Sunday, November 25, 2012

Truly Authentic Mesir Wot

A few years ago, I posted a really great mesir wot recipe. But after I spent the last couple years living in Ethiopia, I realized that while awesome, the recipe wasn't quite authentic. With the help of my good Ethiopian friend Ruti, I came up with this recipe that is more full-flavored and dead-on authentic. It's identical to the mesir wot I used to order at the little food shack across from my house.

Note—it’s important to NOT use a non-stick pan for this. The recipe involves scalding the lentils to the pot bottom and using a Teflon-coated pot will ruin the coating and ensure that you end up with a lot of Teflon flakes in your dinner. Use cast-iron, ceramic-lined, or a plain metal pot, like all old Ethiopian women do.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

4 TBSP oil
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils
½ tsp ground cardamom
3 TBSP berbere
1 tsp salt or to taste
A pinch or two of sugar (optional)

Heat your large non-nonstick sauce pan, over medium to med-high heat with just the onions in it; no oil yet. (The idea is to sweat some of the moisture out before adding the oil and other ingredients.) Stir the onions almost constantly while doing this. Sweat them for several minutes, not allowing them to stick to the bottom, until they've become translucent. Add oil and sauté a few more minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, sauté a few additional minutes.

Now add the cardamom and berbere, as well as a couple tablespoons water. Reduce your heat a notch and stir very frequently for about 10 minutes, adding an additional splash of water if necessary to avoid sticking.

Add ¼ cup of water and lentils. Sauté, stirring with a metal spatula almost constantly, until water is absorbed. Continue adding water about ¼ cup at a time. The idea is that you want the lentils to scorch to the bottom a bit each time but not burn. You then scrape the caramelized lentil gunk into the rest of the wot to give it a sweet, nutty flavor. Continue doing this until the lentils are fully cooked. Then top off with enough water to give it a nice, wot consistency. Adjust seasoning an add salt and a bit of sugar, if necessary.

Serve with injera and other delicious Ethiopian vittles.

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