Have you tried Ethiopian food? Packed with rich and flavorful spices, you’re sure to love it.
I’m starting a series of posts with a primer on a few building blocks to many Ethiopian dishes. Think of them as vignettes on making an Ethiopian meal.
First, an integral ingredient used in Ethiopian cuisine is berbere (behr-ba-rry), a ground Ethiopian spice blend that means hot in Amharic. This piquant orange blend of peppers and spices is generously used in spicy pots of wat (stew), meats, vegetables and other dishes. Aromatic, vibrant in color, full of flavor, and packed with fiery heat, berbere is not for the faint of heart (or taste buds).
Flaming hot, delicious, and versatile in its uses, berbere can be used in marinades, seasonings for soups and stews, and vegetable dishes. To make Ethiopian food, berbere is a key ingredient. If you like spicy foods (and I’m talking REALLY spicy), berbere is a wonderful all-purpose seasoning you’re going to absolutely LOVE!
Every Ethiopian cook has their own blend of berbere, some versions include lesser known spices that grow wild in Ethiopia, but key ingredients that make it the spicy flavorful seasoning that it is are usually the same. I bought my blend (photographed here) from a local Ethiopian market. They get their berbere from Qmem that sells a blend made of sun-dried chile peppers, red onion, garlic, cardamom, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, fenugreek, black pepper, black cumin, cumin and other spices. The blend of spices remind me of My Masala Dabba. A dabba would be a great way to store berbere.
From World Spice at Home
Makes ½ cup
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 teaspoons fenugreek seed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ajwain seed
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon cardamom seed
2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons pequin chiles or African cayenne
2 teaspoons garlic granules
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
In a mortar and pestle, crack the cloves into small pieces—this will allow them to disperse more evenly into the mix. In a heavy dry pan over medium heat, toast the cloves, coriander, fenugreek, peppercorns, ajwain, and allspice until they are are fragrant. Remove from the pan before they begin to smoke and allow to cool. Mix the remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container and grind just before use.
Stay tuned, more on Ethiopian cuisine to come!