Dora Wat Recipe from Ethiopia Cookbook

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Dora Wat Recipe from Ethiopia by Yohanis Gebreyesus

Ethiopia’s most famous dish is the queen of the festive table-and almost always made in feast-size quantities, generally using a whole chicken, a dozen eggs, and many kilos of onions. This recipe calls for four pieces of chicken and four eggs and so allows for a piece of meat and an egg for each person, plus plenty of sauce. Feel free to add another drumstick or two to the pot, but remember this is a dish largely about the sauce, so try to resist the temptation to overwhelm it with too much meat. The onions should be very finely chopped. They give the final sauce its body and texture, so use a food processor if possible. Here, they are cooked in the traditional manner, which means they are sweated first without any oil or niter kebbeh. However, you can add the oil with the onion at the beginning, if desired.


  • 2 whole free-range chicken legs
  • 1 lime or small lemon, cut in half
  • 6 tablespoons ( 1 ½ oz/ 40 g) berbere spice blend (Gneiss Spice recommends to half this if you don't want it super spicy)
  • 4 medium red or yellow onions, very finely chopped (about 1 lb 2 oz/500 g)
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower, canola, or other mild vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons niter kebbeh or clarified butter, or more to taste (recipe below)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ tablespoon grated or finely chopped ginger a pinch of ground nigella seeds
  • a pinch of ground cardamom
  • a tiny pinch of ground ajowan
  • salt
  • ½ teaspoon mekelesha spice blend
  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • Injera or flatbread to serve

Remove the skin from the chicken legs and split each leg at the joint into drumsticks and thighs. Rinse well and then place in a bowl of cold water with the lime to soak.

In a small bowl, make a thick paste by blending the berbere with about 2 1/2 tablespoons of water. Set aside to allow the spices to mellow slightly.

In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, cook the onion over medium-low heat, stirring very frequently, for about 15 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the oil and 2 tablespoons of the niter kebbeh, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for about 1 minute until aromatic. Stir in the reserved berbere paste, the nigella, cardamom, and ajowan, and season with salt. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, to let the aromas smooth out. Add a touch more water if needed to keep the mixture from scorching.

Drain the chicken and gently squeeze to remove any moisture. With a sharp knife, mark the pieces on each side with a pair of diagonal shallow slits. Add the chicken to the pan, coating in the sauce, and cook for about 5 minutes until browned. Add 1 cup (250 ml) of hot water, cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the chicken is almost tender. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover.

Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the sauce over low heat for 1 hour. Add the mekelesha spice blend and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add more water if needed to keep the consistency moist. Return the chicken to the pan to reheat. Make shallow slits horizontally on the boiled eggs and add to the stew. Serve with injera.


Ethiopia Spiced Clarified Butter (Niter Kebbeh)

Niter kebbeh is the soul of Ethiopian cuisine. Used in almost all non-fasting recipes, it brings a unique flavor that anyone who has ever stepped into an Ethiopian kitchen (or restaurant), anywhere in the world, would instantly recognize.

Clarified butter is common in many culinary traditions and made from the simple process of heating butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids separate so that a golden oil can be strained off and stored. In South Asia, the solids are also left to brown a little, which gives the clarified butter or “ghee” a nutty flavor. In Ethiopia, however, cooks take the heating process a step further and simmer a range of spices, even onions and garlic, before filtering, and the result is a fragrant, flavorful oil that brings a distinctive rich texture and aroma to many dishes. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see that infusing clarified butter is a wonderful technique to have in your repertoire, and you can experiment with all kinds of flavors.

Authentic niter kebbeh uses an aromatic dried herb called koseret, and sometimes besobela. Oregano and thyme make pretty good substitutions but if you want to capture a stronger, leafy herbiness, substitute the dry herbs for chopped fresh Thai basil and sage. Note, though, that using fresh herbs will turn the normally golden niter kebbeh an olive green color. This cooking process of niter kebbeh is not strictly the traditional manner in which is it made in Ethiopia, instead it has been revised for western cooking.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups (10½ oz/300 g)

  • 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried koseret (page 39) or equal amounts of dried oregano and thyme 1 teaspoon dried besobela or Thai Basil

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, skimming off the foam. Cook for about 5 minutes until the solid, milky residue has sunk to the bottom, but do not let the solids darken. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little, then strain the liquid into a clean saucepan and discard the solids.

Sprinkle the nigella, cardamom, and coriander seeds, if using, into the pan and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes until aromatic, stirring gently from time to time. Add the koseret and besobela and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Watch to make sure it does not burn and the oil does not darken.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to settle for 10 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth into a clean glass jar. Once completely cool, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator, where it will solidify, for up to two months.

March 27, 2021 — Beth Weisberger