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Tag Archives: berbere

  • Easy, Spicy Ethiopian Stews

    Ethiopian food sounds exotic, but it's easy to fall in love with the cuisine of this eastern African nation. Whether you're a strict vegan, a traditional vegetarian or an old-fashioned omnivore, as long as your palate is prepared for intense flavors, Ethiopian cookery has a dish for you.

    The deep, red color and spicy heat found in most Ethiopian food comes from the nationally popular berbere spice blend. Usually made from dried chili peppers, garlic, fenugreek and warm spices such as cumin, ginger, black pepper, allspice and cloves, berbere spice is typically mixed with water or oil to make a paste before it is used in cooking. Wet or dry, it makes a flavorful spice rub for meats and fish.

    Berbere is also the essential seasoning in Ethiopia's famous stews, curry-like mixtures known as wot or wat that are often flaming hot — an acquired taste for some! To dial back the lip-burning, if authentic heat of the berbere, we often will substitute mild California chili powder for half or even more of the spicier blend.

    Making Ethiopian stew at home is easy and while the traditional accompaniment, a fermented bread known as injera that is made from a tiny, nutritious grain called teff, is a bit of a stretch for most home cooks, you can serve your wot with any mild carb such as rice, barley or toasted bread.

    Our basic Ethiopian Berbere Sauce recipe uses no animal products. You can keep it vegan with lentils or split peas and vegetables, or serve it with cooked lamb, beef or chicken. Get the recipe »»

    Ethiopian-Sauce600

    Ethiopian Red Lentils with Berbere Get the recipe »»

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  • Cardamom: The Queen of Spices

    This exotic spice has an intoxicating, rich aroma with complex flavors of sweet floral notes, camphor, lemon, mint and a hint of pepper. Cardamom is the dried seed pod of an herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family and is native to India, Bhutan and Nepal. Inside the pod, the seeds are grouped in clusters with a sticky resin-like coating; this is an indication of certain freshness.

    There are three varieties of cardamom with the two main types being the black and green pods and the white cardamom, which is simply bleached green cardamom. This process of bleaching softens the dominance of the menthol note giving the white pod a sweet and pleasant flavor. In some European countries, specifically Scandinavia, the white cardamom is the preferred style found in most of their baked goods.

    Black cardamom has a totally different flavor than the popular green pods. When the pods are dried, they turn black which gives them a prominent smoky characteristic with strong peppery overtones. It is one of the essential ingredients in North Indian curries. Black cardamom has even made its way as a primary ingredient in certain fusion cuisines like Indian-Chinese Sichuanese red-cooked dishes. It also works very well in bitter foods that require extended cooking, such as collard greens. Just by adding a few pods to rice or lentils during the cooking process can heighten the flavor of these simple dishes to something quite interesting. Sometimes I like to use cardamom when making a dry rub for meat, or as an ingredient in sauces. Continue reading

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