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Paul Winalski

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RCP Berbere (Ethiopian spice paste)

by Paul Winalski » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:46 pm

Here's my current recipe for Berbere, the Ethiopian spice paste. It is an amalgam of my old recipe for it (forgot just where I picked it up) and a very authentic-looking one I found on the 'net that makes enormous quantities of the stuff (3/4 cup of each spice!).

As used in wat, berbere contains both dried spices and some fresh ingredients, ground to a paste in red wine. One could mix the dried ingredients ahead of time and add the fresh ones just before using.

Vary the amount of hot red chile and black pepper according to your taste for hotness. Feel free to omit or substitute the spices--there is no fixed recipe for berbere.

I've listed the dried and fresh spices separately. Either whole or ground spices can be used. This recipe yields the exact amount needed for the wat recipe I'll be posting.

1/4 cup paprika (or other mild dried red chile)
1 tsp cayenne (or other hot red chile)
1/4 tsp ajowan seed
1/4 tsp cumin (preferably black)
seeds from 3 cardamom pods (or 1/8 tsp ground cardamom)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp turmeric

1 TBS fresh ginger root, grated
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine

1) Place all the dried spices except for the paprika in a small, ungreased skillet or saucepan. Dry-roast for a few minutes over medium-high heat, until you can smell the aromas of the spices coming up. Be careful not to burn the spices.

2) Grind the dried spices to a fine powder. A coffee grinder is easier than a mortar and pestle for this.

3) In a mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor, combine the dried spices with the rest of the ingredients. Pound or blend into a smooth paste. If you're using a machine, it may help to add some of the liquid from whatever dish you're going to use the berbere in.

-Paul W.
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Cynthia Wenslow

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Re: RC: Berbere (Ethiopian spice paste)

by Cynthia Wenslow » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:09 pm

Paul, I'm assuming that this would keep in the fridge for a while? I realize the recipe you posted uses this entire quantity, but it might be nice to have on hand for throwing into other things. What do you think?
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Paul Winalski

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Re: RC: Berbere (Ethiopian spice paste)

by Paul Winalski » Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:43 pm

Cynthia Wenslow wrote:Paul, I'm assuming that this would keep in the fridge for a while? I realize the recipe you posted uses this entire quantity, but it might be nice to have on hand for throwing into other things. What do you think?


I usually use a whole recipe at a time, in Doro Wat.

It ought to keep for a long while under refrigeration. For even longer-term storage, prepare and store the dried, ground spice mixture, and then mix in a portion of the fresh ingredients and wine according to the quantity your recipe requires.

I haven't tried it, but I suspect the dried mixture would make a dandy rub for grilling or barbecue.

-Paul W.

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