Friday, October 30, 2009

Zigni - Ethiopian Spiced Beef

One of the many things I enjoy about Food Chain is trying new foods and new recipes, a curiosity that is shared by all the volunteers who last more than one shift. It's interesting to taste new dishes and combinations, to find dishes I've never heard of or eaten. One of the sites I frequent for inspiration is which is a rich source of African recipes and information. I spent a delighted hour or more reading the first time I found it and I have visited many times since and learned a lot in the process. It's where the spice mix came from for this deeply aromatic and hot beef stew, a completely different kind of hot to Asian or Indian cuisine, quite complex and warming.

Berberé (pronounced 'ber-beray') is an Ethiopian spice mixture that is the flavoring foundation of Ethiopian cuisine, a basic ingredient in Dabo Kolo, Doro Wat, and many other dishes. It's traditionally 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 but 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

I made this one mixing ready ground spices then cooking it gently till aromatic. These quantities makes more than you need for this recipe but it keeps well in an airtight jar.


500g stewing beef, in cubes
3 tbspns vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can tomatoes, with liquid
salt, pepper
fresh coriander chopped

Berberé pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoons ground cayenne or chilli pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For the berberé, combine the spices and roast in a dry skillet on low to moderate heat, stirring constantly, for about 5-10 minutes, or until roasted. Don't let them burn. Keep in a tight jar.
For the stew, fry the meat on high heat until brown, then add the onion, and eventually the garlic and 2 tbsp Berbere, which are NOT to become burnt.

Add the tomatoes with their liquid and boil slowly until the meat is tender and the stew has thickened, about an hour.

Garnish with coriander and serve hot on rice.

This made plenty for four servings with rice and spicy plantains but, like all stews, is better next day.


Helen said...

I enjoy Ethiopian food but I've strangely never tried making any at home. This will have to change! Thanks for the link to the Congo Cookbook too - it looks interesting.

bron said...

Definitely worth exploring - it is utterly different to both 'beef stew' and say an Indian 'spiced beef' and so a good thing to discover. Congo cookbook is gooooood!

Anonymous said...

I grew up eating this dish in Saudi Arabia. There were many Ethiopians in the country at the time and zigni was a very popular dish in Saudi then and today
(I saw the recent blog of an young Saudi woman who thought it was an Arabian dish). Living stateside I never even knew the proper name of the spice mix until I started searching for it on the web (an Ethiopian friend has kept my dad supplied for many years). This recipe is the most authentic I have yet seen, and I imagine the spice recipe has the same level of authenticity. Oviously the proportion of spices will vary according to the cooks taste.
I just made zigni yesterday with ground lamb (I have a lot of lamb!) And it was good good good! For authenticity, use beef or lamb cut into bite size pieces when making zigni. Most Ethiopians don't eat pork for religious reasons. The Ethiopian lady who taught my dad to make this put potato chunks in hers, and dad does too, but I leave them out. The rice is starch enough for me.
For those who have never tried this spice mix or this dish, you are about to meet a new addictive flavor. There is nothing else like zigni and I would be very sad indeed if I knew I could never have zigni again!

bron said...

Interesting to know that it's eaten in Saudi as well - it's easy to see how it can become addictive. Great flavour. Have never tried it with lamb but will next time I make it.