Berberé (in Amharic በርበሬ, bärbäre; in Tigrinus በርበረ, bärbärä) is a blend of spices native to Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Origins and History –
Berberè is a mixture of spices from North Africa, originally from the populations between Eritrea and Ethiopia and whose composition is traditionally: chilli pepper, ginger, clove, coriander, common rue, ajowan, pepper can also appear long, cardamom and other spices.
This spice originating in the horn of Africa is traditionally used in the preparation of the zighinì, a stew which is the Eritrean national dish.

Description –
Berberè is a spice whose ingredients, as mentioned, are traditionally:
– chili pepper, coriander seeds, cloves, cardamom seeds, mountain celery seeds, allspice berries, black pepper grains, fenugreek seeds, ground ginger and cinnamon but with some variants that include the presence of common rue , ajowan and other spices. Sometimes it includes herbs and spices less known internationally, drawn from both cultivated plants and those that grow in the wild in Ethiopia, such as korarima.
The original recipe involves roasting the seeds, but the powdered spices that can be purchased are almost always already toasted.
The spice already prepared has a more or less powdery consistency and a color varying between intense orange and brick red.
It is therefore a spice with the characteristic exotic flavor capable of enriching the many dishes ensuring many benefits.

Active principles –
As is evident, the percentage of the various components of berberè depends a lot on the starting raw materials, so there is no standard data sheet of the nutritional values ​​and substances present in this spice.
This is due not so much to the variability of the components, which in Berberè are used in somewhat standard percentages, but for the variety of the ingredients and also for the difference in characteristics, often of the spices that make it up as they also come from somewhat different cultivation systems .
Obviously for the composition of the individual spices, please refer to the data sheet.

Properties and Uses –
As for the uses of this spice, we underline that there are essentially two types of berberè: the one with fenugreek and the one with cardamom. Cardamom, known throughout the Horn of Africa and in all Islamic countries, has mainly flavoring powers and enhances both sweet and bitter flavors, but is very expensive. Fenugreek has an odor similar to that of celery, grows in all moderate climates and above all costs very little. This is why cardamom is prepared in cities and on the Red Sea coast, while fenugreek is used in the countryside of the two countries.
Thanks to the presence of cardamom (the ones that contain it) with an intense and pleasant scent, berberè proves to be an effective remedy for heavy breath. Ginger and cloves are known for their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, while the chili pepper, in addition to increasing the sense of satiety, ideal for those who are practicing slimming diets, is essential for regulating blood circulation.
However berberè is a key ingredient in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine.
This spice added to foods makes them more colorful and tasty without having to always resort to flavor enhancers and reducing the amount of salt to be used.
Berberé was supposed to have been used originally because it was difficult in the past to store food properly.
The use of spices contained in berberé, such as cloves, pepper, allspice, chilli pepper, coriander, ginger, etc. they facilitate the digestion of the foods to which they are added.
In addition, berberé is usually accompanied by a kind of typical bread called Injera (or Enjera).

Preparations –
For the preparation of Berberé, remember that it is possible to find different recipes. In some of them there is also paprika, but in Africa, the land of origin of this blend, this spice is not used, so here we indicate a recipe, which tries to get as close as possible to the original one. As ingredients, therefore, they should be chosen and mixed together:
– Abyssinian chillies, at least twenty, the type used is not fundamental, provided they are all of a beautiful bright red color, so as to give the right pigmentation to the final preparation;
– a teaspoon of coriander seeds;
– ten cloves;
– sixty cardamom seeds;
– fifteen allspice berries;
– half a teaspoon of mountain celery seeds;
– a spoonful of black peppercorns;
– a spoonful of fenugreek seeds;
– a teaspoon of ground ginger;
– a teaspoon of ginger powder;
– a teaspoon of turmeric powder;
– a little cinnamon;
– a teaspoon of salt (optional).
Probably some of these ingredients are not easy to find, but now there are many ethnic shops in our cities and, inside them, it will be possible to buy all the different seeds and the different spices that are needed for our recipe. For roasting the seeds it is good to use a non-stick pan, particularly large and deep, which is not intended for anything else, and it is also important that this operation is done in a well-ventilated environment, because the smoke that rises from cooking several ingredients is particularly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. In the same way, it is good to use disposable gloves to slice the chillies, in order to avoid possible contact with the mucous membranes and, therefore, possible local irritations.
Put a little oil on the bottom of the pan and, once it starts to boil, add the chillies immediately, which is good to have cut into small pieces as small as possible, then the hay seeds, the carnation, the ginger , cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Some put all the ingredients together, others follow a precise mixing order; important is that after a few minutes, avoiding burning the mixture, everything is removed from the fire and immediately proceed to its grinding. Finally, for storage, berberè should be placed inside an airtight jar.
Thanks to its strong flavor, berberè is suitable for embellishing and flavoring every dish, especially the main courses.
Among the interesting preparations, the one based on lentils and onions passed in a pan with a sprinkle of Berberè should be remembered; in this case you have to let it cook on a low heat, wait until the moment when the classic sauce is formed and then it can be served.
Another hypothesis, among the innumerable ones, of which many are typical of the horns of Africa, is to prepare the asparagus of the white variety with the addition of berberé.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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