Happy June, everyone! How was your Memorial Day? I just got back from a wonderful weekend getaway to Dallas, Texas with Matt. Dallas is my favorite city to road-trip to (as you may recall), so I can hardly wait to write about it.
Remember the Ethiopian cooking class I took with my friend Hillary? Today I’m fulfilling my promise to show you my home-cooked misir watt (stewed red lentils). This is my very favorite Ethiopian dish, and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to prepare. Since I don’t think I’ll ever make injera at home (and Blue Nile Café is too far from my house for me to easily run by and pick some up), I served this with cooked quinoa, but it would be great with brown rice or couscous as well.
Per serving (6): 345 calories, 8.9g fat (1g sat), 49.7g carbs, 10g fiber, 19.7g protein
Per serving (8): 259 calories, 6.7g fat (.5g sat), 37.3g carbs, 7g fiber, 14.7g protein
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1-inch chunk gingerroot, peeled
- 3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
- 1 lb. dry red lentils
- 3-4 Tbsp berbere powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp mekelesha (or cayenne)
- Salt to taste
- (Clockwise from top, that’s berbere, mekelesha, and cardamom.)
- Combine the onions, garlic, ginger, and 1 Tbsp of the canola oil in a blender or food processor.
- Process or pulse into a very rough purée, adding a splash of water if necessary. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add water (about 1/4 cup at a time) if the mixture gets dry or cooks too quickly.
- Add the berbere and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, again adding water as needed. The mixture should look pretty soupy; by this point I’d probably added nearly a cup of water.
- Add the lentils...
- ...and 4 more cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, stirring often. Keep adding water, 1/4 cup at a time, to keep the texture loose, but don’t add so much that it gets liquidy. You’re looking for a goopy, spoonable consistency (that’s meant to sound appealing!).
One quick note about the seasoning: you can easily use cayenne pepper or something similar in place of the mekelesha, but there is NO substitute for berbere. It’s absolutely worth a trip to a specialty spice store.
This is a good time to cook your quinoa, if that’s what you’re serving it with.
When the lentils are done, they’ll be partially broken down, but still retain some of their shape. Remove from the heat and stir in the cardamom, mekelesha or cayenne, and salt to taste. (If you’re using mekelesha, I urge you exercise caution here! Had I been using cayenne, I would probably have put in a good teaspoon, but I added just a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the mekelesha and it was flaming hot! I have a high tolerance for spice, but this was fiery even to me. So be conservative!)
Serve over quinoa or, if you’re lucky enough to have an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, pick up some injera to eat it with.
This is so incredibly good, I made it twice in two weeks. It’s filling, nutritious, and satisfying in every way. The depth and complexity of the berbere seasoning is indescribable—you really just have to try it for yourself. If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, this is a great gateway dish. The leftovers are even delicious eaten cold!