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Ethiopian Chickpea Stew
Shiro wat is an Ethiopian stew made with ground dried legumes mixed with spices (a blend known as mitten shiro), along with aromatics, tomatoes and the spice blend called berbere. Meant to be served with injera (Ethiopian flatbread) and other dishes to comprise a complete meal, shiro wat is a thick, rustic puree. We loved the flavors, but wanted them as a stew hearty enough to be a vegetarian main, so we opted to use canned whole chickpeas and flavored them with many of the traditional seasonings and ingredients. Ground red lentils give our stew added earthiness while also acting as a thickener. As a cooking fat, we use Indian ghee, which approximates the flavor of Ethiopian fermented butter but is easier to find. Look for ghee in the supermarket grocery aisle near the coconut oil or in refrigerator aisle next to the butter. If you cannot find it, use salted butter in its place but also add 1 teaspoon white miso when adding the water.
tablespoons red lentils
tablespoons ghee (see headnote)
01In a spice grinder, pulse the lentils until finely ground, about 10 pulses; set aside. In a large saucepan over medium, melt the ghee. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and berbere. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have given up their liquid and the mixture is beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
While assembling this for the first time, I realized I didn't know if I should serve it over anything (rice, etc). I came here to look at comments and was scared by the comments about heat. Maybe it depends on the type of berbere you have, but ours was *not* overwhelmingly hot. We make our own berbere, since it's just a spice mix, so maybe that makes a difference. Side note - I'd consider serving over rice in the future, but for this entree, I whipped up some chapatis and served those with the stew.
As an Ethiopian who grew up eating Shiro and knows what the dish means to us, it is misleading to relate this dish to Shiro, because it really is not even similar, you may think so, but it is not, and insisting on it is a kind of disregard for the thing itself. Also why call it Ethiopian, there is no Ethiopian dish that looks like this. Ethiopian-inspired maybe.
This is super good, but HOLY COW is it spicy. Highly recommend!