I have this fixation with spices and herbs and everywhere I go I try and buy some new flavors as well as some favorite old-time heroes. I believe that spices are the spinal cord of your food, it decides the structure and it distributes the flavors through the season branches. This being said, nothing more logic than me trying gully the fascinating and somewhat eccentric world of spices. So, I have decided to make my own spice blends from now on, you know, because if a massive international food chain can do it, well, then so can I… 😉
I have decided to start with the hardest one for me to find (forget my proximity with Africa, geography never seem to help you when you need it the most) and its called Berbere. It is a traditional spice from Ethiopia (country to which deserves a whole chapter dedicated to) and let me say, I absolutely love what it does to the food. In larger notes, it warms up the flavor of your food and in smaller notes, it brings a nice subtle and crisp richness, only achieved by the mix of hot, sweet, sour, fresh and anise-y flavors.
To make the berbere, I have selected a blend of 13 different spices which can be easily adjusted to your own particular taste. Well, let me list my own here:
- 1/2 cup mild chili powder
- 1/4 cup sweet paprika or Spanish pimentón
- 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground star anise
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
And because I couldn’t go on with my day without testing my very first homemade berbere blend, I have decided to make this Ethiopian staple comfort food, it is called Misr Wat and it is so easy you won’t believe it.
- 1.5 cups of red lentils
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 1 large white onion finely minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of the Berbere spice blend
- 1-2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
- 2.5 cups of water
- Optional: 3 tablespoons of tomato puree
- add the diced onions to a fairly large heavy bottom pot on medium heat, add 1/3 cup water. Sweat the onions out for 3-5 minutes. Repeat.
- add the oil and stir for 3 minutes
- add the garlic, stir for 1 minute
- add the berbere, stir for 2 minutes
- finally, add the carrots, lentils, and 2.5 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil, before bringing the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- after about 15 minutes the carrots should have softened and some of the lentils should have burst. Continue to stir and mash up the lentils more with your spoon until you get your desired consistency. Adjust the liquid and spices if necessary.