Ethiopian Spiced Lentils

Sometimes, when I get an idea in my head about something I want to cook, it will stay there until it comes out of my kitchen.

Lentils in Berbere Sauce. Lentils in Berbere Sauce.  Lentils in Berbere Sauce.

This thought entered my head last weekend.

You see, I’ve been spending a bit of time in Montreal these days.  Montreal, if you’ve never been, is a pretty wonderful city. Old Montreal is charming, and the French influence abundant around the city makes me feel like I’m far from home, which I’m not.  It is the largest French speaking city in North America!

Last Saturday night, huge culinary doors opened in my world.  I had never eaten Ethiopian and after a simply lovely afternoon strolling through the chilly city streets, sipping hot coffee, and just before turning my feet into popcicles checking out the Snow Village, I went to Nil Bleu for dinner.  I had never eaten Ethiopian food before.  I didn’t really know what to expect, and frankly, I could have been happy that evening eating a bowl of cereal because I was in great company. This meal, however, blew me away.  I was pretty hungry when we arrived and we shared the vegetarian platter which was pretty much a feast of pure amazingness.  There were so many flavors, and combinations that I was sure I had never before put together.  Every single thing I put in my mouth was delicious, but the lentils in berbere sauce stole a spot in my heart.  Love at first bite.  This food was so good, I ate a few bites past full.  You know, the few bites that make you want to unbutton your pants at the dinner table.  I didn’t, but I know you know what I’m talking about.

The following morning, I awoke, as usual, with the sun.  Into my head crept: Lentils in Berbere and I started searching and reading food blogs written by people who have attempted this dish in their very own kitchen.  And, I kept reading and thinking and reading and thinking…until today.  What I did today is based on Sister Vegetarian and The Taste Space‘s recipes.

*Note: If you try this, your life will be forever changed.


Lentils in Berbere Sauce

  • 1.5 cups green lentils
  • 4.5 cups water
  • salt
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Berbere (see recipe below)
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/8 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup water (reserved from the lentils when they are finished cooking)
  • Ghee or Olive Oil (I used ghee.  I didn’t measure.  The original recipe from Sister Vegetarian called for 1/4 cup which felt like a lot to me so I used less than that)

Add lentils and water to a pot with a little salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of water before you drain lentils.  While lentils are cooking, melt ghee (or heat olive oil), then add cumin, cloves, fenugreek, and ginger.  Chop red onion and mince garlic cloves, add that to the oil and saute 5-10 minutes until onion is transparent.  Add berbere, tomatoes, tomato paste, and reserved liquid.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Add cooked lentils.  Add salt to taste. I’m going to eat this over brown rice, but one of these days I will try making Injera, the traditional bread that it is served with.

Berbere Spice Blend

  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried chiles

1 Comment

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One response to “Ethiopian Spiced Lentils

  1. I love Ethiopian lentils! I often toss in diced carrots and/or potatoes, too. So, so good.

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