Saturday, July 2, 2011

Yesmir We't (Ethiopian Lentil Stew)

Ethiopian dinners are all about flavor and texture contrasts. When you have several dishes on one injera plate, they all need to provide something different. Particularly when they are made with similar base ingredients.

That's what I love about yesmir we't. It's completely different from the Ethiopian red lentils with peppers I shared earlier. While the red lentils were so creamy that each lentil was indistinguishable from the others, these brown lentils were still intact and had the tiniest bit of crunch to them. With the addition of berbere paste and nit'ir qibe, these lentils had an assertive taste that made them a star on the dinner plate.

Cooking these lentils completely transformed the smell of my apartment. Instantly, Ethiopian spices prevailed as the nitir'qibe combined with the garlic and onions. I wanted to just stand over the pan and inhale the aromas. It made it hard to wait an hour for the dish to be done.

Plus, I made a double batch of these lentils, and we had one burner out on the stove. They took up two valuable burners for a long time. I was glad they tasted good.

Yesmir We't (Ethiopian Lentil Stew) 
recipe from Myra Kornfeld

This recipe serves 10 to 12 as part of a larger Ethiopian dinner. It would also be delicious inside the lentil sambusas (a perfect use for the leftover lentils).

1/4 cup nit'ir qibe (spiced clarified butter)
2 cups onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon berbere (Ethiopian spice paste)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils
4 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste
Plain yogurt (optional--a Greek yogurt will work perfectly for this)

Warm the nit'ir qibe in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are just translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the berbere, cumin and paprika, and saute for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally to prevent browning.

Mix in the lentils, water and 1 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, and cook the lentils for about an hour or so, partially covered, until the lentils are quite tender. Stir occasionally. Check regularly to see if there's still enough liquid covering the lentils and add more water if necessary.

When the lentils reach your desired consistency, stir in the lemon juice and add a sprinkling of black pepper. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


  1. Will be fun for me to try both the red lentil recipe and this one! Thanks.

  2. Thanks Kayte! I think the two dishes go really nicely together and they feel considerably different.