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Ras-El Hanout Part 2: Berbere similar and a little less intimidating

Organic Ethiopian BerberAs I continue working through the rather intimidating Ras-El Hanout, it has become apparent that I might want to get my feet wet before I jump in the ocean.  When we opened Pinch our friend and designer of the fixtures at Pinch, Travis, came in and requested some Ethiopian Berbere. Although we didn’t have it, I promised to figure out a recipe for him.  The berbere is actually very similar to the ras-el hanout in that it combines a rather large list of spices.  So here we are, a perfect spice mix to get my feet wet: Ethiopian Berbere.

A little background on the Berebere:  Berbere is the base of most Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. If you have ever eaten Ethiopian food, this is a very spicy blend, with a majority of its weight in the form of hot chilies.  Much like the Ras-El Hanout, the Berbere does not have a set recipe.  This is something that individual families, restaurants, spice markets, towns, etc. spin in their own way.  In my research, the key is to develop a balance between the heat of the chili with the aromatic sweetness of the other ingredients.

The process of creating this recipe has really instilled in me a new appreciation for how spices combine.  Whereas our standard Steak , is a simple combination of a few key ingredients, the Berbere’s flavor profile goes all over the place and uses tiny amounts of powerful spices to form a symbiotic relationship and give depth and balance to the mix.  I did a ton of research on the web to hone in on that perfect, authentic recipe.  Rather than focus on the ingredients, I became very conscious of what each ingredient did for an individual recipe.  Then, like any good spice shop purveyor, I took a look at what some of my best items are (yes all of our items are awesome, but you know some are just amazing).  The key to the final recipe was getting the most flavor using small amounts of very strong ingredients, then kicking into spice heaven with a blast of heat.  Here is a picture or two of the blend in process.
Organic Ethiopian BerbereOrganic Ethiopian Berbere

So what did I end up putting in the blend?  Here is a list in order of amount used: cayenne, sea salt, birds chili, chipotle, paprika, fenugreek, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, coriander, cumin, allspice, mace, tumeric, ceylon cinnamon, and clove.  The chilies make up about 2/3 of the overall weight of the rub, so there is some real heat.  Yet the aromatic, and flavorful combination of spices that accompany them standout on their own and have staying power that lasts (with a nice burn).

So now we are proud to offer an authentic and deliciously addictive Ethiopian Berbere.  This is not for the faint of heart, but if you like a touch of heat in your cooking, I am confident you will find some creative ways to use this rub.  So far I have made roasted chicken, spicy scrambled eggs, Ethiopien Berbere BLT’s with avocado, and a spicy Ethiopian Berbere smoke knackwurst.

Next up…I might actually tackle the Ras-El Hanout.

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