Cooking this vegetable stew is not difficult, but requires a little bit of patience. In order to obtain a creamy sauce, a good quantity of onions is to be sautéed for at least 30 to 40 minutes either alone, by adding a little water or by adding butter or oil.
I have used this method to cook African inspired dishes before and had obtained great results with it. Now I find myself using this technique often on a lot of my dishes. For this recipe I started by cutting four onions and sautéing it for 30 minutes. This is a technique widely used in African as well as some Middle Eastern countries.
I added berbere which is a spice seasoning essential in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is commonly used in soups, stews and other food preparation.
This stew has very complex flavors derived from the caramelization of the onions but primarily from the berbere. Berbere is a pungent and hot spice so use caution when cooking with it, especially if you don’t like spicy food. If you cannot find berbere I suppose you can substitute it for smoke or regular paprika, curry (a completely different flavor though) and some sort of hot pepper, cayenne or chili pepper are good options.
This is a simple dish with lots of character in terms of flavors and ingredients; butter, onions, berbere, garlic, ginger, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes paste, red wine and stocks or water; apart from the berbere all are very easy to find ingredients. What is most important? The main thing here is not to burn the onions. The only effort here is that the onions require attention during cooking so they need to be stirred regularly.
Use the best ingredients you can buy as their quality will determine the best results. And when it comes to simple vegetarian dishes, the fresher the better.
When I make this stew as either vegetarian or with chicken or pork I make the point of making plenty of it as it takes a little more time than the usual stew because of the time required to caramelize the onions. The good news, though, is that you can eat it for a few days as it only gets better after the day it’s made. We had it over rice but I suppose you can also have it as a side dish for meat or fish or alone if you don’t want to bother with anything else. Although not required, when the dish is finished you can topped it with a little bit of olive oil and fresh herbs.
Give this recipe a try. I highly recommend you to get berbere as this spice is a key element to this dish; otherwise, be creative and use another ingredients in particular one that gives a little bit of heat and deep flavor.
- 4 red onions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon berbere, more if you like it hot
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6-5 medium or large carrots cut uniformly
- 4-5 potatoes cut uniformly
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable, chicken stock or water
- ½ cup red wine (optional)
Place the onions in a heavy pot over low heat. Start cooking the onions while stirring it.
After 5-10 minutes add the butter and continue cooking the onions for 20 minutes or until softened; add the garlic, ginger, berbere and tomato paste. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Incorporate the wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce thickened. Serve hot, alone, with rice or as a side dish.
Berbere is a hot spice mixture which main ingredients usually include chili peppers, garlic, red pepper, cardamom, coriander, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, fenugreek, paprika, nutmeg and various other spices.
Berbere is a spice seasoning that is essential in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Authentic berbere can be hard to find that is the reason why many of us opt to make it at home. There are plenty of recipes online on how to mix it together.
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