Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew

>> Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew
Okra seems like a Southern US food, but lentils and okra are also staples in Ethiopian cooking.

I have a most wonderful problem. I'm playing with so many different hobbies and jobs that I keep running out of time...which is why this recipe that we made two weeks ago has been languishing unfinished on this blog for so long.

Perhaps somebody somewhere is wondering how to make an authentic Ethiopian vegetarian stew and I've let them down. Instead, I've been painting and working with mixed media art photographs and working as a marketing manager and preparing for a new launch of my Etsy shop, full of beach-inspired crafts and themed photography.

Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew

But let me tell you about this richly-flavored Ethiopian stew. My vegan friend lent me her copy of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, in which the writer provides recipes for dozens of traditional Ethiopian dishes with substitutions for vegan and gluten-free eating.

I didn't know much about Ethiopia, other than what I remember of the horrific droughts and starvation back in the 1980s. I learned that Ethiopia is on the horn of Africa, right below the Middle Eastern countries and the Red Sea. While we won't visit Africa anytime soon, we can still take a food vacation there.

Thanks, Wikipedia, for this photo!
Some of the earliest human remains have been found in this country, and it was one of the most powerful countries in the world around 200 A.D. A culture this old must surely know a thing or two about cooking good food, and this lentil-okra stew is amazing. It's also cheap,gluten-free and vegan, low in fat and cholesterol, and easy to prepare.

According to Papa Tofu's recipes, the staple spice mix Berbere used in this recipe can be in paste or dried form, and contains many of the same ingredients used in Indian cooking: red peppers, cardamom, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, etc.  We made a jar full of berbere paste that we froze to enjoy in a lot of foods. I hope you like it as much as we have!


For the berbere paste:

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the Ethiopian lentil-okra soup:
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh okra, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup berbere paste


To make the Berbere paste:
Saute the garlic, ginger, and onion in the oil until tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend into a thick paste.

For the lentil stew:
Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the lentils are tender. Skim off any foam that rises in the pot. Drain the lentils and set them aside.

Place the tomatoes and berbere paste in the pot and simmer until they soften and become a puree. YOu can use an immersion blender to make the sauce an even texture, if desired. Stir in the okra, vegetable broth, and lentils, and simmer until the okra is just tender and the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes.

Serve over rice or with flatbreads such as naan, pita, or Ethiopian injera bread.

Serves 4.


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