Berbere spice is the cornerstone to many of Ethiopia’s tastiest dishes and its vibrant colour comes from its intriguing mix of ingredients. The base notes of the blend are traditionally the ‘hot’ elements: cayenne and black pepper, paprika and dried chillies. The addition of other ingredients is according to local or family custom and ingredient availability: garlic, ginger, basil, fenugreek, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and cloves can all be used.
Berbere can also include nigella seeds, ajwain and korarima, a spice that grows wild in Ethiopia. The variations on ingredients is only matched by the endless ways in which cooks from around the world use Berbere.
Almost anything you create in the kitchen can be given a flavour boost with the addition of a little (or a lot, depending on your tastebuds!) of Berbere spice blend. It’s a great starting point, when mixed with a little oil, wine, lemon juice or honey, for a marinade for lamb, beef or chicken. Or try it as a dry rub for meat before roasting or cooking on the barbeque.
Vegetarians will be happy to know Berbere will add a layer of flavour to soups and stir frys and is delicious with tofu, lentils or any variety of vegetables. Berbere can also be used either as a condiment or combined with olive oil, lemon juice and olives as a dip.
Whilst we highly recommend using Berbere spice blend when creating your own Ethiopian feast, the blend is so versatile it can also be used in that most Italian of Aussie favourites: spaghetti bolognese! Other suggestions include:
- Blend Berbere with butter and fresh garlic, for a whole new taste to garlic bread
- Add a little Berbere to the cheese sauce when making macaroni cheese
- Use Berbere to enhance flavour of mince when making meatballs or hamburgers
- Add Berbere to the pot when making vegetable or meat stock
Hamlin Spice mix makes a great present for a budding or established cook or for using to cook up some Ethiopian kitchen magic of your own. Also available is a recipe booklet with some of the favourite dishes of the chefs at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. All proceeds support the patients and dedicated staff at the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.
Serves 4 to 6
15 mins prep, 45 mins to cook or 3-4 hours if done in slow-cooker
1kg diced beef (use chuck or round)
3 tablespoons oil
3 brown onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 teaspoons (or to taste) Hamlin Berbere spice
1 x 440g tine whole tomatoes
large handful green beans, cut in half
splash of red wine
Start by heating the oil in a large pot and brown onions, add garlic after a few minutes and keep stirring
Add Berbere spice and allow to cook for a minute or two to release the flavours
Add the meat and stir, allowing it to brown before adding the tomatoes
Allow to simmer for 45 minutes, adding a little water or red wine if the sauce becomes too dry
Just before serving turn off the heat and add the green beans, put a lid on the pot and leave the beans to steam slightly
Serve with rice or couscous