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Berbere

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02 March 2010 at 10:10

Berbere

Wikipedia provides a quick rundown on this traditional ethiopian spice mixture, which is as essential to ethiopia as a rub is to barbecue:

Quote Berbere is a spice mixture whose ingredients usually include chile peppers, ginger, cloves, coriander, allspice, rue berries, and ajwain (also mistakenly known as bishop's weed).[citation needed] It is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Berbere sometimes includes herbs and spices that are less well known internationally, including both cultivated plants and those that grow wild in Ethiopia, for example Aframomum corrorima[1] and long pepper.[2]

here's one example of berbere, which can vary according to individual hearths as well as ingredients on hand:

1 clove garlic, peeled
1 green onion (white part only)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water(or enough to make a paste)
1/2 cup paprika
2 tbsp ground cayenne
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch each of ground cloves, cinnamon, and allspice
1 to 3 tbsps palm, peanut, or olive oil
 
Use a processor or electric blender. Traditionally, a mortar is used. Combine the garlic, onion, vinegar and water and puree. In a small skillet, combine all dry ingredients EXCEPT oil. Stir over medium heat until mixture is warmed and aromatic but do not scorch. Remove from heat, cool, then stir in the blended mixture. Return pan to heat and cook over low heat, stir for 10 minutes, while adding the 1/4 cup oil and water in small increments enough to make a thick paste. Should be the consistency of dry mashed potatoes. Transfer to a non metal container, pour oil over the surface to moisten it. To use, sauté the amount needed in oil or butter and add to sauces or stews.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 March 2010 at 05:28
wow this sounds good, but I wonder if the spice powder wont absorb the oil? I have everything in the cupboard except fenugreek and I can get that easily in the natural foods organic store. I'm thinking this might be awesome on some lamb!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 March 2010 at 07:40

Okay, I did it. I took stock of the cupboard and discovered I only needed two spices for this Ethiopian standard- fenugreek and cayenne. No worries, got a store just nearby.

Here's some background on the spice mixture:

Quote Ethiopia, the most isolated of the African cuisines is removed geographically from the rest of Africa, and is one of the purest indigenous cuisines. Its high interior plains, cool nights and long growing season provide an abundant variety of food. African cuisine combines traditional fruits and vegetables, exotic game and fish from the oceans that surrounds her, but is a meat based diet, and accompanying many dishes is the Berber spice.
 
Berber is the "signature" spice of Ethiopia. It is used in traditional stews, called "wats", and in sauces and coatings for fried food.  It can be added to stews, or mix with water or oil for a paste to be rubbed on meat. This great spice mix is wonderful for its effect on the taste buds as well as healthy. This spice was inspired by the open pit cooking practiced by travelers of the old spice routes. The aroma will grab your attention and the taste will keep you craving for more.
 
 
I doubled the recipe that TasunkaWitko posted; took 2 cloves garlic, 2 white parts onion and red wine vinegar into the mortar as is traditionally used. The water was mixed in later.
 
Following the spice list in the recipe, into a cold skillet they went. Turned the heat to medium and began to stir the powders gently to heat but careful not to toast. You can tell they're ready when the fine powders begin to release their aromatic oils and begin to clump slightly...they will thicken up a bit and darken...that's just what you want.
 
I took them off the heat to cool, and after a bit the garlic paste and water was added. Next, the mixture was put  back over low heat to mix.
 
The recipe makes a beautiful paste that smells delicious! Very rich and just begging to be used in grilled meat. The plan is to take skewered chicken and cover them in the berbere and broil. This will accompany some Jolloff Rice that I'll make for supper. Once its mixed thoroughly, let cool, then into a container to sit in the fridge till later. I skipped the layer of oil on top since I will be using this within a day or so.
 
The flavor is intense, deep and rich with just a hint of heat, not hot at all. A deliciously garlicky pungent complex set of flavors that are sure to come out a winner on the meat! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote got14u Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 March 2010 at 09:13
Nice.... My Dad was stationed in Ethiopia back when he was in the army. He is even fluent in their language. He always liked their food and coffee over there.
Jerod

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 March 2010 at 14:38
that sounds wonderful! an excellent job of preparing a traditional ethopian staple!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 March 2010 at 03:28
That's why I love this place....I've always considered myself fairly knowledgable about foods and their preperation, but until today....I had never even heard of fenugreek.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote barry Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2011 at 02:14
Ethiopian berbere paste... brilliant cant wait to try
barry
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tjkoko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 June 2013 at 10:34
FWIW recently I received a small jar of Peri Peri seasoning from Penzeys, a similar combination of spices used in North African cuisines.  I'll bet its flavor profile is similar to Berbere.
A foodie here. I know very little but the little that I know I know quite well.

best,
-T
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