How to Use My Ethiopian Berbere Spice Blend
I make my Berbere Spice Blend the tradtional way, by starting with whole spices and dry pan roasting certain of them before grinding and mixing. Dry roasting enhances flavors, and grinding whole spices to order maximizes their freshness. I package the same day I blend and grind to deliver to you as much of that fresh flavor (and the nutrients that go with it) as I can. That’s also why I blend in small batches: I make enough for about 12 packages at a time.
North African food is typically very spicy. I’m not a fan of hyper-hot flavors because I find that when my tastebuds are overly stimulated by heat I can’t taste the often-complex flavor it accompanies. That’s why I like it when I find a traditionally hot spice blend like Berbere that doesn’t lose its complexity to heat. Never the less, I tend to use less of this Ethiopian spice base in my recipes than would be the case in an Ethiopian household. Which is to say, if you think I’m too wimpy go ahead and double up! If you like it really hot, make it really hot! If you like really mild, however, consider cutting my recommended amounts in half. That will emphasize the flavor over the heat, and you can always add more spice mix toward the end if it’s too mild.
Misir Wot (Lentil Stew)
This easy, 30-minute vegetarian dish is traditionally made from red lentils, although green will do.
- 3 T olive, peanut, or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 T Berbere Spice Mix
- 3 oz (1/2 can) tomato paste
- 21/2 cups water
- 11/2 cups (red) lentils
- 1/4 cup warm water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Saute chopped onion and garlic in oil until the onion is translucent.
- Add the tomato paste and Berbere spice. Mix. If the resulting paste is too thick, add about 1/4 cup water.
- Rinse the lentils, then add them to the pot with the 21/2 cups water. Simmer about 20 minutes, until cooked thoroughly.
- Add an additional 1/4 cup of warm water. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Note: Be careful when purchasing peanut oil; most brands are either diluted with cheap vegetable oils or treated with an anti-foaming agent. Pure peanut oil is expensive, which is why we get ours by purchasing plain peanut butter and pouring off most of the oil that separates from unadulterated peanut butter. Keep it in the refrigerator, where it will become partially solid.
Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)
Doro Wat is one of the most popular North African dishes, and can be found in almost every Ethiopian restaurant. It takes 3 hours to make this superb slow-cooked, nutritious, and flavor-rich meal, and it is oh so worth it!
Substitute beef and the dish is called Sik Sik Wat. It is also delicious with pork and lamb. This is truly an all-purpose main dish recipe!
- 3 lbs chicken cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 T fresh lemon juice
- 2 T butter
- 2 T extra virgin olive, pure peanut, or coconut oil
- 3 C yellow onions, finely minced/pureed
- 1 T finely minced garlic
- 1 T finely minced ginger
- 1 T butter
- 1/4 cup Berbere Spice Mix (you will need 2 of my spice packets)
- 2 T butter
- 1 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 cup White wine mixed with 1 t honey
- 1 cup Chicken stock
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and pierced all over with a fork 1/4-inch deep
1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour the lemon juice over them. Let them sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes. (Or leave it on the counter while you do Steps 2 – 4, 95 minutes.)
2. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven. Add onions and sauté, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add garlic, ginger, and 1 T butter. Continue to sauté, covered, another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add Berbere Spice Mix and 2 T butter. Continue to sauté, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the chicken, broth, and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Adjust seasonings, adding more Berbere according to your preference. Add the hardboiled eggs, simmer on low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.
Serve with a side of rice.
Cut each egg in half and use a half egg as a plate garnish.
Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the dish as a colorful and tasty garnish.
Sprinkle diced fresh tomato over the dish for a cooling color and taste contrast.
Tilapia in Berbere Butter
In addition to tilapia, any firm white fish (like cod or halibat) will work for this super-simple dish, and it’s an excellent choice for your next weekend BBQ!
Rinse the fish fillets and pat them dry. Set aside.
For every 2 fillets, heat in a large pan:
- 1 T butter
- 2 t Berbere Spice Mix
- 1 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine
- a pinch of salt (optional)
Place the fish in the pan, cook for 1 minute; flip the fish and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until cooked through, basting with the butter sauce every minute or so.
Hint: if you are cooking a fish with its skin on, start on the non-skin side, then flip the fillet so the skin side is down for the longest cooking.
Test for doneness by lightly flaking with a fork. The flesh should flake easily and be white throughout.
Adding a spice mix will cause a normal “blackening” effect on the surface. Be sure to check for doneness by temperature or by raking a fork over the flesh as discussed above.
To serve: place a fillet on a plate (skin side down), and spoon some of the butter sauce over the top.
Ethiopian Vegetable Stew
This hearty stand-alone vegetable stew can be supplemented by adding cubed and browned chicken at Step 3.
- 1/4 cup olive, peanut, or coconut oil
- 1 T Berbere Spice Mix
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 3 lg onions, chopped
- 4 lg carrots, cubed
- 4 lg potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 2 cups water
1. Heat the oil in a large pot, then add the spice and minced garlic. Stir to thoroughly mix, then add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the carrots and potatoes. Cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the puree and water (and optional cubed, browned chicken). Cover, lower temperature to a simmer, and cook 30-40 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are fully cooked.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a side of crusty bread.