Ethiopian Lamb Stew (Beg Wot)

Not much more than onion, meat and spice come together to make a spectacular stew

Not much more than onion, meat and spice come together to make a spectacular stew

When I was only a teenager I started collecting my favourite recipes in a little book. I wrote down any exciting new discoveries and all the old family favourties. But then a few years ago, my car was broken into and my suitcase stolen – the worst thing was that it had my recipe book in it!

It still makes me sad to think that I will never recover those recipes again: I will never taste that Indonesian dish of poached mackerel in coconut milk – a recipe from friend from long ago and far away. I will never make that amazing chicken salad again – a treasured recipe I managed to coax out of a colleague after much begging.

At the same time, had I not lost my recipe book I would have never received one of the most special birthday presents ever: my parents made a book with a collection of my mother’s Ethiopian recipes. Each dish in this book my mother cooked especially, so that my father could watch, write down the instructions and then take photographs.

Below my mother’s recipe for Ethiopian Lamb stew, documented by my father, detailed a little more by my sister and then cooked by me and described through my eyes.

Pages full of food, family tradition and love

Pages full of food, family tradition and love



750g onion
1 – 1 1/2 kg Lamb (for example leg of lamb)
2 cloves of garlic
2 cm piece of ginger (about same amount as garlic)
125ml olive oil
2 tbsp berbere
1 can (400g) tomato (optional, see tips)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper


  1. Chop the onion very finely (in a food processor).
  2. Bring water (about 750ml) to the boil.
  3. Add the onion to a large pot and cook. Cover the onion with a lid and stir regularly ensuring that the onion does not burn.
  4. Only when necessary add a little water to stop the onion from burning.
  5. When the onion is soft and translucent add the oil (after about 10-15 minutes).
  6. Cook 10 minutes until golden. (Optional – see tips: add 1 tbsp tomato puree)
  7. Add the berbere and cook on the lowest heat for about 30 minutes stirring once in a while. Only when the onions begin to stick, add a few drops of water.
  8. Add the canned tomato.
  9. Cut the meat into small bite size pieces.
  10. Add the lam to the onion.
  11. Press garlic and ginger through a garlic press into the pot.
  12. Cook the meat, stirring regularly until the meat is just cooked. They say the sauce is done when oil rises to surface. (Depending on the meat this takes about 10 -30 minutes.) When the sauce thickens (after about 10 minutes) add about 200ml-500ml boiling water. You are looking for a thick and glossy stew.
  13. Season with salt and pepper.



Tips & Variations

Instead of using the can of tomatoes you can add 1 tbsp of tomato puree before adding the berbere.


Serve with

  1. What a lovely gift that you got! So cool too! What a lovely lamb stew! Yummy Yum!

    • afracooking said:

      It really is the sweetest gift! And this lamb stew is so beautiful it would taste fabulous with a simple side dish like rice for example (if the traditional injera pancakes seem a step too far).

      • I love them too! 🙂

  2. ciao! your parents gift is just so precious. best not to think of your stolen recipe book…so many recipes yet to be discovered. ethiopian lamb stew is certainly a discovery for me. 🙂

    • afracooking said:

      You are quite right: there really are to many foods to still be discovered to be looking back 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful story, I’m glad to read there was a solution to those lost recipes. The funny thing is, the new book of recipes from your folks is that likely to be more treasured than what you had to begin with. Yet it still doesn’t change the fact you lost some of your most loved recipes.

    How beautifully those spices must marry with the lamb. It’s actually one of my favourite meats and I especially love how it can take on a little heat due to its richness. Such a beautifully looking sauce, a very tasty dish I’m sure.

    • afracooking said:

      It is amazing isn’t it how one door closes just for another to open 🙂
      Lamb really is a beautiful meat that I cook much to rarely – the rich taste of the meat blends wonderfully with the deep flavours of the onion sauce and the spicyness of the berbere. Magic!

  4. Liz said:

    Lovely and sad at the same time, sorry you lost your book. You know I have been to Addis Ababa several times, and the thing that struck me most is the dancing, like they have no bones on their necks or bodies and the Coffee drinking ceremony and the giant Injeras with spicy stews (sometimes too hot for me). I love Addis, the people are very friendly. Good to know your mum comes from there. This lamb stew brings memories of Addis…I shall try cooking it one of these fine days!

    • afracooking said:

      Addis really is such exiting city! How fabulous that you have been there and enjoyed it! And I know what you mean about the dancing – my bones have too much European in them to do a proper eskista, but it doesn’t stop me from trying 🙂 If you get round to making the stew let me know if its flavours take you back!

  5. Ethiopian kitchen is realy great. I like your “beg wot”. The berbere-spice is great with fish.

    • afracooking said:

      I have had fish with berbere in restaurants but never had it growing up or made it myself (my mother grew up inland before frozen fish was available). Time to break with that tradition 🙂

  6. Thank you immensely for this post. I recently had opportunity to try Ethiopian lamb stew in a Meskerel restaurant on Wandswort Road in London. Was really delicious, and I had an idea to introduce the dish to readers of my blog, so I reblogged it. Hope you don’t mind. And thank you once more.

    • afracooking said:

      🙂 You ask whether I mind? Mind?! No, not one little bit! I actually feel honoured 🙂 I will let my mom know that her recipe is actually being reblogged – this will make her feel ever so proud. Thank you!

      • Thank you so much! It’s nice to hear. You know I’m happy, happy, happy. And give my love to your mom. I definitely will try her recipes “)

  7. I recently discovered Ethiopian cuisine and fell in love. Do you have more of your mother recipes posted? I would love to try them.

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