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Ethiopian Stew and Swiss Chocolate

Passport & Plate - Misir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)

Ethiopia | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 5 photos

Misir Wat, Mesir wot, Misr wat
Although the ways to spell this dish are varied, this recipe for Misir Wat or Ethiopian red lentil stew is super simple (only 8 ingredients) and in 20 minutes produces an authentic Ethiopian dish.
1-1.5 cup dry split red lentils
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tbsp Berbere spice (if you can't find this Ethiopian spice mixture at your local grocer, order it online)
1 onion (finely chopped)
4 cloves fresh garlic
2.5 cups water
1 small can (75-150 ml)tomato paste
Salt as needed

How to prepare this recipe
This recipe is so simple
1. Finely chop onion and garlic and saute in medium sized pot with a few generous tablespoons of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes until onions are soft. Add in tomato paste and Berbere spice and stir until mixed thoroughly. If mixture is too thick, add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook mixture another 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

2. Place red lentils in a bowl and rinse thoroughly. Once rinsed, add 2.5 cups of fresh water to the bowl and add this to the onion and Berbere mixture. At medium heat, stirring occasionally, simmer until lentils are fully cooked – about 15 or 20 minutes. Stir in more water if needed. Salt to taste

Serving suggestions...
Serve over baked chicken
Add potatoes other root vegetable or beans to make a chilli or stew.
Make some injera and eat it the traditional way using your right hand and pieces of the injera to scoop the stew into your mouth.

The story behind this recipe:
If when you hear Ethiopia your mind instantly conjures up images of malnourished children and little else you are not alone. Even today, Ethiopia is not a very well-traveled destination but this very fact makes it all the more enjoyable for the people who do come to this amazing country. There is a lonely planet guide to Ethiopia and the country even has a tourist track, highlights of which include but are not limited to; hiking in the Simien and Bale mountains, seeing the tribal areas of the lower Omo valley and visiting the stone mosques and churches of Axum and Lalibella. While I saw none of these highlights during my time in Ethiopia, my time there changed my life. When I stepped off the plane in early October 2011, I had a phone number of an American couple whose daughter had met one of my professors from University, a backpack and an open and willing attitude to experience anything and everything Ethiopia would offer.

Within a couple hours the American couple had picked me up and found me a job volunteering for a Swiss NGO in the heart of Addis Abbaba. I later learned that the NGO was desperate for more help and that I arrived at just the right time. I laid concrete, tiled, gardened, painted and learned so much from the people I interacted with. I have never felt so certain that I was meant to be somewhere in my life. I learned that Ethiopia was the only country in Africa never to be colonized. I learned that every Ethiopian's name means something. I befriended Maza who worked as a cook and whose name meant "smells very nice" and Desaleng whose name meant "I am very happy." As I tried to learn Amharic and Swiss-german we bonded over our lunches of "Misir wat" a lentil stew, "injera" a delicious tangy flat-bread and swiss chocolate for dessert. Whenever I make injera or misir wat I remember my crazy minibus rides to work, the varied pantomimes and games of charades I would play with Desaleng to communicate and always Maza bringing in the bowl of Misir Wat.

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