Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 55! Eritrea(Asmara)(AF)-Tsebhi(Spicy Beef), Tegelese Tesmi(Herb Butter) and Berbere(Kick Ass Hot Spices)

Cooking a meal from the country of Eritrea took a little planning this afternoon. Although I had all of the ingredients on hand, they had to be prepared ahead of the main dish to be used as seasoning. And, damn, it's hotter than Hell today, which I guess is the way it is in Eritrea, so I shouldn't complain.

the yellow dots are where I've cooked!
Located on the north east coast of the African continent on the shore of the Red Sea, right next to Ethiopia and Djibouti, this country has an ancient history that is often referred to in mythic novels. Arabas, Turks, Egyptians, Italians and Ethiopians colonized and occupied the country, and so influenced the food. However, the main crops that form this culture's staples are ancient and include: cereals, barley, thaff, wheat, sorgum, millet and more recently, maize. Meat is considered a luxury and is generally reserved for special occasions. Please watch this video, sent to me by a reader (thanks, Simon!) to learn more about this beautiful country:
The Injera Experiment
I decided to make Tsebhi, Spicy Shredded Beef, for dinner. Typically, it's served with Injera, a spongy bread that's used in lieu of utensils to scoop up the food - but that takes three days to make.  Not to worry though, I'm all over's proofing now so I'll be able to serve it with the Ethiopian meal I'm planning for the weekend.  A warning to those who don't like to sweat while they eat - this dish is HOT, HOT, HOT!

The process for making injera is very much like making sourdough bread, where the starter needs to ferment over time. This may totally bomb, but I'll give it my best shot and report back!
Grated onion, ginger and garlic sautéed in butter and water till clarified
Strain out onion/butter mixture - voila...Tagelese Tesmi Herb Butter!

Spices for Berbere - Beautiful earth tones and the smell....exotic

Berbere (Chili) and Tegelese Tesmi (Herb Butter)

I had to convert cc's and grams to cups - that took a little brushing up on my math skills

Very good - hot and spicy, but not that pretty to look at - I served it with Indian Nan

Tegelese Tesmi (Herb Butter)
  • 1 Cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 Cup water
  • 2 Small onions, shredded
  • 2 Cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. ginger, shredded
Put the butter and the water in a frying pan and heat them until the butter has melted. Add the other ingredients and simmer the mixture on a low flame for 30 minutes until the mixture stops stops skimming and the butter is clear. Do NOT stir the mixture. Seive the butter and allow to cool down in a well closed jam jar.

Berbere (Hot Chili Paste)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cadamom
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seed (couldn't find it)
  • 1 tsp. coriander seed
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 tsp. black pepper corns
  • 20 crumbled dried red peppers
  • 1/2 tsp. dried ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 3 TBSP. sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 tsp.salt
Put all ingredients up the salt in a frying pan and heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the salt and grind the spices in a spice grinder.

Tsebhi Sega (Spicy Shredded Beef)
  • 2 Medium onions, chopped
  • 2 TBSP. vegetable oil
  • 1/9 Cup (that's right, 1/2 of a 1/3 of a cup) of berbere paste
  • 1/9 Cup tegelese tesmi
  • 1 tsp. chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 6 large tomatoes, skinned (canned is okay)
  • 2 pounds beef or lamb - shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until light golden. Add the berbere and the tegelese tesmi and some water if necessary and simmer it on a low fire. Add the ginger and the garlic after 10 minutes and the sliced, skinned tomatoes, some salt and pepper after another 5 minutes. After 15 minutes add the meat and simmer it until done. Add water as needed. Serve with injera or Indian Nan.

Final Assessment: If you like hot food, you'll love this. I liked it, but honestly, the lack of fresh vegetables and color makes the dish less appealing to me. I really wanted fresh, crispy vegetables and had to settle for tomatoes as garnish. I'd gladly eat this meal if served to me, but I don't think I'll make it again.


Young Werther said...


Prefer grams/ kilos... totally lost with cups, tea or table spoons!

Simon Mace said...

Yum Yum, mouth salivating, stomach growling. Zigni mmmmmmmm.....

Simon Mace said...

It is amazing project, and you dedicated so much effort in making the authentic thing.

Here is a clip to give you a glimpse of the place.