Kik Kei Wat

First an apology in case I’m not accurate in my naming of this dish.  I took a guess, because I knew that if I gave it a descriptive title like Berbere Split Pea soup, a) it wouldn’t sound as interesting and exotic, and b) approximately 75 percent of you wouldn’t have opened this post.  So many people have had a bad experience with split peas and it’s really too bad because, cooked well, they are a delicious, healthy, and economical food.  So, read on, please!  Whether your trouble with the split peas of your past is digestive or textural, I think this recipe can turn it around for you.

Meals in Ethiopia (based on what I’ve read and heard, since I’ve never actually been there) are often thick stews, served directly on a large injera (spongy flatbread) that’s been spread out like a tablecloth, then eaten using torn pieces of injera as utensils.  The more authentic version of this stew might be very thick and consist only of split peas, but it would probably be served as one of many stews including a thick vegetable stew.  To keep things a little simpler, I like to serve a thinner version of the spiced split pea puree that is thickened with grains and vegetables, then eaten with injera.  It’s flavored with onions, garlic, ginger, and berbere spice, which is traditionally very spicy, but can be tempered according preference.  It is SO yummy. Since I don’t know where you are getting your berbere or what’s in it, I’m going to provide a very large range for the amount used.  Mine is primarily paprika, but still has quite a kick from the dried chili powder.  If you’d like to make your own Berbere, you can find recipes online.  The main components are dried chilis and fenugreek, but all kind of other spices can be in there too.  Please note: this is powder from pure dried chilis ground to a powder and is totally different than the chili powder that flavors chili and usually contains cumin and chili peppers, among other things.

For planning purposes, this is a pretty large batch of soup.  It seems silly to me to make small amounts of soup as it’s so good left over and also freezes well, but along with the Millet and Roasted Vegetables plus the Injera, this is definitely a lot of food. If you cut the recipe in half and serve per my suggestions, you can still generously feed a family of four.

  • 2 cups green split peas, soaked overnight
  • 8-10 cups of water
  • 1 strip of kombu
  • 5 large carrots, thickly sliced
  • 3 large stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium celeriac, optional, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 1/4 cup ghee (or olive oil)
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2-2 teaspoons berbere spice blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (omit if your berbere has fenugreek)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • salt, to taste

Rinse the split peas, put them in a large soup pot, add the water and bring to a boil.  Skim the gray foam that gathers on the surface of the water, then add the kombu, asofoetida, carrots, celery, and celeriac.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are very soft, stirring to keep it from cooking to the bottom of the pan and adding water as necessary.  If you are using a pressure cooker, you can cook the beans at high pressure for about 20 minutes.  While the beans are cooking, heat a large skillet to medium and add the ghee and onions.  Once the onion have started to brown, add the shallots and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Now add the ginger and dry spices, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for about five minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Once the beans are soft, add water if necessary to adjust the texture of the soup, which should be a thin puree, but not watery.  Once the texture is right, add the ghee/spice mixture and salt, taste, and adjust salt and spices if needed so all of those flavors come together.  Stir in your Millet and Roasted Vegetables and pour it all over a bowl lined with a piece of injera.  Pull off pieces of injera and scoop up the stew with it.  You’ll especially love any injera left at the bottom that has soaked up the yumminess of the wat.  Enjoy!

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