Author Notes: In Ethiopia, mastering the art of cooking is so essential to a young woman. During courtship she will be judged not only by her beauty but also on her ability to create the perfect Berbere spice blend. Berbere is so important to Ethiopian culture that there is even a commonplace expression used to describe a man who is a coward as being a man who has no pepper.
Berbere is a complex spice blend which includes such ingredients as garlic, chiles, cumin, paprika, peppercorn, Fenugreek Leaves, Korarima (species of the ginger family), Bessobela (sacred Ethiopian basil), and Long Pepper to start.
This spice blend cannot be overlooked as being one of the most intense and uniquely flavoured spice blends I have ever had the pleasure of cooking with. It reminds me of an Indian spice blend due to it’s many similar ingredients but with a unique flavour all of its own. I am sure this is due to it’s many indigenous ingredients that are not so easy to come by in other parts of the world, such as the sacred Ethiopian basil or the sun dried shallots.
This spice blend is created and sold online by a few suppliers but it goes without saying that www.myrealspice.com hands down has it mastered. As important as this spice mixture is to this deep inherently rich culture I am certain there are a couple of very happy mothers celebrating big style out there. That would be the mothers of the woman who are responsible for Berbere at www.myrealspice.com. Well done girls....hats off to you!
The great thing about Berbere is that you do not need to be a well seasoned chef to cook with this spice blend. They have done all the hard work for you. All you need to do is add it and serve.
I have a lot of great ideas on how to incorporate this spice blend into my mainstream daily menus. I have had the sheer pleasure of testing a couple of great recipes using this blend (see below for details). If you are looking to startle your taste buds with something new and exciting I highly recommend Berbere. My cupboard will not be without it ever again.
This serves safely 6 as a side dish or 3-4 as a main.
- 3 teaspoons Berbere Spice plus more for dusting Yams
- 1 teaspoon Roasted Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Minced Ginger
- 1 Onion Chopped
- 1 Mango cut into small chunks
- 5 cups Chickpeas Cooked
- 1 Roasted Yam (large)
- 2 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or Canola Oil
- 1 Can Light Coconut Milk
- 5 Vine Ripe Tomatoes skinned and cut
- 2 handfuls Chopped Cilantro (stems and all)
- 2 handfuls Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
- 1-2 Limes (juice only)
- If you are using dried chickpeas which have the best flavour over canned chickpeas you need to soak them for a minimum of 8 hours if not overnight. Make sure they are completely covered with water as they will expand. Then boil them in fresh water with a little salt for about 50 minutes. Drain once cooked and set aside. You will need around 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups to get 4 cups of cooked chickpeas. If there is not time, do not worry, canned is okay. Try for Organic and make sure that if you are buying dried they are of good quality. Look at the size and colour and see if it has an expiration date on the bag.
- Put oven on 200C or 390F and set for Roast. Start by removing the skin of the yam and cutting into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a bowl and rub a little oil and Berbere spice mix on them. Put on a baking sheet and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until soft.
- Next, chop onions, peel and mince ginger and chop finely the garlic. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and the onions to a pot/pan and fry the onions until they start to change to a nice brown colour. You will need to frequently stir so they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. You can always add a little more ghee or oil if they are constantly sticking. While you are waiting peel the tomatoes and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Once the onions are brown add the ginger and garlic and stir for about 1-2 minutes. They will stick to the pan but don’t panic. Next add the salt, cumin and the Berbere. Mix thoroughly and then add the tomatoes. Then add the cooked chickpeas and stir well. Once the mix is simmering add the coconut milk, sweet potatoes and mango. Stir well and allow to simmer. NOT boil, simmer. Let simmer for around 25 minutes. Taste at this point and if you think you need a little more salt feel free to add. Once done place in a nice bowl, sprinkle on top the peanuts, cilantro and the lime juice and serve either as a main meal or as a side dish. If you make too much don’t panic. It makes a great lunch the next day and will freeze as well. Put in Freezer Ziploc bags air removed and lay flat. For other great recipes using Berbere please see my website. Also, you can go to www.myrealspice.com to buy the spice directly.