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Our version of this classic Ethiopian stew starts with Berbere spice, one of the main components of Ethiopian cuisine. First you make a paste with the spice and red wine, then you make a simmer sauce and then the stew itself.
You can make the paste or even the sauce ahead of time. What's more, you can make extra paste or sauce and use it as a building block in your cooking. It's tasty when added to lentils, as a spicy twist on pasta sauce, as a simmer sauce for chicken, or as an addition to braised greens.
The Berbere blend is spicy and aromatic -- a mix of chiles and spices. Warming, "sweet" spice notes from ginger, cinnamon, fenugreek and clove combine with herbaceous qualities of besobela (sacred basil), rosemary and thyme.
Serve this stew with injera (Ethiopian bread) if you can find it. (Here in Oakland, you can find it at Whole Foods or at the Grand Perkins Market a little ways from our shop.)
4 tablespoons Berbere 4 tablespoons red wine 1 large onion, minced 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 tomato, diced 4 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for browning) 1 cup water (or 2 cups if using a slow cooker, see below) 1 lb lamb, cubed Salt
Generously salt the lamb. Whisk together the Berbere and red wine to form a runny paste.
Cook onion over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan or skillet without oil (this is called sweating the onions). Stir occasionally for 20 to 25 minutes until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and oil. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Add the Berbere paste and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water and simmer until tomatoes are fully cooked and the sauce thickens.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a glug of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the lamb and brown on all sides. Once meat is browned, add sauce. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour or until the lamb is tender. Add salt to taste.
Use a slow cooker: When making the simmer sauce, add 2 cups of water instead of one. After browning the lamb, place the meat in the slow cooker along with the sauce and cook on low for 8 hours.