I first tasted the African spice blend berbere when I did a cooking class with Ian [Herbie] Hemphill at The Black Pearl cooking school in Brisbane many, many years ago – and it’s highly likely he made us a version of berbere chicken.
It’s hardly surprising I adore this spice, as it is a blend of sea salt, cumin, coriander seed, black peppercorns, ajowan seed, fenugreek, allspice, ginger, chilli, nutmeg and cloves. And those who know me know that I particularly adore cumin, coriander, ginger and chilli.
This dish is a family favourite, and I really don’t know why I don’t make it more often. It has a fabulous flavour, juicy chicken thigh fillets and you can add in whatever veggies you like to bulk it out. I’m going to make it tonight and will also throw in a handful of red lentils.
I thought it was a good time to share this recipe as this time next year I’ll be in South Africa, leading a Gourmet Trails South Africa food tour for Encompass Africa. Cue excitement! If you would like more information please let me know.
I should point out that berbere spice is used mostly in Ethiopian cuisine, and for those familiar with the geography of Africa, you will know that Ethiopia is a very long way from South Africa. While I haven’t been to Ethiopia, I did visit neighbouring Djibouti when I was 7 years old, and on a ship travelling from England to Australia. But that’s a whole other story!
What you need:
- 2 tbs oil (I use olive because I use olive for pretty much everything)
- 2 brown onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 4 tbs berbere spice – I use Herbies*
- 1kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into thirds (or half if small)
- 3 carrots, finely chopped
- 300g button mushrooms, quartered
- 2 red capsicum (peppers), de-seeded and sliced
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
What you do:
- Preheat oven to 160c
- Heat a tagine (or Dutch oven or other suitable pot) on a medium heat, add oil, berbere spice, onion and garlic and cook until onions are soft
- Add the chicken and brown it (you might need to do this in batches)
- Add the carrots, mushrooms, capsicum, tomatoes, tomato paste and stock. Bring to the boil and then transfer to the oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken and veggies are cooked.
- Serve with mash (I like sweet potato) or rice or an African flat bread to sop up the sauce.
You could also use berbere spice in a tomato sauce, in burgers, as a meat rub, in hummos, chilli, pulled pork, sprinkled over chicken or pork or fish. The list is endless!
Have you been to Africa? Do you have a favourite African flavour? Have you tasted berbere spice?
* Disclaimer – this is not a sponsored post, but I have been a long time fan of Herbies and they sometimes send me spices to try. When they heard I was going to Africa next year they sent me a few of their African favourites including berbere. Thank you!