be stuck on this for a while!

Ok admittedly the last time I tasted authentic Ethiopian cuisine was about a year ago where I just happened to walk by a small take away 5 minutes walk down Kingsland High Street in Dalston, London. They offer a selection of stews or ‘wots’ with a combination or rice or the infamous Injera bread, all for just £4!!

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Kingland High Street, Dalston, London

Many Ethiopian’s are Orthodox Christians who traditionally eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other special days,  hence why there is such a wide selection of vegan/vegetarian Ethiopian dishes.

This recipe is adapted from the more classic Misir Wot, which literally means ‘lentil stew’; I have added sweet potato, coconut milk and spinach to this mix.

This is also my first time using my new found Ethiopian spice blend home made brebere which I made virtually a few minutes before assembling this dish. I didn’t taste the stew till the very end, and when I did, let me tell you I almost burnt my mouth going for a second helping, I was surprised! With such a wide range of spices all packed in one blend, I was expecting a bitter, confused taste, instead – pure harmony, I could taste everything, not overpowering at all. So step away scotch bonnet! There’s a new kid in town!

More Ethiopian dishes to come!

 

Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Misir Wot) 

 

INGREDIENTS

2 medium sized sweet potatoes – cut into chunks

1/2 white onion, sliced

2 large garlic cloves – crushed

1 tsp finger chopped fresh ginger

1 tbsp coconut oil – frying

1 1/4 cup green lentils – pre-cooked

1 tbsp Tomato Paste or 2 plum tomatoes (crushed) with a little juice

2 1/2 tsp of Homemade Berbere Spice

1 cup Coconut Milk

2 cups of boiling water

1 chicken or vegetable stock jelly

3-4 Pimento Seeds

1 generous handful of spinach

 

METHOD

  1. In a bowl dissolve the stock jelly in the 2 cups of hot water with the pimento seeds. Set aside.
  2. Soften the onions slowly in a deep pot with the coconut oil for 5-6 minutes
  3. Add the garlic and ginger – 2 minutes
  4. Stir in the berbere spice, take it off the fire to allow it to slowly cook
  5. Return the pot to the fire and add the tomatoes, allow it to reduce for 2 minutes, until the water has evaporated.
  6. Add the sweet potato and stir
  7. Add the lentils, stir (medium heat)
  8. Add the stock liquid, pimento seeds and coconut milk. Cover and allow to simmer for 10-5 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender
  9. Stir the spinach in at the end. Season to taste.
  10. Serve with rice

 

Berbere Spice: a blend of Ethiopia

Berbere, which means “hot” in Amharic, is an Ethiopian spice blend very common to Ethiopian cooking. Most of the heat comes from the fiery long red finger of dried chillies buried under heaps of other amazing spices.

Berbere is treated very much like an ‘all purpose’ seasoning, so it can be added to stews, vegetables, meat, fish and probably even rice as well.

As I carried out my research to find the most authentic blend, I soon realised, whichever combination I found, it would pretty much empty out my whole kitchen cupboard! I think I turned over every jar, bottle and cup that had spices in them. It actually felt good to use them again, some like fenugreek had barely been touched; and I was getting tired of the same old 1-2-3 combinations I’ve been falling back on for yonks (haven’t used that word in ages?!).

Doesn’t it look amazing! And it tastes absolutely delicious! You’ve basically cut your seasoning time down to less than a minute!

Ok let’s take a closer look:

  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Ginger
  • Fenugreek Powder
  • Pimento Seeds
  • Onion Salt
  • Nutmeg
  • Chilli Flakes

Other recipes include garlic powder and black pepper.

Preparation

This really depends on you. I wanted something I could store in a jar and use whenever to spice up a dish. So I resorted to using powders with the following exceptions: fresh garlic, ginger, onion. Only because I’m use to adding these ingredients to a dish anyway.

So here are the measurements for a jar of berbere spice, most dishes only require 2 1/2 teaspoons of it:

  • 2 teaspoons Fenugreek powder
  • 2 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon Cloves
  • 3 teaspoons of red chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 3 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

METHOD
Combine all the ingredients into a mortar and pestle and grind together until thoroughly mixed. If you can’t get your hands on any ground cardamom, then I’m sorry (as I did), you’ll have to grind it by hand. I find adding a pinch of rock salt to the mix helps to grind the seeds faster!

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When you are ready to use the berbere spice, treat it like you would a curry powder: you have to dry roast / fry it on a low heat first to release the flavours before pouring on your liquid. Be careful not to burn the spice as all you’ll have is a gritty mess. I have a recipe coming up using this very spice…so peep back later!