Berbere!

I have recently gone into some depth about my travails in finding a good berbere to use in making Ethiopian cuisine at home. When Amazon jacked up the price of a good and convenient berbere, that was the last straw! I refused to try a different, commercially available berbere spice mix for fear it would once again become commercially unavailable.

The first time I attempted to make a complex berbere (as opposed the the simple berbere I use when cooking for my parents), my efforts were pretty half-assed. My pantry was missing several of the called-for spices, including the all important fenugreek, and so I made some not-too-successful substitutions.

Redoubling my efforts this time around, I consulted at least ten different recipes online to make sure that I could create the most comprehensive and spice-rich recipe possible. I compared recipes to get a rough idea of the proportions of the most common spices in relation to one another. Of course, some recipes were different, and some were larger, and some were smaller, but in those cases I let my own instincts and preferences win out.

Luckily, my renewed efforts toward making my own berbere coincided with the need for a stop at Patel Brothers in Monroeville. Their cilantro chutney is a staple of my pantry, and I find that Indian groceries offer MUCH better prices for ordinary and exotic spices than, say McCormick. It’s also conveniently located across the street from my work, so I brought my list of spices to complete the berbere. I got some ground fenugreek (so I’d have no excuse not to use it), nutmeg, and most exciting, a brand new addition to my spice cabinet, ajwain seeds! Unfortunately, the one spice I didn’t find there was allspice. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I guess allspice doesn’t come into play in Indian recipes. I turned once again to Amazon and found their best deal… one pound of whole, dried allspice berries for about $10. I believe I now officially have enough allspice to last the rest of my life.

Armed with a new arsenal of spices, I set out to assemble my theoretical berbere. I have been using this berbere with some success, though I am treating it as a working recipe, and so I may change and edit this entry as time goes on:

SARAH’S COMPREHENSIVE BERBERE

5 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons fenugreek
2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons hot chili powder (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons cardamom
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons ajwain seeds
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg

If using any whole spices, grind them in a spice mill or electric coffee grinder. Assemble all ground spices in a plastic container and combine thoroughly. Hot ground pepper can be increased or decreased to taste.

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