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Berbere -- Ethiopian Red Pepper and Spice Paste
from Sackville

This is a new discovery for me but I was quickly converted when this paste helped me make a wonderfully rich tomato sauce, full of deep flavours. Berbere spice paste has many variations. This is a mild form but you can certainly exchange some of the paprika for more cayenne pepper to make it hot and spicy. When you come to use it, in a tomato sauce for example, roast it for at least 5 minutes in your frying pan or sauce pot, adding water a few drops at a time to keep it from burning. The roasting helps the flavours develop.

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 2 cups paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a heavy frying pan, toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice over a low heat for a minute or so.

Stir constantly until they are heated through and then remove from the pan.

Next you need to combine the toasted spices, onions, garlic, 1 tbsp of the salt and all of the wine together into a smooth paste.

I prefer to do this in a mortar and pestle but if you have a blender that is good with small quantities that may work too.

Next mix the paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and the rest of the salt in the frying pan and toast them over a low heat.

Stir in the water 1/4 cup at a time and then add the spice and wine mixture.

Stir vigorously and cook over the lowest possibly heat, stirring all the time, for an absolute minimum of 5 minutes and up to 10 or even 15 minutes if you can.

Transfer the spice paste to a jar and pack it in tightly.

Let the paste cool to room temperature and then cover with enough oil so it makes a film about 1/4 inch thick.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

If you keep it covered with oil, the paste will last in the fridge for 5-6 months.