This Ethiopian Chickpea Stew Makes Us Want to Get Cozy
An Ethiopian staple, shiro wot goes great with tender injera and good company.
Luladey Moges grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where her weeks were always bookended by festive barbecues hosted by her parents—“any excuse to have family and friends over,” she writes in her new cookbook. Enebla, which directly translates to “let’s eat” in Amharic, is a memory-filled book that reminds us that food is celebratory.
The endless string of feasts in her childhood consisted of a variety of foods from spaghetti and meatballs to more traditional Ethiopian meals, like kitfo. Regardless of the cuisine, Moges was constantly sneaking into the kitchen, hoping to get a glimpse of her family’s maids cooking on the open flames and the mitad, the stove-top grill used to make injera.
Even when her family moved to Dallas, Texas for safety during Ethiopia’s civil war in the ’90s, her parents made sure to preserve their love for food, gatherings, and, most importantly, their culture. While they embraced the delights of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and perused the colorful aisles of candy and chips at their local Albertsons, her parents brought back spices from trips to Addis Abada. With berbere, shiro, and mitmita in tow, they were able to cook Ethiopian meals, and thus the celebrations continued. Without their usual help, Moges started to get in on the action in the kitchen.
“Food represents love to me. It’s a way to show and receive love by enjoying a meal together or by cooking with and for each other,” Moges says. “Every scent, bite, and full taste of every dish brings me a memory of the time I first enjoyed [it] and the people that I enjoyed it with.”
But these gatherings are only a fraction of why Moges treasures food and cooking. The Shiro Wot (chickpea stew) her grandmother cooked for her everytime she visited home is what made her fall in love with food altogether. While she knows her grandmother had a special touch she can never fully replicate, cooking the meal itself is a way of commemorating her.
“[This dish] allows me to reminisce on all of the fond memories I had with my grandmother and it helps me to connect with her. When I make this for my friends, it allows me to talk about my grandmother and share some family history,” Moges says. “Growing up and now, it feels like a warm hug from the inside.”
Shiro wot is an Ethiopian staple, particularly popular during Lent. The hearty stew is made with a shiro flour base, which consists of chickpea powder mixed with different spices and seasonings such as berbere powder, garlic powder, and ground cardamom. Moges stresses that injera is an essential addition to shiro wot, but pita bread and rice can work in a pinch.
When it comes to the celebratory act of feasting on shiro wot, make sure to enjoy it with a group. As Moges notes in Enebla, her recipes are meant to yield multiple portions per Ethiopian tradition. What is a big pot of stew without someone to share it with?
Shiro Wot Recipe
• 1 cup shiro flour
• 4 cups water, divided
• 1 medium yellow onion, diced
• 3 tablespoons oil
• 2 teaspoons grated ginger
• 3 cloves garlic, diced
• 1 tablespoon berbere
• Salt and pepper
1. Place the shiro flour in a medium bowl, add 3 cups of the water, and mix well. Stir until it is lump-free and then set aside.
2. Place the onions and oil in a medium pot and cook over medium heat until they are translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the berbere, making sure the powder does not clump. Add the remaining 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
3. Add the shiro mixture to the boiling water and stir. Turn down the heat to low, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Cover the pot and let the wot cook, stirring occasionally and adding about 1 tablespoon of water at a time, but no more than ½ cup (if required), until the liquid is reduced by about half and the sauce is moderately thick, 20–25 minutes.
4. Serve hot with injera or your favorite whole grain bread.
Recipe by Luladey Moges from Enebla: Recipes from an Ethiopian Kitchen, text copyright © 2022 by Luladey Moges. Reprinted with permission of TouchWood Editions.