Berberé is made from a cupboard-full of herbs and spices, fresh-ground, pan-roasted, and then packed into jars for storage. Among Ethiopian cooks there are many variations of which spices and what amounts. (In the recipe below, ingredients marked "optional" seem to be the least common.) Basic berberé is made by combining roughly equal amounts of allspice, cardamom, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, black pepper, and salt with a much larger amount of hot red (cayenne) pepper. The combination of fenugreek and red pepper is essential to berberé; while one or two of the other ingredients may be left out, the fenugreek and red pepper are must-haves. Milder berberé can be made by substituting paprika for some or most of the red pepper. Berberé is sometimes made as a dry spice mix, and is sometimes made with oil or water to form a paste.
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 to 6 tablespoons of a combination of ground cayenne pepper (red pepper, dried chile peppers, or red pepper flakes) and paprika
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh (peeled and grated) or dried (ground) use dried ground ginger if making dry berberé
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions or shallots, omit if making dry berberé (optional)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic, omit or use dried garlic if making dry berberé (optional)
- 1/4 cup oil, water, or red wine (omit if making dry berberé)
- In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast the dried spices for a few minutes -- stirring or shaking the skillet continuously to avoid scorching. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If making dry berberé powder: grind the mixture in a spice grinder or blender, or use a mortar and pestle. Store the berberé powder in a tightly-sealed container.
- If making berberé paste: combine the toasted spices with the fresh ginger, onions or shallots, garlic, and oil (water, or wine). Grind together in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Store the berberé paste in a tightly-sealed container.
Starting with whole spices, the various nuts and seeds and dried red chile peppers, then pan-roasting, grinding and mixing them will produce the most authentic berberé. However, perfectly satisfactory results can be obtained using already-ground or powdered spices.
The red wine seems to be a non-Ethiopian addition, but it works well.