Ethiopian feast

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The ingera used in this recipe contains gluten.

When I cook Ethiopian, I usually cook several dishes that include:

  • Messer wot (M): A spiced lentil stew traditionally served only slightly spicy. Since I often don't have access to shiro (traditionally the hotter vegetarian dish), I often cook messer wot so that it is very spicy.
  • Gomen wot (G): Collard greens sautéed in a spicy wot sauce.
  • Shiro wot (S): A spicy dish made of ground yellow split-pea flour (available online).
  • Potato, cabbage, tomato alicha (A): A non-spicy dish flavored primary with turmeric.
  • Mushroom "tibs" (T): A vegetarian take on a popular sautéed meat dish usually made with lamb or beef.

I prepare all of these dishes completely vegan. In Ethiopia, they are often prepared with clarified butter instead of oil.


  • Diced Garlic (lots!) (MGSA)
  • Diced Onions (quite a few!) (MGSA)
  • Red and green lentils (I use roughly a 1:3 ratio although I've done it with entire red and entirely green and both were good) (M)
  • Chopped Potatoes (A)
  • Chopped Cabbage (I prefer green/yellow cabbage on purely visual grounds) (A)
  • Chopped Tomato (A)
  • Chopped Collard greens (G)
  • Diced Green chili peppers (T)
  • Chopped Mushrooms (e.g., portabella) (T)
  • White wine vinegar (T)
  • Salt (everything)
  • Vegetable oil (traditionally clarified butter or ghee);

You'll also need the following spices (available at

  • Berbere (hot red spice that's essential, in large quantities to wot) (MG)
  • Mitmita (hotter spice used in kitfo or to add heat to a dish) (T)
  • Turmeric (A)

Making Wot (e.g., Shiro, Messer, or Gomen)[edit]

Wot is the national dish of Ethiopia and it is very easy to make. It's similar to a curry in basic preparation. To start, you need to make a wot base which will be used in any wot based dish. This is pretty simple:

  1. Dice garlic and onions. Smaller is better, if possible, but onions under 1cm squared should be fine, if not ideal.
  2. Pour a very liberal amount of oil into a pan and sauté the onions and garlic. These should be cooked for a long time on medium heat until they are nearly beyond recognition but not burned. (That's a hacker exaggeration; stir and cook enough that all onions are transparent, then beyond that, without burning. You can still recognize them.)
  3. Mix berberre into the oil/onion mix (add more than you think you need until is a a deep, dark red). (Now it becomes unrecognizable.)

Now either put the wot base aside, or (if you were clever) take the other ingredients for wot you've been cooking in parallel, and mix it together with the wot base to taste. If you've done it right, you will have the right amount of spiciness in your dish. Since this rarely happens (at least at first), you'll need to put more berberre in at this point. Be careful to stir well and to sprinkle it in slowly; it can clump!

For messer wot, I boil the lentils for 40 minutes or so (until soft) before adding the base. Use maybe 2 to 3 cups of water per cup of lentils; you're not looking for lentil soup, but solid lentils in paste.

For gomen wot, I add the chopped collards right into a well oiled pan and cook with the top on.

For shiro wot, I boil water, add shiro power, and add wot base, oil, and salt when it becomes very viscous. How much water, how much shiro, you ask? The total volume when it's done is about twice the volume of the powder. You'll want about as much boiling water as you have powder -- maybe a little more. Our shiro powder was pre-spiced; it didn't need much wot base.

Finally, add oil and salt to taste!

All this food tastes very hot when you sample it out of the pan. Don't worry -- that powerful spicy flavor will be moderated by the injera when it's actually served.

Making Alicha[edit]

I put the potatoes in oil in a large pan or wok first since they take the longest to cook. When they are beginning to get soft, I'll add the chopped cabbage. When it is soft, add turmeric liberally and salt to taste. It should become a soft, brilliant yellow in color. When it looks down, turn down the heat and stir in tomatoes. Don't add them too early or they will liquefy.