Crispy Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

Friday, June 14, 2013

Imagine for a moment that you have been transported to a new culture. This new culture happens to be located in the Horn of Africa sandwiched between Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya. Can you guess where we're going? If you're like most of us, you're probably pulling out the ol' map about now, or at the very least typing in a Google search 'Horn of Africa' to see what the heck I'm getting at. I must say that this grouping of African countries does not exactly inspire daydreams of amazing places to visit or geographic locations on most people's bucket lists (unless maybe you dream of going on a safari...). If you haven't figured it out yet, the destination of choice is the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, or Ethiopia for short.

A while back, I read a wonderful book called Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese. Without giving too much away, the general plot revolves around family drama concerning two twin brothers born at a mission hospital in Ethiopia to a surgeon and his nurse, medicine and exile in Africa and America, and learning to trust and forgive. If you haven't read it, and appreciate a book that really draws you into the characters and makes you feel like you are part of their lives, this is definitely one to check out.

Cutting For Stone features a fair amount of writing on Ethiopian cuisine, so when I stumbled across an Ethiopian recipe, I knew right away I had to try it.

Step One: Gather the ingredients and put together the Berbere Spice Mix - some international food stores may sell this pre-mixed. Most likely, you'll have to make your own.

Step Two: Chop and mince the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger. Heat 2 T oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add 3 T Berbere spice mix, stirring to combine. Next, add lentils, tomatoes, salt and water, bring to a boil, cover, return to low heat, and simmer for 30 minutes until al dente while chicken is cooking.

Step Three: Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and coat with Berbere Spice Mix. Sear for 8 minutes skin-side down in a heavy-bottomed oven-proof skillet. Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes before transferring to the oven to finish cooking for 10-15 minutes.

Doesn't that look yummy? It was. Cooking international dishes is so much fun! All sorts of different and unique flavor profiles that T and I aren't used to.

Recipe from Feasting at Home

CRISPY BERBERE CHICKEN WITH ETHIOPIAN LENTILS | Yield: 6 servings | Total Time: 45 minutes (less if you already have a pre-made Berbere Spice Mix)



3 T sweet paprika
1 T red pepper flakes
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground mustard* (use fenugreek instead if you can find it)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon


1 C green lentils
3 C water
2 C diced onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 C diced carrot
1 C diced tomato
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix (see above)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 T olive oil
Fresh Italian Parsley

In a medium heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, saute diced onion, carrots, garlic and ginger in 2 T olive oil, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 T Berbere Spice mix and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring to combine. Add 1 C green lentils, 1 C diced tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and 3 C water. Bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and let simmer until al dente, about 30 minutes.


6 chicken thighs, (skin on)
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix
olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Sprinkle with kosher salt on all sides. Generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix. Heat 1 T oil on medium-high heat in a heavy bottom oven-proof skillet. Place the chicken skin-side down and sear until crispy and golden, about 8 minutes. Turn over, and turn heat down to medium, searing for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to oven and continue cooking 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

To serve: Fill a bowl with Ethiopian spiced lentils, a piece of crispy Berbere chicken, and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

NOTE: If you have any lentil leftovers (lucky you), they make an excellent hearty soup with oyster crackers for lunch the next day.

Have you read a good book lately that inspired you in the kitchen?

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Thanks for visiting! Let me know if you have any suggestions of recipes I should try, fun ideas to do with the kiddo, or a suggested adventure to add to our bucket list!

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