Chickpeas and Chicken Stew with Ethiopian Berbere

Last weekend, after almost an entire week of salad lunches, I felt like I needed some chickpeas in my life. I also felt like I needed some Julia Child, but her cookbooks may have to wait until I have a bit more time to plan/cook 😉 I was almost ready to make a huge batch of quinoa salad with chickpeas, when I decided that maybe a stew will go better with the cold Chicago weather, plus quinoa salad is still salad and I needed some variety 🙂 After doing some random browsing online I decided to make an Ethiopian-style stew, but I was missing the fenugreek to make my own berbere spice mix. I’ve been meaning to visit this Ethiopian store in my neighborhood for a while now and this seemed like the perfect time to do it. Finally, armed with snow-proof shoes and wind proof jacket, I was on my way to the Kukulu Market 🙂

Despite being called a market, Kukulu was a very tiny shop that I almost missed. Good thing I had the exact address with me 😉 They did have the berbere, but in a huuuuge container and the store clerk instead of agreeing to give me a smaller sized container, kept telling me how it’s better to get a big container because it will last me for several dishes, etc. First of all, I don’t know how much berbere Ethiopians use or how big their stew pots are, but there was a lot of spice mix in those containers!!! Second of all, I didn’t even know if I would like this stew enough to make it so many times 🙂 In the end, I settled on a smaller container of berbere paste that according to the store clerk it will keep forever in the fridge. Well, even if I don’t like it, I will at least have an infinite amount of time to figure out what to do with it 🙂 

Upon getting home with my new spice mix, I started looking up some recipes. I didn’t fully decide on a recipe before going to the store, but I knew what I wanted to have in it so I had all the ingredients. I guess I’ve always known that there are a lot of food blogs/websites out there, but I’ve never been so overwhelmed with the amount of information! After getting frustrated for not finding what I wanted, I decided to close my web browser and get into the kitchen, which was a smart decision 🙂

I hope you’re still with me after this long story 🙂 Here is the list of ingredients I used to make my stew, which you can of course modify to fit your cravings:

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • lemon juice (1 Tbsp or from half small lemon)
  • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1/4 huge onion (or 1 small one)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste (or fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons berbere (for mild-medium spice, add more to make it spicier)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 + cups water (or vegetable/chicken broth)
  • salt and pepper

Start by removing some of the fat from the chicken and cutting it into bite-sized pieces. Marinate chicken with a bit of salt and lemon juice for 30 minutes. 

Chop onion and garlic (and ginger if using fresh). Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent. 

Add ginger and cook for 1 more minute. Add berbere paste. I didn’t know how spicy it will be, this is why I used so little, but next time I will definitely use more. Cook until the berbere turns brownish (a few minutes). My kitchen instantly started smelling like an Ethiopian restaurant, which I took to be a good sign 🙂 

Add chickpeas, tomatoes, chicken and enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through (~30 minutes) or longer. I cooked mine for ~2 hrs since I had time to spare. Remove lid and cook on medium heat to evaporate some of the water until the stew had the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

For an improvised stew, this turned out very tasty and satisfied my need for chickpeas 🙂 I served mine with bread, but you could probably serve it over rice as well. Some chopped cilantro will probably work nicely as a topping. I will definitely add more berbere next time to make it spicier. Since I have plenty of paste leftover, I should probably give the “doro wat” chicken stew a try as well 😉


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