Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Looking for tasty vegetarian dishes for dinner a few years ago I stumbled upon these recipes. I've put my own spin on them here. I always serve the stew with a yogurt sauce that really completes it in my view.

Lentil Stew

1 cup dried red lentils
1 large or 2 medium onions minced
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon picante pimenton *
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon berbere (recipe follows)
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons peanut oil

(*Note: I use El Rey Pimenton de la Vera which I get from the Spanish Table. A clerk in the store highly recommended it to me once when I was there saying I'd be tempted to use it in everything once I tried it. He wasn't far off the mark as I do use it a lot looking for any excuse to)

Soak the lentils in water for an hour. Meanwhile mince the onions and saute until quite golden and dark. While the onions are cooking, pound the garlic in a mortar with a pinch of salt. Add the ginger, pimenton, turmeric, and Garam Masals and pound into a paste.

When the onions are about done, make a space in the middle of skillet and add the spices to toast for about 30 seconds. Then add the tomato paste to caramelize, then finally the berbere sauce. Mix all of the ingredients in the skillet together well. Drain the lentils and add into the mix with the broth/water allowing it all to reduce to a medium thick stew, about 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat. Add water if needed to prevent it from drying out. 

Serve with the yogurt sauce (below) on the side.

Berbere (spice paste)

1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons finely minced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup paprika
1 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup water

in a cast-iron skillet. toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloved, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat without burning them, this should only take about a minute. Set aside to cool

Combine the spices with the onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the salt and 3 tablespoons water in a blender and blend into a smooth paste.

Combine the paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the skillet and toast over low heat for a minute or so. Stir in the water, a 1/4 cup at a time. Then stir in the blended mixture. Stir vigorously over the lowest possible heat for 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the berbere to a jar, packing it in tightly. Let the paste cool to room temperature then cover with a film of oil to store. I've had this last up to almost a year in the frig.

Yogurt Sauce

This is a simple sauce, ideal to serve on the side with the stew as it enhances the flavors as well as counteracts with its heat. I use a mix of Greek yogurt (like Fage - don't use anything like Dannon or a sweetened yogurt for this as it's just not the same thing at all) and a nice lebne if I happen to have it around as it thickens up the sauce just a tad. 

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup lebne or yogurt cheese
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1-2 teaspoons hot pimenton

Add salt and garlic cloves into a mortar and pound into a paste. Add the dill and the pimenton. Whisk the yogurt and lebne in a mixing bowl and combine with the spices. Allow to sit for about an hour in the frig before serving.

Carrots in Chermoula Sauce

Basically this is simply boiled carrots served with Moroccan spices; cilantro, garlic, parsley, cumin and pimenton.

Prepare a couple of pounds of carrots by peeling them and cutting them into chunks about a couple inches long. Put into a pot and cover with boiling water cooking for about 15 minutes, until they are soft and tender. Drain.

Chermoula Sauce

1 tablespoon picante pimenton 
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley

3 tablespoons high quality extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

With most spice mixture I usually use my Thai granite mortar and pestle to pound into a paste. I pound the dry ingredients separately then add into the wet ingredients to finish the paste. For this sauce, I pound the cumin seeds with a pinch of salt and the pimenton then remove to a separate bowl. I then add another pinch of salt with the garlic cloves, the cilantro and parsley to pound into a paste. Once it is a rough paste I add back the dry ingredients to pound a bit more then add in the olive oil and lemon juice now using the pestle as a kind of spoon or whisk to mix and smooth the paste to completion. Like with the yogurt sauce I find it better to let this sit for about half an hour before mixing with the carrots then let them sit another half hour or so to pick up the flavors before serving at room temperature.

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