I have to thank my work colleagues for inspiring me to post this recipe. I took this dish to work today with some crackers to contribute to a goodbye morning tea (Angelo is leaving me! I will miss his Effie impressions..) and it went down very well. I’ve had this recipe for almost a year, the first time I made it was for another work morning tea, to celebrate Harmony Day in March 2013. I’ve always had a strong interest in other cultures and their food and music in particular, so this was my first foray into the wonderful world of Ethiopian cuisine. It’s so healthy and delicious – and a lot of it vegan! (or easily made so)
For the word nerds out there, ‘Yesmir’ means lentil (red lentil in the case of this dish), and ‘Wot’ refers to a stew or curry like dish. ‘Berbere’ (pronounced behr-behr-EE) is another important word, and another essential ingredient in this and many other Ethiopian dishes. Berbere is a ground spice mix that is added to the dish in the initial stages, and gives the wonderful unique flavour that I’d say only a good ‘wot’ can have.
I made my own Berbere for this dish, which I think really makes it, but if you don’t have spices on hand you might be able to get it from a good supermarket or African grocer. Some Indian or other Asian grocers might stock it too, you might have to go hunting, or you may decide it’s easier to make it yourself!
Here are the recipes for Yesmir Wot and Berbere, note I’m using Australian measures:
- 1 red onion, very finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
- 1 tbsp Berebere
- small amount of oil for initial frying (or make it fat free and skip the frying, it will still be excellent. Just throw it all in a pot and bubble away for an hour.)
- 1-2 cups thoroughly washed red lentils (colleagues, I used 1 cup for the batch you had)
- 1 tin of good quality crushed tomatoes (or fresh, as long as they are ripe and tasty)
- ½ to 1 litre water
- dash of lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste (you do need to taste it and adjust the seasoning prior to serving – really important!)
Method: In a large saucepan fry onions with a teaspoon or two of oil. Once onions are softened, add the garlic and continue to stir and fry. Add a splash of water if it starts to get too dry. Add Berbere spice mix and stir into the frying onions and garlic. Stir this around and fry for a minute or so. Keep adding small amounts of water if it looks like burning or drying out too much. Once the onions are cooked and it’s smelling delicious, add tomatoes, water and rinsed lentils. Give it a good stir as you bring it to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for up to an hour. You will know it’s done when the lentils are mushy and it thickens up. If your lentils aren’t cooked and the water has evaporated, add more water. I usually simmer with a lot of water, and then turn it off once it’s reduced to the thickness I want. The lentils will definitely be cooked after an hour. Stir in a dash of lemon juice at the last moment and serve with flat bread (Injera is traditional) or rice and salad, or as a dip with crackers. Goes great with sourdough toast for breakfast!
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom (if you have whole cardamom, just use the little seeds inside the pods)
- ½ tsp ground allspice (or a few whole berries)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- ½ tsp nigella seeds
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cloves (two or three whole)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- ¼ cup chilli powder (add or reduce this depending on how spicy you want your wot)
Notes: Ground and whole spices can be interchanged in this recipe. If you use all ground spices just mix them together. If using whole spices, dry roast them for a few minutes in a frypan, then grind them up and add them to any other ground spices you are using. My berbere was made from a mixture of whole and ground spices I had on hand. The magic of this is that every person’s mix will be different. I can’t actually remember if I followed this berbere recipe exactly, but this is the list I had written down in my notebook. My advice would be to have fun with it, make your own version. Every version on the internet I’ve seen is a bit different. That’s how real cooking is.