Recipe: Missir Wat

Missir wat is a hearty lentil dish with a rich berbere flavor. This is a great dish to bring along to a potluck or family gathering. It’s a nice introduction for newcomers to Ethiopian cooking, easily doubles for a large crowd, and is one of the easiest recipes to make. And at around $3 per batch, it’s inexpensive. You can turn the heat up or down by adjusting the amount of berbere to your liking. I make it pretty spicy because that’s our family’s preference (even at age 2, Sula can take it like a champ!) but if you aren’t too keen on heat, definitely limit the berbere to a tablespoon or so the first time you make it. The recipe below could easily feed six. Before starting, take a look at this post that explains the basics of Ethiopian cooking- much of it applies to a recipe like this.

3 onions, chopped
1/2 c. oil
2-3 tbsp. berbere
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 c. water, plus extra on hand
2 c. split red lentils, rinsed well
minced ginger and garlic (about 1 tbsp. each)
salt to taste

In a large stock pot, cook the onions on medium/medium-high heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the oil and cook for a few more minutes before adding the berbere. Add the berbere and allow the ingredients to simmer together for several minutes (berbere should always have plenty of time to cook before other ingredients are added- Kiddy told me about a word,”kulait,” for a sort of uncooked/raw flavor of berbere that wasn’t allowed to cook through all the way. I know what she means and it’s important to avoid it). Add the tomatoes and several spoonfuls of the tomato juice and stir. Then add three cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients. Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer, but keep a close eye on the lentils- if the liquid has been absorbed before the lentils have softened, add more water as needed and continue cooking on low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and salt, stir well, and continue simmering until the lentils are completely tender.

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4 responses to “Recipe: Missir Wat

  1. Hi there, just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful Ethiopian recipes. I cook the misir wat and tikil gomen all the time, with injera we buy locally. Your family is beautiful – congratulations.

  2. Any reason why you added ginger and garlic later instead of adding them after onions?

    • theberberediaries

      Good question! It was something I was unaccustomed to at first, and I have asked the same of several Ethiopian cooks. No one had any particular reason, it’s just how it’s always been done, and it works well. My guess is that it may have to do with wanting to avoid diffusion of the more precious ingredients by waiting (until water has boiled off, etc.) and being able to control the flavor of the dish. Don’t worry about the ginger or garlic being too sharp- they cook up and lose their raw bite quickly- and the flavors end up being infused evenly throughout the dish.

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