Sunday 30 November 2008

spicy eritrean mince

Firstly, I want to say I was a little disappointed with this recipe that I cooked as part of my 2008 Food Challenge to try out East African cuisine.

Maybe I did something wrong in the cooking process, but the end result just didn’t do anything for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t taste bad, but it certainly wasn’t as good as some of the other East African dishes I have made (my favourite is still the delectable Yasa Tibs).

Here it is, for better or worse. A dish which is edible, warming and filling but just didn’t ignite fireworks.

Tsebhi Sega (Spicy Eritrean Mince)

Recipe from
Celtnet. Serves 4 as part of shared meal.

2 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
50ml berbere
50ml tegelese tesmi (see below)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
6 large tomatoes, skinned and sliced
1kg lamb, shredded
Pepper and salt to taste


1. Heat the oil in a frying-pan and fry the onions light golden.

2. Add the berbere and the tegelese tesmi (and water if necessary) and simmer over a low heat.

3. After 10 minutes, add the ginger and garlic.

4. After 5 minutes add tomatoes, salt and pepper.

5. After 15 minutes add the meat and simmer until the meat is cooked (add some water if necessary).

6. Serve hot with with injera.

Tegelese Tesmi (Ginger Butter)

Recipe from

200g unsalted butter
100ml water
2 small onions, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ginger, grated


1. Put the butter and the water in a frying-pan and heat them until the butter has melted.

2. Add the other ingredients and simmer the mixture on low for 30 minutes, until the mixture stops skimming and the butter is clear. Do not stir the mixture.

3. Sieve the butter and allow to cool in a sealed jam jar.

Eritrea is a tiny East African country of over 4 million people with a long and distinguished history. Bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, it has a long coastline along the Red Sea, directly opposite the shores of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In Biblical times, Eritrea was known as the lavish land of Punt where Egyptian Pharoahs would launch expeditions to obtain incense and exotic animals skins, but Eritrea’s historical significance extends even further, to over 1 million years ago, with the discovery of a hominid skull linking Homo erectus and archaic Homo sapiens.

Eritrea, along with Ethiopia and Somaliland, was part of a mismanaged Italian colony and after the Italians left Eritrea found itself annexed by Ethiopia in the 1960s. War broke out and ended in 1991 with the independence of Eritrea. There have also been discoveries of obsidian tools over 125,000 years old, used to harvest marine life by the hunter-gatherers of the time.

The Aksum people of Eritrea converted to Christianity in the 300s making them the second official Christian state in history (Armenia was the first) and the first to mint coins with the cross symbol. Beginning in the 700s, the Beja began to dominate the area and introduced Islam, making the country's current division about 50% Moslem and 50% Christianity.

The Tigrinya and Tigre people make up around 80% of Eritrea’s population, while Afro-Asiatic ethnic groups such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar and Bilen are believed to descend from the oldest inhabitants of the Horn of Africa.

Reference & Map


  1. Shame it wasn't as good as you hoped.

  2. What was it that didn't quite work for you? Will check out that Yasa Tibs recipe for sure :)

  3. there was nothing wrong with it. it just wasn't exciting. kind of like a spicy, african bolognese without the pasta.

  4. Tigre is the name of the people; Tigrinya is the name of the their language. Just like the traditionally dominant people of Ethiopia are the Amhara and their language is Amharinya. Don't know if it would make that much difference but the butter usually used in "wat" (stews like this one) is actually ghee and many of the ingredients used are similar to those used in Indian curries.


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