This is doro wat, arguably the national dish of Ethiopia, and a dish close to my heart. I once worked in an Ethiopian restaurant called the Horn of Africa in Madison, Wisconsin. This was by far the most popular dish. It is normally done with old chickens, and pheasants or grouse are great alternatives.
There are a few esoteric ingredients in this recipe that you really must have. Sorry, but this is what makes Ethiopian food special. The good news is that some ingredients, like the berbere spice mix, can be found in some fancy supermarkets, online, or made by hand. And the niter kebbeh butter is easily made, and lasts for many months in the fridge; forever in the freezer.
So once you get yourself set up, making this recipe is much easier. Traditional doro wat is made with t’ej, an Ethiopian mead. If you have some mead lying around, use it. Red wine is another traditional alternative.
Note that most recipes for doro wat will add even more berbere than I do, but be warned: It’s hot stuff!
2 whole grouse or pheasants, cut into serving pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
6 cups red onions, about 4 medium onions, sliced root to tip
1/2 cup spiced butter (see below)
4 garlic gloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup berbere (see below)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek (optional)
1 cup mead or red wine
2 cups game or chicken stock
Salt to taste
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Soak the grouse in the lime juice for an hour, and up to overnight.
In a large, heavy pot, add the sliced onions and turn the heat to medium. Cook the onions dry, stirring frequently. They will give up their water, wilt, and eventually brown.
When the onions are close to browning, add the spiced butter, the garlic and ginger. Cook another minute or three. Add the tomato paste, berbere, black pepper, cardamom, fenugreek and mead. Mix well.
Add the grouse pieces and turn to coat. Cook another few minutes, until the meat turns opaque.
Pour in the stock and mead or wine. You want all the meat to be covered by about an inch; add water if you need to. Bring to a simmer, taste for salt, cover the pot and cook gently until the meat is tender, typically about 2 hours. The sauce should have cooked down a lot by now, and add a little water if it gets thicker than gravy.
When you are about 15 minutes out from serving, add the hard-boiled eggs to the pot. You can either strip all the meat from the bones or leave it as-is. Serve with rice, bread or the Ethiopian crepes called injera.
Ethiopian Spiced Butter
I love this butter so much I use it far beyond Ethiopian dishes. If you use it in curry, it will add another layer of awesome. And, as I mentioned, it will keep for months in the fridge, and years in the freezer.
1 pound unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
12 to 15 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick, about 1 inch long
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fenugreek
Toast the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in a dry pan over medium heat until they are aromatic, about a minute. Cut the butter into cubes.
Toss everything into a heavy pot and turn the heat on low. Let this come to a bare simmer and cook gently for at least 30 minutes. We cooked ours at least an hour. It is vital that the milk solids do not burn. If they do, you have ruined the butter. Watch for browning, and when you see it, turn off the heat.
Strain through cheesecloth and store in a clean glass jar. It'll last 6 months in the fridge, at least a week on the counter, and forever in the freezer.
Berbere, Ethiopian Spice Mix
This is some serious stuff. Complex, fragrant, hotter than hell. It is to Ethiopian food what masala is to Indian: indispensable. Once made, it will keep a year in the cupboard.
1 cup cayenne
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground rue seed (optional)
1 tablespoon ajwain seed (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground clove
Note that rue seed and ajwain are very hard to find. I include them for authenticity’s sake.
Mix all the ingredients together and store in a cool, dark place.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail by Hank Shaw. Copyright 2018 H&H Books.
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new, and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. You have the power to keep us cooking, sharing these stories, and helping you in the kitchen.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table.