Ethiopian Red Lentils

May 2, 2006 at 8:06 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Ethiopian)

Berbere is the hot spice mixture that is used in many Ethiopian wats, or stews. It can also be used in other recipes that call for a hot spice. I found three berbere recipes. One in the cookbook Sundays at Moosewood, one online from a personal chef, and one in my recipe collection from who-knows-where originally. But they were all relatively similar. I wonder if they were all based on the same recipe originally?

The recipe in the cookbook “Exotic Ethiopian Cooking” by D.M. Mesfin that I checked out of the library certainly was extremely different. First of all, it called for 15 pounds of dried new Mexican chilis! It was more of a paste also, with fresh garlic, ginger, and red onion. It also had a number of ingredients I didn’t recognize, like rue seed, sacred basil, and bishop weed. After all the ingredients are ground down, the mixture is supposed to stand for 12 hours, then be baked in an oven or the sun, so I’m not sure how wet the final product is. Another spicy paste in the cookbook, Awaze, looks pretty similar except it also includes 2 cups of red wine. Anyway, here is the recipe I ended up using for berbere:


2 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. fenugreek
8 cloves
3/4 tsp. cardamom seeds (black)
3/4 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. whole allspice (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric, ground
1/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried shallots (optional, or dehydrated onions maybe more, up to 2 ounces?)
3 ounces dried new mexican chilies, seeded and stemmed (or 3 Tbs. sweet paprika and 5 tsp. red pepper flakes or 10 small dried red chiles)

In a small frying pan, on medium-low heat, toast the whole spices (cumin, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, peppercorns, coriander, and allspice) for about 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring constnatly. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

If using the chiles, discard the stems. If using the New Mexican chiles, seed them and tear into coarse pieces. In a spice grinder finely grind together the toasted spices and chiles. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Store berbere refrigerated in a well-sealed jar.

Yields about 3/4 cup (i.e. 12 Tbs.) Or maybe 1/3 cup if using the small chilies and 1/4 cup if using the chili flakes?

This berbere recipe has an awful lots of spices. I wonder if they’re all absolutely necessary? Could I make a berbere that was just as good with only 1/2 the number of spices?

Spicy red lentil stew (Miser Wat)

The Ethiopian cookbook mentioned above calls for 2 cups lentils, 6 cups water, and 1.5 cups oil! I cut down on the oil, but used the 6 cups of water, which was probably a mistake.

4 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups onion (one large onion or two small onions)
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbs. berbere
2 cups split red lentils
6 cups water or vegetable broth
1.5 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. tomato paste (maybe more, up to 1/4 cup? or chopped tomatoes?)
1 ounce red wine (optional, maybe more?)

Saute the onions in the olive oil, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute. Add the berbere and saute for a few minute smore, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The onions should start to carmelize Mix in the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lentils, tomato paste, salt, red wine, and the vegetable stock or water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook uncovered for an hour?

Serve with injera and a vegetable.

Makes about 7 cups?

My notes: This recipe is quite good. My friend said it tasted just like what you get at an Ethiopian restaurant. I wasn’t positive about that, but enjoyed it thoroughly. I do however find the lentils a bit strong to eat by themselves. They need injera or a vegetable or other starch to eat in conjunction. Also, with 6 cups of water my lentils started out very soupy and I thought they would always be soup, but after cooking them on very low for a long time they eventually developed the nice thick consistency they’re supposed to have. However, if I made them again I think I would use less water (maybe 4-5 cups?) and cook covered instead. I also might use slightly more berbere, or make a spicier berbere since although the lentils had great flavor they weren’t spicy enough in my opinion.

These lentils (like all red lentil dishes) have more calories than you might think. They are, however, quite filling, so 1/2 cup is quite sufficient.

Nutritional info for 1/14 of the recipe (about 1/2 cup I think)
Calories 144
Total Fat 4.5g (27%)
Saturated Fat 0.5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 282mg
Carbohydrate 18.9g (51%)
Dietary Fiber 4.4g
Sugars 1.7g
Protein 7.8g (21%)
Vitamin A 1% Vitamin C 3%
Calcium 2% Iron 10%

Rating: B+
Derek: B+

Update May 8, 2006: I used 4 cups of water and it didn’t quite seem like enough, so I added another 1/2 cup after they’d been cooking a while. The quantity of lentils seemed like less than last time though, maybe 5 cups rather than 7 cups? I think next time I will try starting with 5 cups of water. I used 2 Tbs + 1 tsp. berbere and the lentils tasted good but still weren’t spicy enough. I don’t think they need any more berbere–I think I’ve just got to add some cayenne.

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Ethiopian-style Cabbage (B-)

May 1, 2006 at 5:05 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cruciferous rich, Ethiopian, Vegetable dishes)

My Ethiopian collards were not very successful so I decided to try my hand at Ethiopian cabbage. I couldn’t really find much in terms of a recipe online, so I improvised. This is approximately what I did:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion
1 jalepeno, seeded, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1 carrot, julienned
2 tsp. ginger, minced
5/8 head of savoy cabbage, shredded
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 Tbs. berbere powder

I thought they tasted good, a bit sweet, a bit savory, although not necessarily like the ones at the Ethiopian restaurant. They were very oily. I always forget how greasy cabbage can get. I’d use less oil next time.

Rating: B-
Derek: B-

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Authentic Teff Injera (B)

April 28, 2006 at 8:59 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Ethiopian, Grains, Rebecca Wood)

This recipe for traditional tef injera is from the cookbook The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood, but is almost identical to the tef injera recipe in the authentic Ethiopian cookbook I checked out of the library. Wood also has a quick injera that’s made using sourdough starter, but I haven’t tried it.

Wood explains about injera: “The national food of Ethiopia, this large flatbread is used as a plate with other foods placed on top. Another injera is served on the side and torn into pieces to scoop up the food. The bread is served cold accompanied with spicy-hot bean, vegetable and meat dishes.”


Combine 2 cups tef flour, 3 cups of filtered water, and 1 tsp. yeast in a 2-quart ceramic or glass bowl. (Wood says if you’re grinding your flour fresh then you can omit the yeast since Tef’s symbiotic yeast provides leavening. ) Cover with a bamboo sushi mat or a clean cloth. Leave out on the counter for 2 days in a warm kitchen or 3 days in a cool kitchen, or until the sponge has a strong and distinctively sour aroma. Water will rise to the top. Slowly and carefully pour of this surface water.

Bring 1 cup of spring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir 1/2 cup of the tef mixture into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to med. and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly and is smooth. (I recommend using a whisk because mine had lumps). Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir this mixture into the soured batter. Add more water if necessary to make a thin batter as for pancakes. Cover and let rest for 1 or 2 hours or until the mixture rises.

Heat a 9-inch crepe pan or skillet that has a tight fitting lid over high heat until a drop of water bounces on the pan’s surface. If using an electric skillet, heat to 420 degrees F. Slowly pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan in a thin stream, moving in a spiral from the outer edge of the pan toward the center of the pan. Then til the pan so the batter can flow and cover any gaps. Cover and cook over med-low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the edges of the injera begin to curl away from the pan. Remove immediately and place on a clean coth to cool. When cool, wrap to keep moist. Stir the batter well, then cook the remaining breads in the same way.

If after combining the cooked and raw batters, you will not be able to cook the injera within 2 hours, refrigerate the batter for up to 4 hours, or until it rises. If you are unable to cook the batter when it’s ready, stir in 1/2 tsp. sea salt and refrigerate the batter for up to 24 hours.

She doesn’t say anything about storing longer than 24 hours, but I had leftover batter and just put it back in the fridge and have been making injera for lunch for quite a few days with no problems. It did get a bit more sour after a few days, but I still enjoyed it.

This is supposed to make 4 six-inch breads, but maybe I made mine too thin because mine made six breads. But it’s weird because I definitely used more than 1/3 cup mixture per bread. Maybe it’s because I never ended up pouring off any water. I know the injera is supposed to be soft, but when my friend made it he oiled the skillet a bit so the face-down side ended up a bit crisp, which I thought was tasty. Also, I liked it hot I think a bit better than the more traditional way of eating cold injera. The injera is pretty dark, since Tef is such a dark color, and noticeably sour, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Update: I tried making the injera again, but I only made 3/4 of the recipe. I let it sit for 2 days, but my kitchen was cooler than the last time. One mistake I made was adding the full 1 cup water instead of only 3/4 cup water, but that’s only an extra 1/4 cup, it doesn’t seem like it would make a huge difference. In any case, the batter was incredibly thin, almost the consistency of water. I’m not sure what could have made it so different from last time. Maybe I mis-measured the water initially? Another difference was that I made the injera after two days rather than doing the salt/refrigerate step for a day. But I don’t see why this would make the batter thinner.

Per serving (1/6 of recipe)
Calories 229
Total Fat 2g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 302mg
Carbohydrate 44.4g
Dietary Fiber 8.2g
Sugars 0g
Protein 8.4g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 10%
Iron 27%

Teff is obviously an iron powerhouse, and it’s not bad on calcium or fiber.

Rating: B

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