Monday, December 5, 2011

Berbere (Red Pepper Spice Mixture)

Yield: 3 cups

This is the most basic ingredient in Eritrean food and the way our housekeeper’s mother makes it, sometimes makes the food too hot for me. The spice paste you get by adding oil is called Da’lik and may be used interchangeably with berbere. While I haven’t made either, there is a pot of da’lik in our refrigerator. Berbere can keep for several months, or longer if you add 6 tablespoons of oil. I think ours is at least a year old, and Jack tells me it is still good.

When berbere is made in Eritrea, the red chili peppers are harvested (we have some in our garden now) and dried in the sun, as are the garlic bulbs. The spices are bought whole in the market, and each ingredient needs a combination of drying, roasting, pounding, and grinding. Needless to say, it’s a long and tedious process that takes several days.

This recipe is the American version.

1. Combine the following:
2 cups ground red pepper
5 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground fenugreek
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2. Mix thoroughly.
3. Store in an airtight container.

Why would anyone want 3 cups of hot sauce? It is in most Eritrean food and our maids mother uses a hefty portion of it in each dish she makes for us.

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