BERBERE SPICE

by Ed Halmagyi

Instructions

One of the secrets to successful public speaking is knowing your audience. After all it was the great circus owner P.T.Barnum who remarked that ‘It’s a lot easier to get someone to buy something they want, than something they don’t’.

He also famously noted that ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’, but don’t hold that against him.

I try to keep his mantra in mind when I’m preparing to perform in public. Don’t cook fish at the butchers’ conference, don’t poach liver for the vegans. That kind of thing. But I also try to be proactive in my approach. I source local flavours and make them work, and I’ll try to create dishes that draw on the culture, history and interests of the group.

So when I headed to a food festival in a western Sydney suburb with a strong north African demographic a few months back, I reached into my catalogue of recipes and plucked out a winner.

An aromatic barbecue featuring my favourite spice blend, Berbere. It’s named for the Berber tribes who inhabited the Tunisian and Moroccan deserts in ancient times, they were a nomadic people and successful spice traders. Their signature spice is adjowan, a black, slightly bitter cumin-like seed with a hot thyme-like scent. Blended with fenugreek, cumin and coriander (plus a couple of local variables) it yields a delicate and yet rich perfume to your cooking.

I get my Berbere from Herbies Spices (Australia’s number one spice dealer), either on line or from one of the many local shops who stock his range. It is the best example I’ve tried yet of this unique blend.

So what happened at this show? Well, let’s just say that detail counts.

The raucous boiling audience laughter I enjoyed as I presented my first two dishes quickly subsided to a bare simmer when I got stuck into my feature meal.

Berbere-spiced pork cutlets with olive-basted corn. It’s delicious, let me assure you, but that wasn’t really the issue as I later discovered.

Mental note to self: North Africa is a collection of pork-avoiding Muslim nations. You’d have thought the head-scarves would have given it away, but hey, you can’t say I don’t get swept up in the moment!
Berbere spiced pork cutlets with olive-basted corn

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