Food is at the heart of Ethiopian culture. Featuring curries and braises filled with legumes, vegetables and meats, served with fermented injera bread and eaten enthusiastically by hand in the company of friends and family, Ethiopian cuisine is flavourful, hearty and, most importantly, communal.
While there are many unique spices, flours and other ingredients utilised throughout the Ethiopian cuisine, chief among them is Berbere spice mix. A mix of chilli powder, black pepper, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, ajwan, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and salt, the umber powder is both sweetly aromatic and intensely savoury, with an enlivening chilli heat.
Berbere spice mix can be used in almost any savoury application; in the recipes below we’ve used it to make a melting lamb shoulder curry, a hearty red lentil dahl and a vibrant chick pea braise, but it’s a beautiful, warming addition to roast potatoes, barbecue rubs, lentil soups and anything else that needs a hit of colour, aroma and flavour.
Preheat your oven to 220C. Use paper towel to remove any blood or other moisture from the surface of the lamb, then rub with olive oil. Season well with salt and roast in a deep roasting pan – skin-side up – for an hour or until browned very well. Remove from oven, and lower temperature to 160C.
While the lamb is roasting, use a blender (or stick blender) to mince the onions. Melt the ghee in a saucepan over a low-medium heat, then add the onions. Gently fry until all liquid has evaporated and the onions have partly browned (around 30 minutes), then add the grated ginger and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the Berbere spice mix and fry, stirring, for an additional 2 minutes.
Stir in the stock and simmer for a minute or two, or until the curry thickens slightly.
Pour off any liquid from the lamb and seperate the fat from the meat juices (the fat can be used in place of ghee for cooking the chick peas and red lentils, or saved for roasting potatoes), and add the meat juices to the curry.
Spoon the curry sauce over the lamb, cover with a sheet of baking paper and then two layers of foil, sealing it as tightly as possible. Roast for 5-6 hours (or until meat falls away when touched), remove the foil and paper, use a spoon to re-cover the meat with sauce, and roast for an additional 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the oven and rest for at least 30 minutes before sprinkling with dried oregano, sliced red onion, thinly sliced green chilli and finely chopped coriander to serve.
Serve with injera bread, steamed rice, and/or the side dishes below.
To make the chick peas:
Melt the ghee in a large saucepan (or use the lamb fat from the previous steps) over a low-medium heat, then add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the tomato paste and fry for a minute, then add the soaked chickpeas and at least 1 cup of the soaking liquid, bring to a simmer and cover.
Cook for 40 minutes, or until chick peas are tender (but not mushy), adding more liquid as required. Remove the lid and stir in the Berbere spice mix. Simmer until liquid is mostly evaporated and thickened. Season well to taste and serve.
To make the red lentils:
Melt the ghee in a large saucepan (or use the lamb fat from the previous steps) over a low-medium heat, then add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, Berbere spice mix and stock and bring to a simmer.
Continue to simmer over a low heat until the lentils have softened and have combined with the liquid to form a textured paste. Season with salt if needed and serve.
To make the beans:
Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, then add the tomatoes and increase the heat. Once the tomatoes are simmering, add the beans and oregano. Cover the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes or until beans are tender. Remove from heat, season and serve.