Cheap Eats:
Doro Wat with Berberé Sauce & Injera
  (Ethiopian Chicken Stew with Pepper Sauce & Pancakes)

The first time I gave an African dinner party, and told my friends that we’d be having Ethiopian food, they joked about expecting empty plates. Well, despite an occasional famine, Ethiopia has a rich history that includes some excellent food. (Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and that alone qualifies it, in my mind, for high culinary regard.) At that party, I served doro wat, the national dish of Ethiopia.

Some time later, I visited Mama Desta’s Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant on North Clark in Chicago. There I again had doro wat, and several other dishes, all served on a great round of injera (traditional Ethiopian pan bread). There were no knives or forks, we just tore off sections of injera and used them to scoop up the meat stews and pulses before us. With the meal, we had tej, Ethiopian honey wine, which was a good foil for the spicy food. So, if you don’t feel like cooking this recipe (and even if you do), you might plan a visit to Mama Desta’s.

You can serve doro wat with white rice, or cooked millet. However, it’s a lot of fun to serve it with injera. Real injera is made with fermented teff, or millet flour. It has a nice, nutty, sourdough taste. But it’s not all that easy to find teff, at least where I live. A viable substitute, with the right texture and vaguely similar taste, is offered below.

Note: this recipe is one of the few places where using dry, ground ginger is acceptable.

Doro Wat

1 3-pound chicken, cut up


2 cups water

½ cup lemon juice

4 onions

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 Tbs. vegetable oil

Berberé sauce (recipe follows)

2 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

½ cup dry white wine

6-8 hard-cooked eggs, shelled

Fresh ground black pepper

Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry. Rub each piece with salt and place in a large bowl. Combine 1½ cups cold water, ½ cup lemon juice and ½ onion, chopped, and pour over chicken, making sure that each piece is completely coated with marinade. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature, turning chicken at least 3 or 4 times.

While chicken marinates, make the berberé sauce, then set it aside till needed.

Finely chop remaining 3½ onions. Heat the oil in a stew pot or Dutch oven, and sauté onions over medium heat until they are transparent and just beginning to color. Add berberé sauce, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, cardamom, and ¼ tsp. salt and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine and ½ cup water to the pot, then increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, or until the liquid begins to thicken slightly.

Remove chicken from the marinade and pat dry; discard marinade. Stir chicken into the sauce, coating each piece completely. Cover pot and simmer for 35 minutes. Now add the shelled, hard-cooked eggs and stir into the sauce. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes, or until chicken is tender. (When making this for myself, I often leave out the hard-cooked eggs — it’s one less thing to do.)

Transfer stew to a serving dish and grind black pepper over it. Serve with rice, millet, or injera. (If you are going to eat this with fingers and bread, you may want to take the chicken off the bones, then return the meat to the sauce before serving. It makes eating easier and tidier.)

Serves 4-6.

Berberé (Red Pepper) Sauce

1 Tbs. onions, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

¼ tsp. each: ground ginger, ground coriander, ground cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and fenugreek

⅛ tsp. salt

1 Tbs. red wine

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

½ tsp. paprika

⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup warm water

In a small saucepan, mix the ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fenugreek and roast over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so it won’t burn. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes, then add the onions, garlic, salt, and wine and blend into a paste

In a separate saucepan, combine the paprika and red and black peppers and roast for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly so it won’t burn. Add the water and the spice paste to the pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes, then set aside until needed.

Makes enough for one recipe of doro wat.


4 cups self-rising flour

2 cups club soda

1 cup whole wheat or buckwheat flour

4 to 4½ cups water

1 tsp. baking soda

vegetable oil

Mix together in a large bowl the self-rising flour, whole wheat flour and baking powder. Add the club soda and 4 cups of water, and mix into a smooth, thin batter. (Humidity affects anything you do with flour, so if it’s really dry where you live, more water may be needed; you need more water if your cooked bread is pasty, instead of spongy.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a 9-inch, non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Pour ½ cup batter* into skillet, and "swirl" so it covers entire bottom of pan. (The pancakes should be about ⅛ inch thick, so gauge batter amount to pan size accordingly.)

As the injera cooks, little bubbles should appear all over the pancake. Do not brown the injera. When the entire surface is dry/cooked, remove from heat and flip the skillet over to release your injera onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Add a little more oil to the pan, and repeat the process until all batter is used. If not serving the injera immediately, let it cool, then stack it and wrap it in foil.

Makes about 12-14 "pancakes."

* (The easiest way to handle this is to use a ladle that holds a ½ cup of liquid. A measuring cup gets messy, and it can get lost in a deep bowl of batter.)

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