Zigni is the main traditional dish of Eritrean cuisine. It is a beef stew in tomato sauce flavored with berbere, this rather hot spice blend that accompanies almost every dish of the region and that is also used for the Ethiopian doro wat recipe.
Eritrean cuisine is a combination of all the culinary traditions of the people of the country, its long history and the interconnection with other neighboring countries and their cultures.
Zigni is eaten with injera, this flatbread made from teff flour.
A single large dish is placed on a coffee table or on the floor, where everyone eats from with the help of a piece of injera. People always use their right hand. As weird as it sounds, the use of the left hand is taboo in Eritrea. Poor lefties!
Each meal begins and ends with the hand washing ceremony.
For thrill seekers, let’s talk about berbere! Eritreans are known to be very keen on spicy food. Berbere is a spice blend unique and specific to Ethiopia and Eritrea. It serves as a basic ingredient in the preparation of almost all the dishes of the countries.
Chili powder and fenugreek are the two main ingredients of berbere. Other spices and seasonings such as salt, pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice are added too. To prepare the berbere, spices and herbs are freshly ground and then toasted in a skillet. Finally, the mixture is stored in sealed spice containers.
Berbere can be more or less spicy depending on the spices that are added or substituted. However, fenugreek and chili powder are the key ingredients that can’t be ignored or substituted. Back to the Scoville scale! The one that measures the intensity of chilies. The reputation of Africans is not a legend! Did I say aphrodisiac? Maybe in other ways than tiramisu?
This zigni was excellent and perfectly fragrant. I obviously served it with injera and we all loved it!
- 2 lb beef , cubed
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice , not drained
- 3 scallions , minced
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 4 tablespoons berbere (recipe below)
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 5 tablespoons oil
- 1 small onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 8 cardamom seeds
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch 4 épices
- Heat oil over medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, sear the beef cubes until browned.
- Add the onions and garlic. Cook 2 minutes.
- Add the berbere. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
- Finish by adding the tomatoes and their juice.
- Season lightly, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- Thirty minutes before the end of cooking, add the cilantro.
- The meat should fall apart easily and the sauce should be smooth.
- In a pan, roast on low heat for 2 minutes the cardamom, coriander, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and spices 4.
- Allow to cool, stirring the mixture occasionally.
- Add garlic, onion, half the salt and 2 tablespoons of water. Mix everything. Set aside.
- In the pan, put chili pepper, white pepper, paprika, allspice and remaining salt.
- Toast on low heat for 1 minute. Pour the remaining water gradually, stirring constantly.
- Add the spice mixture, stir thoroughly and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes.
- Put this mixture in a jar.
- Cool and cover the top with a layer of oil.
- Keep 10 days in the refrigerator.