What do you do when Spring goes back into hiding?
Do you flip on the heat? Invite your cat or dog onto your lap? Pull on your favourite sloppy (old and moth-eaten) wooly jumper whilst simultaneously switching on the kettle for a cup of tea? Dear reader, I have done all of the above. And, after making food for my classes – spinach, broccoli, feta and wild rice pie; Brazilian sweet potato, peppers and bean salad; and rhubarb, anise and vanilla bundt cake, in case you are interested – I have also been making this uber-comforting, earthy stew. Just for us. As well as keeping the heat and cosy layers on, too. Remember, I’m a Floridian at heart.
It is officially Spring in the UK of course, but the weather in my adopted home hasn’t got that memo. Or rather it has snatched it back and scrawled, “More rain, drizzle, mist and yuck for the forseeable. Soz.”
So, soup. Or stew. Yes, this is thick and hearty enough to call a stew. I’ve slightly Anglicised this traditional Ethiopian recipe by using British-grown dried split green peas that were given to me by Hodmedods. to play with, and couple of handfuls of fresh English watercress, gifted to me by Watercress.co.uk (LoveWatercress). Normally – and do this if you wish of course – one would use red lentils and perhaps spinach at a push. It is a stew that normally charms with its dazzling palette of spices rather than a “whos who” of vegetables. Of course, me being me, I had to add more vegetables.
I’ve also added more fibre and some beta-carotene goodness from a fat sweet potato to complement the spices. I think it works very well. Typically this dish is literally eaten with injera, a traditional flatbread made with fermented teff flour batter (I used some teff in my rhubarb cakes today), in that you ladle the stew onto the injera as well as use this pliable bread to scoop up pinches of stew (the wot of the title). I may yet make this bread but as I need to remember to ferment the batter for a few days it is more likely that, as will be the case tonight, brown basmati will have to do. But rice is not so good as a scoop, nor does it make a sensible, edible placemat.
Just to say also that if you like Indian food, you should like this. They are not the same of course, but both cuisines (and yes, I know Indian has many cuisines) use layered spices and slower cooking to create unique and nutritious curries and stews. Not everyone has tried Ethiopian food, so this is the best comparison I can make.
I have only tried Ethiopian food twice, both times in London. Once was sitting with my family on a street curb, scooping stew with injera from a paper plate and wishing we had more injera to use as napkins (I think as much went on my top as in my mouth). We had waited patiently in a long, sticky-hot queue in a street food market somewhere in east London, looking sidelong at a Japanese gyoza stall that seemed much more efficient. But once we got our heaving and very bendy plates of food from the smiley ladies who were patiently and proudly explaining to nearly every customer what they were actually ordering (that was what was taking so long – hospitality!) we forgot our hunger and hot wait. I can’t think of any other time I have ever eaten with my bottom sat on a street curb but it was funny, and messy and jolly. I do however recommend the table and chair option, which we will be enjoying tonight. Enjoy.
Has Spring sprung where you are, or has it been playing a cruel game of hide and seek? Or, you my be going into Autumn. Are you still needing soup to keep warm? (This soup is perfect for either!)
Mesir Wot – Ethiopian Berbere Spice Lentil Stew
I’ve given a long list of spices to use but please, if you don’t have all of these, don’t go out especially to get them. Another site has recommended using garam masala and then adding paprika and chilli pepper. I would also say to add cinnamon and cardamom. It won’t taste the same of course, but it will still taste very good.
375-400g (2 cups) dried green or yellow split peas OR red lentils (the latter will go very soft and “pureed”; no pre-soaking need), soaked overnight OR boiled for 10 minutes then rinsed.
2 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 leek or red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each of ground cardamom, allspice, cloves, coriander, hot pepper (e.g cayenne), nutmeg, and turmeric
1/4 tsp fenugreek (optional), black pepper
1 sweet potato, diced
1.7 litres vegetable stock OR boiling water and 2 tsp salt
One bunch of watercress OR 150g (5.3 oz) baby spinach or kale, roughly chopped
1. Heat the oil in a large lidded pot, then add the leeks and garlic, cooking gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and cook for a further two minutes before adding the soaked/pre-cooked lentils, the chopped sweet potatoes and the stock or water.
2. Bring the stew to the boil and then lower to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook a further 20 minutes to allow the stew to thicken up. Stir in the chopped watercress or spinach just before serving with your chose of grain/bread and the lemon slices.
Disclaimer: I was given some products to try but I have not been paid for this recipe, nor required to use either in a recipe. I only ever feature products that I actually use and love. Always.
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