Ethiopian Misir Wat (Lentil Stew)

Well, today we are making the first of several sides that will go on our fasting Bayaynet! I’m so excited to share these recipes with you all!

Before we get started, there are 3 things that you need to know about Ethiopian food.  1: It’s delicious.  2: They use a oodles of onions and oil 3: To say that some of their sides are spicy would be an understatement.

Most of the recipes that I’ll be sharing with you, I learned from a group of women who cooked for a restaurant. That being said, the pots that they were cooking in were big enough that I could have curled up in them.  And the amounts of onions—oh my! SO. MANY. ONIONS!

In re-creating these recipes, I’ve still used a lot of onions, but have definitely cut back on the oil–no clogged arteries for me, please.

When reading back on my notes from those days in the restaurant, I have to laugh a little. The quantities of ingredients go something like this:

  • “Fill the pot ¾ full of onions”
  • “Add a plateful of Berberi”
  • “Add a bottlecap full of Mekelesha Spice Mix”

And so on… So, you can imagine that re-creating these here in America has been an adventure.

Needless to say, I’ve had to pare these recipes WAY down (I’m not cooking for an army here), playing around with the ratios of all the ingredients .  Even pared down, we still always have leftovers! Thankfully, these sauces freeze well, so you can use them another time when you are craving Ethiopian food.

Ethiopian Misir Wat (Lentil Stew)

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Dice the onions and place them in a 2-quart pot with 1 TBSP of water.  Place a lid on the pot, and cook the onions down for 30 minutes on low heat.  Don’t add any oil at this point. If the onions start to stick, just add another TBSP of water–you shouldn’t have to add too much because the onions have a fair amount of water in them. 

Once the onions have cooked for 30 minutes, make a small well in the middle, and add the ground Fenugreek.  Stir it well so that there are no lumps and the Fenugreek is spread evenly throughout the onions.

Next, add the oil and minced garlic, and cook it for 5 minutes. 

Once again, make a small well in the middle, and add your Berbere, stirring it so that there are no lumps. 

Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the salt, 1 cup of hot water, and the lentils.  Increase your burner to medium heat.

Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then add 1 more cup of water and cook for 15 more minutes. Add the final cup of water and cook for 20 more minutes (40 minutes total).  Make sure to stir it occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

At 40 minutes, add the Mekelesha Spice Mix, and let the lentils simmer for 5 final minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Misir Wat is best with Injera–can be served warm or cold. If you don’t have Injera, it is also quite yummy on rice.

I’ll go over making Injera in a few weeks so that we can create a full Bayaynet with all of the different sauces we’ve been making.  However, if you are making this sauce before we go over the Injera, I would recommend either finding a local Ethiopian restaurant that you could buy some freshly-made Injera from, or check out this awesome youtube video with a very detailed, step-by-step on creating your own at home.

This particular recipe yields just under 4 cups of sauce.

Amharic/English Translations for this Recipe:

  • Bayaynet = an assortment of sauces/sides adorning a round platter of Injera
  • Misir=Lentils
  • Wat=Sauce/Stew
  • Kimem=Spice