Ethiopian Lamb

I cannot say if this dish has ever been prepared in Ethiopia, but I cannot rule it out either. The name comes from the combination of spices used, a blend known as Ethiopian Mixture or sometimes Berbere Mixture. This includes, amongst other things, a most distinctive spice called Ajwain Seed, otherwise known as Bishop’s Weed or Ethiopian Cumin, which gives a rich, slightly sweetish taste reminiscent of dried thyme. Despite the list of ingredients, the following is actually quite simple, and the more fiddly, time-consuming part can be done well in advance.


2 large onion, chopped.

6 cloves garlic, chopped.

1 50x25mm knob of garlic, chopped.

1 large green chilli, seeded.

½ cup coconut milk.

2 teaspoons ground fenugreek.

½ teaspoon allspice.

Salt to taste.

3 teaspoons cumin seed.

2 teaspoons coriander seed.

2 teaspoons Ajwain seed.

A little oil.

1kg diced lamb**.

2 kaffir lime leaves*.


Place the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, and coconut milk in a small bowl and beat to a paste. Add the fenugreek, allspice and salt, stir through, cover and leave to sit in a cool place for a few minutes. Grind the cumin, coriander and ajwain and mix together. Set aside.

When ready to begin cooking, heat a little oil in a pan over a hot flame. Add the meat and sauté until browned all over. Add the cumin mixture and stir fry for another minute then add the onion mixture. Stir through, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and add the lime leaves. Cover and simmer gently for forty minutes***, stirring occasionally. Serve with rice.

Serves: 4.

*. If you can’t get fresh leaves, most supermarkets or Asian emporia stock little jars of chopped, pickled kaffir lime leaves.

**. You can use any sheepmeat, of course, as well as chicken, goat or beef.

***. If using mutton, hogget, goat or beef, adjust the cooking time upwards depending on the product. Mutton and beef, for example, will need to be stewed for about 2 hours.

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