I work with a woman named Tez, who is originally from Ethiopia. She’s always bringing in these amazing smelling dishes, and most of them are served up with traditional Ethiopian bread called Injera. The only way I can describe injera is that it’s kind of like a sour pancake. Most of the food Tez brings to work has this spice known as berbere mixed into it.
Berbere is an amazing spice blend and comes as a powder or as a paste you can make it yourself at home or buy at some specialty stores. (I have both the paste and the powder at home.) I’ve mixed the powder into ground venison and made a Berbere sausage that is out of this world. I have also tried dusting venison loins with the Berbere powder and grilled them. The Berbere spice can be hot—and if you buy it at a store it can be very hot. If you make it at home you can control the amount of heat you add.
One of the the dishes Tez has brought to work is a stew known as Kai Wot. It’s a basic stew that consists of beef, onions, berbere, garlic, and butter. That doesn’t seem like enough to make a hearty stew, but believe me—it’s plenty. There is so much going on it the berbere that it adds an amazing depth and richness to the stew. I used a venison neck roast that I cut up into small bites to make my Kai wot. I also used a store-bought Berbere blend from Penzey’s spice shop. Penzey’s version of Berbere is incredibly spicy and my final stew was delicious—but it was hot enough to make the top of my head sweat. You’ve been warned.
This stew was wonderful all by itself but eating with the injera bread really pushed it over the top. The sourness of the injera cut through the stew and really balanced it out. I served it with some plain yogurt to help tame that heat. If you are into trying new things I would highly recommend this. Meanwhile, berbere can be used on all sorts of other game. It works well with seared duck breasts and was really good with pigeon.
Kai Wot: Ethiopian beef stew, made with venison
2 pounds venison cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium sized red onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons berbere
2 sticks of unsalted butter
2 cups of water
In a heavy pot with a lid, melt 2 tablespoons of butter of medium heat, then add the onion and cook with the cover on for about 5 minutes. Add one cup of water then Stir in the berbere until it is well combined and cook for another 5 minutes. If the stew starts to dry out, add some water as you go. Add in the venison and turn the heat down to a simmer; cover and cook for one hour, checking on it once or twice. After the venison has cooked for an hour, add the rest of the butter and stir until melted. Then cover and cook for 45 minutes more. Add water as needed to make sure the dish doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. When the venison is done cooking, stir in the garlic and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. The meat should be tender and the sauce should coat everything. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt. Serve with injera bread and enjoy.