Recipe: Eritrean Lentil Stew (Wat)

Serves 4

Let’s thank Eritrea for this giant, vegan bowl of deliciousness – a happy mixture of spicy lentils, offset by sweet carrots and tomatoes. The heat comes from berberé, the regional spice blend that should be added with a heavy hand. You know, for authenticity purposes. And lots of sweating.

Edited to add: One of our readers posted a great tip in the comments section of our Ethiopian menu which also applies to Eritrean cooking:

When I watch Ethiopian cooks in Ethiopia they chop up red onion very tiny (I use a food processor and stop short of pulverizing as it helps it cook down faster) and then dry cook it in the pan — no oil. They dry cook it stirring constantly until it turns almost into a paste — imagine the consistency of a good roux. It takes a lot of onion to get the right amount of this paste. Then add the oil/lentils, sauce stuff, etc. The onion paste is actually the thickener for the wat — if you don’t do this step properly then the wat ends up too soupy/watery or you end up having to put in too much other thickeners.

-Sandra

While our version is nice and dry (and tastes lovely as is), you might be interested in playing with this technique sometime.

Ingredients:

oil or ghee
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp (for mild) – 2 tsp berberé
2 carrots, chopped
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes (substitute fresh if you have them)
1 1/2 lentils (I used red and green)
2 cups water or stock
salt and pepper

Method:

Put on your tank top and shorts. It’s about to get hot in here!

Next, add chopped onions to a medium pot and sauté in a little ghee or oil.

Add in the crushed garlic while they are cooking.

Once the onions are softened and starting to color, add the berberé. One tsp of my berberé blend will make the stew mild because the lentils soak up most of the heat.

I double dog dare you to add as much berberé as you can stand and report back on the results!

Double dog dare? Let’s pretend I never said that.

Stir in the chopped carrots. Ava had fun pointing out how they look like moons.

Next, add the chopped tomatoes. They help cut the heat.

And now, for the star attraction. Pour on the lentils – I sure wish the colors stayed vibrant after cooking. Gorgeousness!

I could run my fingers through lentils all day long.

Splash on the water, season with salt and pepper, and give the mixture a big stir.

Simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.

Ours took about 45 minutes to cook, but sometimes lentils cook in 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, avoid folding that mountain of laundry you have piled up. I heartily recommend drinking a glass of wine, possibly with your sister who is visiting from NJ.

Serve with a spoon, on top of injera, or straight from the pot, while standing in front of the stove.

I do things like that a lot.

But only in my own house. Or my sister’s house because she loves me unconditionally.

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Comments

  1. Making this right now, and it smells amazing! Can’t wait to eat it!!

  2. I just tried Sandra’s method to make a dry onion paste. It is brilliant. It makes the preparation slightly more time consuming and it will make you and your house smell like a sweet onion (which is only a good thing). The results are nothing short of life changing. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Awesome! I’m so glad – I’ll have to try it this way next time. I’m really looking forward to it as the flavor of sweet onion is just about the best thing in the galaxy.

  3. I’m making this at the moment and it smells great. I’ve had a bottle of berbere that I got at a spice shop and I finally get to use it, thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] of injera spread over the table have been eaten. Injera is typically eaten with soups, such as wat, a dense and spicy lentil [...]

  2. [...] powder called Berbere that imparts a distinctive spicy flavor. One dish where berbere is used in is wat. This is rich and delectable stew that is prepared with grains and [...]

  3. […] Berberé is a spicy and savory spice mixture used all over Eritrea and Ethiopia. This blend goes well with chicken, beef, or lamb, and would also be great with lentils and other legumes. I’ve used it with our Doro Wat (chicken stew) and Awaze Tibs (lamb stew) recipes. A few sprinkles would also be great in our Lentil Wat. […]

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