Ethiopian Yellow Split Pea & Butternut Stew

by Ainslie on January 3, 2011

I’ve made this stew about a million times since October.  It’s my go-to spicy winter comfort meal, usually served atop a bowl of fresh baby spinach or julienned raw kale.  Not exactly traditional Ethiopian style, but that’s how I roll (side note: saying “that’s how I roll” isn’t usually how I roll).  I used to eat at my favourite Ethiopian restaurant about as often as I make this stew now, but I can’t really eat Ethiopian restaurant food these days without feeling like a greasy bread bomb exploded in my guts.  Oh, yuck.  That’s an analogy we won’t be repeating. 
Ethiopian cuisine is made up mostly of deliciously spicy stews, with tons of naturally veg options including various colours of lentils, and split peas.  I prefer this stew with yellow split peas, but if I’m feeling particularly impatient I’ll go for red lentils which taste similar and cook in about half the time.  Seriously though, don’t just go for the quick lentil option, you lazy buggers.  Split peas just taste richer, and make the stew that much more decadent.  Yeah, I said it.  Split peas.  Decadent.  Deal with it.
Ethiopian Split Pea & Butternut Stew

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups butternut squash (or sweet potato/yam), 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups yellow split peas (or red lentils)
4 cups water (2.5-3 if using lentils)
1 tbsp berbere spice mix* (or more to taste, but do taste it, it’s SPICY)
1 tsp salt
Dice onion, mince garlic and ginger, and chop squash/potatoes.  In a large pot over medium heat, sautee onion, garlic and ginger in coconut oil until onion is softened and transparent.  Add berbere and continue cooking 1-2 minutes.  Add squash, split peas and water, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, cook partially covered 45 minutes to an hour, until split peas are softened and broken down almost completely. 
I like to serve this spicy stew over a bed of raw greens, like baby spinach, really thinly sliced kale or swiss chard, or romaine, sometimes dressed with lemon and olive oil and topped with diced tomato, sometimes plain.  It’s also great with some quinoa or brown rice, or if you’re feeling totally authentic and fancy, on top of some injera, with more injera to scoop it up (but don’t forget the salad!).  I’ve been meaning to make my own injera for a while now, and have finally bought the appropriate teff flour so…I’ll let you know if and when I get around to it.
*a note on berbere: I’ve been using a pre-mixed spice from Monsoon Coast which is crazy delicious and crazy spicy, and I’ve definitely seen other pre-mixed berbere in shops around Toronto, but if you can’t find it, and/or you’re feeling extra DIY, here’s the list to mix your own:

1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground sea salt

Combined in a jar, this will keep…you know, as long as your spices usually keep.  A while.  But not too long.

I made this as part of our new year’s day feast, but I make it on regular old week nights in the winter when I want something warm, comfy and satisfying.  Oh yeah, and sometimes I eat it for breakfast.  It’s awesome protein and carb-packed breakfast fuel!

If you know the deliciousness that is Ethiopian food, there’s really no reason not to try making some yourself, and if you don’t, you’re missing out big time, so there’s still no excuse. Gotcha! If I hadn’t already brushed my teeth, I’d totally be downstairs right now “pulling a Nigella” as my dad likes to say, eating the leftovers straight from the fridge.