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Tag Archives: berbere

Zigni (Ethiopian/Eritrean style Beef Stew)

I travel the world through food, and today I am taking you to East Africa!

It was ‘berbere’ that introduced me to East African cuisine, specifically Ethiopian cuisine. Suddenly my world opened up to a whole new spectrum of flavours and dishes. From this traditional tomato salad to a grilled fish recipe inspired by my new found love for berbere, I wanted to learn more about the vast expanse called African cuisine which is as colourful as its land, culture and people.

This time, I did not just re-visit Ethiopia but learnt of the existence of a whole new country, Eritrea.

Sharing borders with Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti, Eritrea has a fascinating cuisine with borrowed influences from all these bordering countries. And I learnt that berbere was hence, commonly used in Eritrean cuisine too. Today’s dish, Zigni, is a great example of that.

Zigni (Ethiopian/Eritrean style Beef Stew) - thespiceadventuress.com

Zigni is essentially a beef stew spiced with berbere and simmered in a tomato based gravy. It is a relatively spicy dish, but nothing crazy. If you can handle an Indian curry, you can enjoy this one too.

Ever since I discovered berbere, it has become a staple spice paste in my kitchen. Very flavourful from both whole spices and aromatics like garlic but it is the paprika that gives it that classic red colour and the spice hit. Hot paprika needs to be used for berbere and not the sweet or smoked version, both of which will alter the final taste of the spice paste. Fenugreek is another crucial ingredient along with other whole spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, pepper etc….

Just as with all spice blends, berbere too has variations but the key spices that go into the paste remain the same. And that goes for the preparation of Zigni too…I found quite a few variations of this dish but the general idea remains same. So it is really important to research a bit, read up many recipes from as authentic a source as possible before trying out traditional dishes like this. The version that I have made is adapted from a couple of recipes and the recipe of berbere is from this African cookbook.

Berbere - thespiceadventuress.com

Traditionally Zigni is had with Injeri, a soft spongy sourdough risen flatbread which is an amazing combination. While I have had Injeri before, I do not know how to make it so paired this beef stew with garlic herb foccacia. Any sort of bread with a spongy texture is idea with Zigni to soak up all the juices of the stew.

So let’s get cooking this traditional dish of Eritrea – Zigni!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 kg beef; cubed
  2. 1 can diced tomatoes
  3. 4 spring onions (only the white part); sliced
  4. 2 garlic cloves; sliced
  5. 1 small onion; sliced
  6. 3 tbsp berbere (click here for recipe)
  7. ½ tsp sugar
  8. ½ cup fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
  9. Vegetable oil
  10. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Heat 4-5 tbsp oil in a deep bottom pan; sear the beef cubes in batches and keep aside.
  2. Add more oil if necessary and when medium hot, add the garlic, onions and spring onions. Cook till softened and then add the berbere.
  3. Mix well to combine and cook on low heat for a minute.
  4. Next add the tomatoes and mix well. Add the sugar and season with salt. Cook on medium for 2 minutes and then add the seared beef cubes.
  5. Also add 2 cups water and bring to boil. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
  6. Simmer and cook till the beef pieces are tender and soft (stir occasionally and add more water if necessary).
  7. Finish with fresh coriander leaves mixed through.
  8. Rest for at least 30 minutes before serving for the flavours to develop.

Zigni (Ethiopian/Eritrean style Beef Stew)

 

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Grilled Berbere Fish – and food conversations on Facebook groups

I have been quite an active member of several Facebook food groups. In fact, my decision to start a blog was inspired by the encouragement I received from these food groups. Though I am a member of more than a dozen groups, there are only a few that inspire me or are really close to my heart. A quick shout out to my foodie friends out there…..

Kannur food guide (KFG) – ‘A home away from home’, that’s what KFG means to me. I was a total stranger to the group when I joined but now, it seems as if I have known most of them forever. A really warm, friendly and non-judgmental group, it is not just a place to have great fun-filled food conversations but also a place where you can forge great friendships.

Chef at Large (CAL) – I am a recent entrant to this food group. But this is my go to place for the most innovative and intellectual food conversations. There are many serious foodies in CAL and you will get to see a very high level of dishes here. The members here possess serious food talents and expertise; and I have gained immensely to broaden my culinary knowledge here. CAL is the brain child of Sid Khullar who is also the Managing editor for the food emagazine, CALDRON.

Home Chefs Guild – Another warm, friendly and interesting group where home cooking is truly celebrated. Again, I was a total stranger to this group but have made quite a few foodie friends out here. And during a casual chat with one of the group admins, Biji, we realized that we were actually neighbours back in my home town but never met then. The world is indeed a small place and the best way to bond is over food!

Today’s dish features high on my fave foods list – grilled fish. And this time, I used the famous Egyptian marinade, Berbere paste to spice up my fish. Fiery, spicy and pungent, the Berbere paste can be used to flavour both meats and seafood. It has quite strong flavours and a little goes a long way; if you want it less spicy, reduce the quantity of paprika.

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Berbere paste – Adapted from Tortoises and Tumbleweeds (Journey through an African Kitchen) by Lannice Snyman

Ingredients:

Berbere paste:

  1. 2 tsp Cumin seeds
  2. 6 cloves
  3. 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  4. 1 tsp Coriander seeds
  5. 1 tsp red chilli powder
  6. 4 garlic cloves
  7. 2 tbsp hot paprika
  8. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  9. ½ inch cinnamon bark
  10. ½ tsp black pepper powder
  11. ½ tsp fenugreek seeds

For the fish:

12. 1 whole fish (I used trout but any type can be used)
13. Red tomato – 1, sliced
14. Lemon – 1, sliced
15. Salt – to season
16. Vegetable oil – for grilling the fish

For the salad:

17. Red onion – 1, finely sliced
18. Black olives – sliced
19. Lebanese cucumber – 1, sliced
20. Tomato – 1, sliced
21. Vinegar – 1 tbsp
22. Salt – to season

 

Method:

To prepare the berbere:

  1. Dry roast the whole spices till aromatic, cool and grind to a fine powder. Add the remaining powdered spices along with garlic and grind to a paste.

To prepare the fish:

  1. Clean the fish well, wash and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Score on both sides and season with salt. Rub the marinade onto the fish and coat well. Line slices of tomato and lemon inside and over the top of the fish. Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or even longer as time permits.
  2. For the salad, mix all the veggies and just before serving, season with salt and vinegar.
  3. Heat the grill to high and drizzle vegetable oil. Place the fish with the lemon and tomato slices on top and grill for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon and tomato slices and carefully turn over the fish and grill on the other side till done.
  4. Serve hot with the grilled lemon, tomatoes and salad.

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