Saturday, 22 September 2018

Berbere - Ethiopian / Eritrean Spice Mix

A spicy mix predominately made of chilli, used to flavour many Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes.

One of the fundamental cornerstones of Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking is berbere - families have their own recipes for it, passed down from generation to generation - a bit like Italian families might pass down the recipes for a basic tomato sauce.

You can buy it ready made, but I think you might be disappointed with what is offered by generic spice manufacturers - much better to have a go at blending your own for a bit more authenticity.

It's not easy to find a decent recipe out there either - I actually had to download some software onto my computer to be able to access websites from other countries to research it (when I say 'I', obviously I mean I asked the other half to help, who is more IT literate than I am!). 

I have developed and tested this recipe using all of the authentic ingredients available to me (which you won't tend to find in off the shelf products from Western supermarkets). If you can't quite get hold of all the ingredients below, don't worry as you probably won't miss one or two of them - there are some recipes with fewer ingredients - and I wouldn't expect people to go buying half a kilo of dried goat's rue to use a teaspoon in a recipe, which they probably wouldn't miss. I haven't included any wet ingredients in this to maximise the shelf life, and because fresh garlic and onions can go into the dishes at the time of making to incorporate those flavours (and I didn't want to add dried garlic or onion powder to the spice mix as a substitute, as some recipes do, because it would add the wrong flavour).

Do give it a go yourself - if you're a fan of cooking Indian food from scratch, you will most probably have all of these ingredients in your cupboard anyway - and it makes for some damn tasty food! You'll find recipes including berbere to follow in seperate blogs. Enjoy!

Makes around 11-12 tbsp / 175ml.

*A tbsp is 15ml - tbsp and tsp are level measures
Ground spices
  • 4 tbsp pure chilli powder (I prefer to use Kashmiri chilli powder for this, as it is full of flavour but not excessively hot - if you live on the other side of the pond, look for chilli powder from New Mexico chillies - or use dried, deseeded chillies to make your own)
  • 3 tbsp paprika (mild / sweet)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Whole spices and herbs
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp ajowan / ajwain seeds (available from Indian grocers or online) - or use cumin seeds as a substitute
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (from the pods - if you want to be truly authentic, you could use 'korarima', Ethiopian cardamom / false cardamom)
  • 1 tsp dried basil 
  • 1 tsp dried rue (optional, imparts a bitter flavour, available online)

1. Toast the whole spices (not including the basil or rue if using) for a few minutes in a dry frying pan, until fragrant (be careful not to burn them), and then set aside to cool.

2. Grind the toasted spices and dried basil (and rue, if using) into a powder (easiest using an electric spice / coffee grinder), and then mix thoroughly with all the other ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

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