From Demand Africa, “In Amharic, the state language of Ethiopia, ‘barbare’ means pepper or hot. Not surprisingly, berbere spice, the flavor backbone of Ethiopian cooking, gives traditional Ethiopian dishes that fiery kick. Berbere’s constituent spice is paprika (itself a ground spice made from Capsicum peppers), but the final blend could be made from up to 20 spices.
Ethiopian cooks of old were not short of kitchen experiments, and over time have added garlic, ginger, fenugreek seeds, African basil, black and white cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, coriander seed, thyme, rosemary, turmeric and ajwain (carom seeds commonly used in Indian cooking) to the mix. This allows berbere to impart a richer, aromatic and more layered flavor to any dish it’s added to, whether Ethiopian or not…Amharic language scholars speculate that the name ‘barbare’ came from ‘papare,’ the Ge’ez word for pepper (Ge’ez was the language of ancient Ethiopia). While that is likely lost in the mists of time, the more probable theory is that berbere came at a point in Ethiopia’s history when the independent Axumite kingdom controlled the Red Sea route to the Silk Road. The Axumites knew the secrets of the monsoon winds, and harnessed it to send their ships toward India in summer, and back again to Africa in winter…Berbere is the cornerstone spice blend of Ethiopia; without it, ‘doro wot’ or chicken stew (Ethiopia’s national dish) would not have that distinctive brick-red appearance and rustic, savory intensity.
Doro wot is cooked during traditional festivities and is typically served with injera, fermented sourdough flatbread with a slightly spongy texture that serves as the plate and scooping utensil for the stew. Doro wot is ladled generously on top of it and served alongside vegetables and other dips. (To eat injera, Ethiopians pinch off a piece of it and use the same to scoop out a small portion of the stew.)”
You can buy the spice blend in your grocery store – our Albertsons carries it – but it is more fun to make your own. All of these spices should be locally available.
Berbere Spice Mix
Prep Time: 5 min Total Time: 5 min
1/2 c Chili Powder
1/4 c Paprika
1/2 t ground Ginger
1/2 t ground Cardamon
1/2 t ground Turmeric
1/2 t ground Coriander
1/2 t ground Fenugreek
1/4 t ground Cinnamon
1/4 t grated fresh Nutmeg
1/4 t ground Allspice
11/8 t ground Cloves
1/8 t fresh ground Black Pepper
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight jar.
Ethiopian cuisine (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ምግብ) characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wot, a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 20 inches in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour.
A recipe from African Bites for
Ethiopian Chicken Stew -slowly simmered in a blend of robust spices. Easy thick, comforting, delicious, and so easy to make!
Prep Time: 20 mins Cook Time: 1 hr Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins Servings: 6
Calories: 470 Author: Immaculate Bites
3 Tablespoons Spiced butter Sub with Cooking oil or more
2-3 medium onions sliced
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons Berbere Spice (See above)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
½ Tablespoon minced ginger
3- 3½- pound whole chicken cut in pieces or chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
½ Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon dried basil optional
4-6 Large soft-boiled egg shelled removed
1-2 Lemons Freshly Squeezed (adjust to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Season chicken with, salt, pepper and set aside
In a large pot, over medium heat, heat until hot, and then add spiced butter and onions, sauté onions, stirring frequently, until they are deep brown about 7 -10 minutes. After the onions are caramelized or reached a deep brown color, add some more oil, followed by berbere spice, garlic, and ginger.
Stir for about 2-3 minutes, for the flavors to blossom and the mixture has a deep rich brown color. Be careful not to let it burn.
Then add about 2-3 cups water .Add chicken, tomato paste, paprika, basil, salt and cook for about 30 minutes.
Throw in the eggs and lemon juice; thoroughly mix to ensure that the eggs are immersed in the sauce.
Continue cooking until chicken is tender about 10 minutes or more Adjust sauce thickness and seasoning with water or broth, lemon,salt according to preference.