Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ethiopian Lentil Stew

    This one is for the adventurous cooks out there. I ate at an Ethiopian restaurant once and wanted to recreate it. So when I made this, we had a whole Ethiopian food experience night at my house. I made injera (the bread), doro wat (chicken stew), yataklete kilkil (ginger vegetable stew), iab (cottage cheese mixture), and yemesir w'et (spicy lentil stew).  As you see in the picture, the stews are very thick, and for good reason. You are supposed to serve Ethiopian stew in mounds atop a thin pancake like bread and eat it with your hands (tearing off strips of bread and grabbing parts of the stew. Won't it be fun to eat stew with your hands for once?
     I'm going to share the lentil stew (red mound in the picture) because, surprisingly enough, it was my favorite out of all of those and I had enough leftovers that I tried it a few ways. I also changed it the most from the original recipe.
     This recipe calls for a special ingredient "niter kebbeh" which is a spicy clarified butter that looks neon yellow. I went all out and actually made this (it takes a good 45 minutes) but you could easily use regular butter or oil and then just add some extra spices to the recipe and be ok. Don't omit the extra spices, they gave the dish so much extra depth, it was amazing. If you live nearby, I can give you my leftover stuff.
   You can liquify it more by adding chicken stock and make a good soup out of it (This was a good discovery since all the basic lentil soups I had tried lately have been only tolerable).   A cheater method to serving this the original way, if you don't want to make the fun ethiopian style bread (which is fairly easy and pretty fast), you can serve it with warm tortillas (this is how I ate leftovers and it worked fine).

Spicy Lentil Stew
1 C dried brown lentils
1 C chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C niter kebbeh (or butter with dash of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and turmeric)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika (sweet or roasted is better)
2 C chopped tomatoes
1/2 C tomato paste
1 C chicken stock
1 C green peas (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse and cook the lentils in water according to the package directions in a saucepan (they take a good 20-30 min to soften right, just don't add any salt or they will take longer). In the meantime, saute the onions and garlic in the butter. Add in all the spices to the onions and stir until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and paste and cook 5 more minutes. Add in the chicken stock and simmer until the lentils are ready. Drain the lentils and add them and the peas to the tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until desired consistency (about 10 minutes more if you want it thick enough to sit in a mound on the injera bread, less if you want a soupier consistency).

Let me know if you want to know what recipes I used for the other things, and I can direct you to the sources where I found them. I promise it's a fun food experience for kids and adults alike.

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