‘Wat’ or ‘Wot‘ is an Ethiopian style stew or curry that may be prepared with chicken, beef, lamb, a variety of vegetables. It is cooked in clarified butter, Ghee, and uses a spice blend called ‘Berbere‘, which is a mix of nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom and more. Key Wat is one of the signature dishes that you’ll find in most Ethiopian restaurants.
This recipe is traditionally made with a spice blend called Berbere Seasoning, which is a combination of warm whole spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, and fenugreek, garlic, cloves, turmeric, grated ginger root, black pepper, salt, paprika, cinnamon, and dried red chiles, that are toasted and ground together. This spice blend provides a distinctive tangy flavor to the lentils, stews and curries. I wasn’t too keen on buying a speciality spice blend that I wouldn’t use “that” often, so I looked up the composition of the Berbere and realized that this spice combination is very similar to the Garam Masala blend. So I used that, with a few additional spices to replicate the flavor of a berbere blend and the result was very successful. If you have the berbere spice blend, substitute my spice list with 2-2.5 tablespoons Berbere spice mix (depending on how warm you like it). I also added an additional, but optional, ingredient- fried onions. I like how just a tablespoon of fried onions adds a deep color and taste to this stew, that you typically get from fried-browned onions.
Key Wat is traditionally served family style over a spongy flatbread called Injera. I pair it with a Red lentil stew called Misir Wot and butter couscous along with a garden salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette. This recipe can be made with lamb or chicken as well. I like the fall-off tender texture of the beef, so cooking it for 30 minutes work perfect for my family. If you like a more firm texture, reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes. If using Lamb pieces, adjust cooking time to 15 minutes. If you’re using boneless skinless chicken cubes, reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes. You can also make this dish more hearty by adding some root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or parsnips.
Key Wat can also be made in a traditional stove-top pressure cooker. Simply follow your cooker’s meat cooking times and procedures and follow this recipe. You can also make this dish on the stove-top, using a sauce pot or dutch oven. I would advise using a heavy bottom pan, since that can evenly distribute the heat and withstand a longer cooking time. Simply follow all the instructions and cook the meat on medium heat for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, till the meat is fork tender.
Ethiopian Beef Stew- Key WatPrint Recipe
- 1.5 lbs. beef stew meat
- 3 tablespoons Ghee or Butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic crushed (1/2 inch ginger + 2 cloves garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder + 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 tablespoon fried onions (optional)
- 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt (if using Berbere, adjust salt based on spice blend contents)
- You can substitute the following spices with 2- 2.5 tablespoons of Berbere Seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon Garam Masala
- 1 tablespoon Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/4 Ground Nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup water
Prep: Using a mini food processor, pulse together onion chunks and ginger-garlic, 8-10 times. Alternatively, finely chop them.
Turn the Instant Pot on Sauté mode. Wait 30 seconds till the inner pot is hot and add ghee or butter. Add chopped onion, ginger-garlic, turmeric and salt and cook till slightly caramelized, about a minute.
Add all dry spices, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water, stir well and cook for a minute. Add the remaining water and beef cubes in the pot. Press "cancel", close the lid and set valve to 'Sealing' position. Press Meat/Stew, 30 minutes. Wait for Natural release of pressure.
Open the Instant pot lid and check for seasoning. Add sugar. This is optional, but highly recommended. The pinch of sugar brings together all the warm spices in the stew. Serve with couscous with a garden salad dressed with fresh lemon vinaigrette, or, the traditional sourdough flatbread, Injera.