Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 24, 2007 11:24 AM

Ethiopian Lentil Wat for rworange and soupkitten


2 cups dried lentils
6 cups water
3/4 cup seeded and chopped Anaheim green chiles - I also sometimes use jalapenos, as I like the hot - vary accordingly
2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup niter kibbeh - the spiced butter
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic, or more to taste
I T berbere (this recipe calls for the paste, which is made with oil, but wayne keyser's dry recipe in your original Gen Chow. thread seems like the same deal, and easier to store)
Black pepper to taste.

Boil lentils in water for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Saute chiles and onions in the spiced butter until tender (4 quart saucepot called for this amount). Add lentils, 4 cups of reserved liquid, and remaining ingredients, and bring to simmer. Cook covered over low heat 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

I play with this recipe all the time, as it's very forgiving. Spice levels, doubling and tripling (my family is gluttonous!), and so on. Load up your injera.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I guess I'll append it here:

    1 teaspoon Ground ginger
    1 teaspoon Cinnamon
    3/4 teaspoon Ground cardamom
    1/2 teaspoon Allspice
    1/2 teaspoon Ground coriander
    1 teaspoon Ground fenugreek seeds
    1 1/4 cups Cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon Grated nutmeg
    1/2 cup Paprika
    1/2 teaspoon Ground cloves
    1 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon Ginger powder
    1/2 teaspoon Turmeric

    In a heavy saucepan, toast the following ground spices together over a low heat for 4 to 5 minutes: ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Shake or stir to prevent burning. Add the salt, cayenne pepper, paprika and fresh ground black pepper and continue toasting and stirring for 10 to 15 more minutes.

    Cool and store tightly covered glass jar. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wayne keyser

      Just wondered ... are these quantities correct? Yield is quoted at 1.5 cups but in cayenne and paprika alone there are 1.75 cups ingredients.

      Wayne, if you're still around, would you mind confirming?


    2. Cay thanks for posting this. it looks like a great wat recipe! Wayne's recipe for the spice blend looks great as well. thanks to both of you for taking the time.

      i may be searching for the most simple recipe for wat of all time: the listed ingredients in "keye wote/wat" are: red lentils, onion, cayenne, vegetable oil, cardamom, salt, black pepper. i've been meaning to just try to make the stew, guessing at amounts until it tastes right, but i always end up just buying the $4 container at the co-op when the craving strikes!

      3 Replies
      1. re: soupkitten

        The lentils I use for the aforementioned wat are simple dried brown lentils. But! I love the softer lentil dishes - more like dals, as you said - and they're not that different to cook. If you can toast spices adequately, you're most of the way there. Try the same application with red lentils.

        Check out dal recipes from, say, Julie Sahni, and use the Ethiopian spices, perhaps.

        Still, I'd love to know what co-op you get your red lentil wat from - I'm not always in the "mood" to do all of the work!

        Getting hungry for wats,

        1. re: cayjohan

          used to get it from north country :( r.i.p.
          but i know seward carries it as well in the deli section, right alongside the injera. i am assuming other co-ops have it too--
          its in a 12 oz, rectangular deli container w a black bottom & clear lid & costs $3.99. with injera we can get 3-4 light meals out of it and it's delicious. brand: enat ethiopian vegetarian foods.

          1. re: soupkitten

            I forgot to thank you for this, soup, as all this Ethiopian food is swirling around and making me hungry and forgetful. I'll be checking out Seward. Thanks.

      2. cay:
        can you explain what's in the niter kebbeh...?

        8 Replies
        1. re: sixelagogo

          I was interested too, so I did a quick search. Here's what I found:

          Now I wonder if this recipe for Niter Kebbeh is different than the one Cay uses.

          1. re: Gio

            Here's the basic recipe I use. As always, the caveat to play around with the spice to your taste.

            Heat 2 lbs butter (cut into chucnks) over moderate heat; when melted, increase heat and bring to a slow boil without letting it brown. When the surface is covered with foam, add one onion, chopped, 3 Tbsps. chopped garlic, 4 tsps chopped fresh ginger, 1 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 crushed cardamom pod ( I use more), 1 cinnamon stick, 3-5 whole cloves, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg.
            Reduce heat to a bare simmer for 45 minutes (uncovered). Milk solids will be on the bottom, and clear butterfat on top. Strain through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Strain again, if the solids from the spicing are not all removed.

            In a closed jar in the refrigerator, this will keep for at least a month, and up to three.

            It's one of the more time intensive aspects of Ethiopian cooking, so if you like the cuisine, it's worth having some on hand.

            1. re: cayjohan

              I gotta try this, as it sounds good on anything ethiopian/indian/tasty...

              1. re: cayjohan

                Oh wow - at first I was thinking it was going to be like Ghee. But there's much more to it than that. How long will it stay viable? In the fridge I would the link states.

                1. re: Gio

                  I've kept it for well more than a month, but we get crazy for wats and use it up. My recipe sources say 3 months storage, and some even say at room temperature, which I have not tried. Like ghee, though, I think the clarification helps with the storage life. I wouldn't shoot for more than three months though.

                  1. re: cayjohan

                    Thanks so much Cay. I never thought I'd be interested in Ethiopian cooking but this is really exciting. Is the berbere usually mixed up at home, or would you buy it already blended? Given that the dish is lentil based this is really something I would definitely make. Please tell me if rice or a bread would be served with this dish. Obviously, I know nothing about Ethiopian food. Mea culpa.

                    1. re: Gio

                      Gio, I've never actually looked for it (berbere) blended, as I've always made it at home. In fact, I've usually made the berbere paste, but as I said above, wayne keyser's dry mix looks wonderful and would suit. (Wait: I also add some cumin to taste). The most important thing, I think, is the toasting of the spices, and it does not take a great effort.

                      As for what to serve with it, the whole discussion started with this thread You will probably want some injera ideally, if you want authentic. Check out the link and if your area has an East African population, you may find some injera bread. If you don't know, the injera, hand-held, is used to scoop up the various stews served, in this case it would be lentil stew.

                      I have to say that Ethiopian is one of my favorite of all cuisines. I'm stil (still!)l learning after all these years. The cuisine has both a subtle and assertive set of flavors at the same time. I encourage you to try it - there are many wonderful vegetarian wats, and many for the meat lovers. It's a thoroughly enchanting foodway to explore.

                      Enjoy it,

          2. Sounds great. Any other veggie Ethiopian recipes?

            6 Replies
            1. re: bear

              I make this stew and call it Veg Mafe:

              Saute up a large onion in a large pot.
              Add root vegetables cut up in about 1inch chunks: I usually use sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, maybe some white potatoes, too.
              Add a few cups of water and a few cups of tomato sauce (you can add less water and more tomato sauce to make the final stew thicker).
              Add Berebere to taste and some salt
              Simmer till veggies are done
              Lastly- stir in some peanut butter- about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

              very hearty.


              1. re: bear

                Anyone have a recipe for that cabbage dish they always serve in the veggie platter at Ethiopian restaurants?

                1. re: piccola

                  piccola, I can work up a sort of 'this-is-what-I-do" recipe for you if you're talking about the potato-carrot-cabbage dish.


                  1. re: cayjohan

                    That's the one! I'd love to hear how you make it.

                    1. re: piccola

                      piccola, forgive the "just-throw-these-things-together" format, but I really don't have a formal recipe. I just winged it from trying to make my favorite version of this stew in my local Ethiopian haunt. Here goes:

                      Use about 6 medium potatoes, or 3-4 large (depends upon your pan size, of course)
                      3-4 large carrots
                      Half head green cabbage

                      Pare and chunk potatoes and carrots. Parboil each to "just barely" tender. I generally do these in separate batches to account for the different cooking time. (If I am using a mealy poato, I will undercook it, as it breaks up more later on...and I actually do prefer, say, russets for this dish, although waxies behave much differently.) Drain and reserve. I saute the coarsely chopped cabbage in a mixture of olive oil and niter kebbeh (enough to have a nice full coating of oil/butter on the pan) until cabbage is tender. I use a semi-bastardized Western version of a paella pan for this - with lid. I do use the lid on the pan to help the cabbage wilt and steam, versus brown...add a bit of water if you're approaching too much browning. Add the potatoes, carrots, a couple cloves of minced garlic, a couple tsp. of minced fresh ginger, +/- tsp salt, black pepper, berbere paste or powder to taste (and you MUST taste the whole way along!), and a little extra water if the cabbage has steamed dry. Saute for a couple of minutes to get the spices blended, then cover and monitor for tenderness of the veg as well as for residual water in the pan. When tender to your liking, finish with a little more of the niter kebbeh (yes, fattening, but good...use your judgement!) and saute and toss as if for a stir fry. I like this method as it breaks off the more cooked bits of potato and adds to the texture of the dish. But, making to your liking and predilection.

                      There's really no wrong way to do this - it's just veg with spice and butter, essentially! If I have no spicy meat stew on the menu, I often add some hot chilis to the wat, but otherwise I let it be a subtler note on the platter. I have also added onions on occasion to the sauteeing cabbage, but since the spiced butter is made with onions, have found it superfluous mostly.

                      Hope it's not too vague to muddle through - but trust me, once you play with it, it's incredibly easy, and uses up all those berberes and spiced butters we have around after these threads! :-)


              2. has anyone had success making injera from scratch??? (i have tried once and failed... but am contemplating a second attempt!)

                6 Replies
                1. re: kudru

                  Now that you asked - I had to look for a recipe for injera. It seems simple enough. No yeast, and a simple combination of teff flour, all-purpose flour, water and a pinch of salt. I must try this!....although I make terrible pancakes. We shall see. Was the teff flour readily available in the market where you shop?

                  1. re: Gio

                    i've seen it often at health food stores.
                    if i recall correctly, the recipe i used required teff/water to be left to ferment for a day or two - that's where that tangy taste comes from, i guess. in any case, i certainly didn't get that amazing texture/strength out of the "injera"!

                    1. re: kudru

                      Oh that's interesting about the fermentation. The recipe I read says the tang comes from "wild yeast." Here's the link:

                      1. re: Gio

                        my impression is that using a sourdough-style starter is essential to get the tanginess right.

                        interesting link. all the injera i've seen are a much larger "pancake" than the man pictured is making & are circular. a very large one (enough for 3-4 people) generally retails for less than $2 in my area so it's something i've never tried to make myself-- not saying don't try the method, just are you sure you can't find a local natural foods store or restaurant that would sell you injera?

                        here is the same recipe link from my post in the original thread: there is one injera recipe, followed by another that looks like a short-cut recipe, using whole wheat flour instead of teff, club soda and lemon juice substituting for the yeasty sourdough that characterizes authentic injera.


                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Thank you soupkitten! There are a couple of doable recipes for injera at the site you posted. OTOH if I can find the bread in local markets, I probably will buy instead.

                    2. re: Gio

                      Travel Channel just aired (2/04/09) an Andrew Zimmern Bizarre Foods segment about Ethiopia. Sadly, I just tuned in as they had finished cooking the injera.

                      I had it once at an "Ethiopian-Italian" restaurant in Oaklnd and have remembered it as very tasty, but the dish we ate it with was aMAZing. So many flavors all at once!

                      Thanks for the inducement to try some of the wats.