Berbere

by Chef Marcus Samuelsson

This recipe comes to TableFare from Chef Marcus Samuelsson as part of his contribution to Spice Inspirations.

For me, Ethiopian cooking is built on three building blocks: injera, the local bread that is served with each meal; mit'ir quib, a spiced butter that provides a rich base; and berbere, a complex blend of chili peppers and spices that gives the cuisine its signature rich, layered flavors.

In Ethiopia, the preparation of berbere takes days—chilies are dried in the sun for three days, then ground in a mortar and pestle, mixed with ground spices, and set in the sun to dry again—and it is usually made in huge amounts, using as many as fifteen pounds of chilies and five pounds of garlic. I've streamlined the recipe and cut the yield drastically for a simplified preparation that maintains the integrity of flavors but takes only fifteen minutes to make.

Each Ethiopian family has its own recipe for this universal seasoning, with varying degrees of heat and spiciness. Traditionally, berbere is used to flavor Ethiopian stews, but I also like to use it as a rub for beef and lamb.

Makes 1 cup

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 cup ground dried Serrano chilies or other ground dried chilies
1/2 cup paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Finely grind the fenugreek seeds with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice or coffee grinder. Stir together with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Reprinted with permission from the book The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson. Copyright © 2006 by Marcus Samuelsson. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey.