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.