I was cooking a private dinner and the main course for the non-vegetarians was a lovely chicken tagine. I wanted to stay with a North African theme and serve the vegetarians a flavorful stew. Instead of looking for a recipe, I chose to make this delightful stew for them.
Berbere is a very traditional spice blend from Ethiopia and Eritrea. I translated from Amrahic to "pepper" or "hot" and give the cuisine its characteristic flavour and punch. This spice blend today has spread across Northern Africa and is a staple in most kitchens with each country making small adaptations to the blend.
This stew is flushed with this aromatic spice blend, warm and comforting. The mix of vegetables adds a variety of textures that are immersed in a light but flavourful broth. The flavours are mild, I chose not to make the stew a spice bomb, but rather have my guests enjoy the subtle flavours of the North African spices. You can choose to use any 3-4 of the listed vegetables, choose those that have different textures, some soft and starchy, and some with more crunch. You can serve the stew with couscous, injera or rice and with a side of Schug for those guests that would like more spice.
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2 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger
3 cups total mixed diced vegetables. can be a mix of any 4 of the following:
Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
Sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Baby potatoes halved
Green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pumpkin, peeled and cubed
Carrots, fine dice
Peas, frozen okay
Green or black olives
Plantains, peeled and diced
yams, Peeled and diced
Others of your choice
2 tomatoes, finely minced
1 tablespoon Berbere spice mix, see recipe below
4 cups water
Salt, to taste
Lime juice, as needed
3 Japanese eggplants, halved longitudinally
Olive oil spray
Salt, to taste
A pinch of Berbere spice mix
Berbere spice mix, click here.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Start by layering the eggplants on a lined baking dish and spraying them with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and Berbere spice mix. Roast the eggplants till they are soft and charred, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small pot on medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 4 minutes till the onions are soft and translucent but not coloured. Add the ginger and give a quick stir.
Add the mixed vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes coating the vegetables with the oil. The vegetables need to start getting soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 4 minutes till the tomatoes are beginning to break down. Add the Berbere spice mix and cook for 2 more minutes coating the vegetables with the spices.
Add the water and salt and bring the stew up to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer closed for 15 minutes till the vegetables are cooked and soft. Taste and adjust the salt. the stew will be thin but should pack a good flavour from the spices.
Serve hot topped with the roasted eggplant and accompanied with couscous, injera bread, or rice and wedges of lime.