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Mesir W'et - Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew

What you need: 

1 cup dried red lentils
1 onion, chopped
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
oil, for frying
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon berbere or an additional 1 tablespoon paprika or 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
sea salt and pepper, to taste

What you do: 

1. Soak lentils for at least an hour in water. Drain and rinse and set aside. Saute onions and garlic in oil until golden.
2. Add broth or water. Add spices and tomato paste. When gently boiling, add lentils.
3. Turn down heat and simmer until lentils are tender and it's a thick stew, adding more liquid if needed. Serve with rice, Injera bread or pita bread.
This is a recipe that I've tweaked to perfection and everyone asks me to bring to any potluck or party. If you can find a market that sells berere (a spice blend) it will taste more authentic. You can find recipes for the spice blend online or see the recipe for substitutes if you are in a hurry. This is usually served with injera, a flat pancake like bread. If you can't find that you could serve this with rice or pita bread.

Preparation Time: 
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My first lentil dish for sure and a fun one to make... fun and easy. I used green lentils for lack of red lentils and some brown rice. Didn't have half the spices as I'm a novice in Asian and African cooking, so I just used lots of cumin, red pepper, black pepper, and chile powder. May not be authentic, but it's tasty and that's just what I was looking for. Thanks. :)


Fabulous recipe. I've always looked for a combination of ingredients that compared favorably with Ethiopian restaurants, and this is one that is very close.  I didn't have time to soak, so I cooked the lentils in 4-5 cups of water for about 20 minutes while cooking the onions (which I took to a caramelized state) ginger, and garlic. Terrific results. And, yes, please do cut the cayenne to no more than a teaspoon unless you are a fan of pure fire. Even 1/2 would service most people. 


I love Mesir W'et! This recipe looks a lot like the one I have made before, I can't wait to try it! I bet it's delicious.


Lovely dish.  A couple of notes:
Unless you have a recipe designed to feed a regiment of Gurkhas, you will never want to add "1 tablespoon cayenne pepper" to anything.  Ever. I used an online reference to make my own berbere, taking the opportunity to adjust the heat to my liking.  I would strongly advise this approach.

It's probably worth the effort to find and buy red lentils.  Ordinary brown or green lentils won't look as nice, and they don't have quite the same taste and texture.

It may not be necessary with these strong spices, but I added the spices to the sauteed onions and garlic, rather than adding them after the broth.  The hot oil brings out the flavor of the spices better than the hot broth does.

I stumbled across this recipe because I was making injera and wanted to make something Ethiopian to go with it.  It made a terrific meal.  But I think rice would go nearly as well, basmati or plain.

If I were making this for guests, I would make it as hot as I like (medium hot) and let those with more timid palates reduce the heat with a side dish of rice.


this was so hot and spicy and delicious, i ate 3 bowls! good thing i tripled the recipe(we had company). i think everyone ate at least 2 bowls of it. i served it with rice and made berbere from a recipe i found online.


I'm so excited to get this recipe.  I buy injera (which I love) from my Ethiopian students and don't have enough recipes to use with them. 


Really nice recipe!  Fast and tasty, I didn't soak the lentils beforehand and I don't think it was necessary.  I didn't have any ground ginger for berbere but it was still REALLY good, I think I'll try to get ahold of those for next time.  Also added some soy yogurt and ate with whole wheat pita bread, and it was really nice.


This was one of the best lentil recipe's i've ever had!
I added some carrots and fresh diced tomatoes.
Fantastic and a crowd pleaser at my house! :) Thanks so much!


I loved this! Thanks for the recipie:)


What kind of greens did you add in that picture?  It looks fabulous but I've never had Ethiopian food (sadly) and don't know what greens would work.

I can't quite remember what I used that time, but those would be either collard greens or Swiss chard (I'm thinking the former). I really don't know what would be "authentic" for this type of dish, but I often like to add whatever greens I have on hand, just to boost nutritional content and add more colour/texture.

I went to my co-op specifically to hunt down and buy berbere for this dish, and I'm glad I did!
Since I'm not too experienced with making Ethiopian cuisine, I decided to stick to the recipe, spice quantities and all, as close as I could. As I mentioned above, though, I just felt the need to add some greens in with the stew...but that was my only modification, and I'm sure this dish would be just as good without them.
Oh, and I buy split red lentils that cook up very quickly, so I didn't soak mine.

This reminded me of an Indian dal, but with a very interesting and unfamiliar flavour. It was SO yummy and pleasantly filling.
My only suggestion would be to double the recipe if You want Your leftovers to last more than half a day.  ;D



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