Berbere Lentils Recipe (Yemisir Wat)

As you may know from previous blog entries – and social media posts! – we recently attended Folklorama, in Winnipeg. It’s my absolute favourite event every year, and has been kind of … therapeutic?… since moving to the USA.

Anyway, I’m planning to do a write up on it eventually, but in the meantime, back to today’s recipe!

The Ethiopian Pavilion is a must stop for us, every time that we make the trip for Folklorama. It’s not as big and flashy as many of the other pavilions, but what it DOES have is some of the absolute best food of the entire festival.

After returning from the trip this year, Porter requested that I figure out Ethiopian cooking – ESPECIALLY the firey lentils that he loves. So, I did a bunch of research and put together recipes for both the berbere seasoning (which seems to vary wildly, based on who makes it!), and the lentil dish named for the seasoning. Made a batch, LOVED it.

Couple days later, I get the following photos and a text of “YOU FINISHED THE LENTILS!?” from my husband:

… So I made another batch, and decided that I should probably blog the recipe. HIGHLY addictive stuff, this is!

First off, you’ll need to make the Berbere Seasoning. This makes more than you’ll need for the lentils recipe, but is great in almost anything that could use a kick. Try it as a dry rub on chicken!

Berbere Seasoning

½ cup dried chiles (packed!)
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cardamom seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
2 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Measure chiles, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, peppercorns, and cloves into a dry, nonstick pan. Toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until aromatic. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

In a spice grinder, process toasted spices into a fine powder. Allow to spices to settle a bit before opening the grinder – the powder can be irritating to lungs and nasal passages!. Transfer to a small mixing bowl. Add remaining spices to the bowl, stir well. Store in an airtight container until use.

Berbere Lentils

Makes about 3 1/2 cups

1/2 cup canola oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped or grated
1/3 – 1/2 cup Berbere seasoning
1 Tbsp ginger puree
1 Tbsp minced, pressed, or pureed garlic
1 cup dried red lentils
3+ cups water
Salt and pepper

In a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, cook onions in canola oil until soft. Add Berbere (Start with 1/3 cup if you’re not used to this!), ginger, garlic, and lentils, stir well. Add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil.

Once mixture boils, turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Simmer lentils – stirring frequently – until water is absorbed and lentils are mushy. Remove from heat.

Taste, add more Berbere if you’d like, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, with injera.

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