A Taste of Africa

Lentils make me happy. They are versatile, store well, and add heft to any number of dishes that would seem weak without them. And they play well with spices. Nowhere does that aspect of them shine brighter than in highly-spiced (but not necessarily spicy) dishes like those from Ethiopia on the African continent. This time around, I'm showcasing a dish that's swimming in Berbere. This brightly-colored, fragrant spice mixture isn't widely available or familiar, but it is a key ingredient in many Ethiopian dishes. To make things easier, I've included my own recipe that can be assembled in a jar. Trust me, you'll want to keep more of it on hand after you enjoy this dish:

The lentils that the baked chicken is served over make this dish shine. I've enjoyed the leftovers on their own or with chopped nuts and hard-boiled eggs sprinkled over the top. Even though there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, most of them go into the spice mix. And, as I've already mentioned, this is likely a spice mix you'll want to have on hand for other dishes, too. The small amount of fat used to cook the lentils means they offer a healthy foundation for the meal that won't leave you hungry. It's a match made in heaven.

The baked chicken is very simple to make, but takes an hour hour of baking so I suggest beginning your meal prep by rubbing the chicken and getting it on its way in the oven. Then you'll have more than enough time to prepare vegetables and simmer them and the lentils so that they will be ready just as your chicken is finished. You can serve this dish by itself or, if you want anything else, a simple side of lightly-dressed cucumbers will be more than enough to round things out. Enjoy!

Baked Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

  • Berbere Spice Mix:
    • 3 T. sweet paprika
    • 2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 2 tsp. powdered cumin
    • 1 tsp. powdered coriander
    • 1 tsp. cardamom powder
    • 1 tsp. turmeric
    • 1 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
    • 1/2 tsp. allspice
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs (skin on)
  • 2 T. butter or olive oil
  • 1.5 cups diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all of the Berbere Spice Mix ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously to combine.

Pat the chicken dry. Generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix. You will use 2-3 tablespoons of the mix. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking mat or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the skin on the chicken is crispy and the chicken is tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottom pot, or dutch oven, sauté the diced onion, garlic, and carrots in the butter or olive oil, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the Berbere Spice Mix and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, red lentils, and water; bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low, and let cook until al dente, about 30 minutes.

To serve, place a chicken thigh over a bed of Ethiopian lentils.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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