Eritrea is bordered by Sudan to the north and west, the Red Sea to the north and east with Ethiopia and Djibouti to the south.  Eritrea literally means “red”, and gets its name from the Red Sea.  Much of the country is mountainous. It’s narrow Red Sea coastal plain is one of the hottest and driest places in Africa. The cooler central highlands have fertile valleys that support agriculture.The Dahlak Islands, within the Red sea contain untouched sea reefs.


Eritrea only has one political party: People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. Isaias Afewerki is the first and the current President of Eritrea. He assumed office on May 24, 1993 after declaration of independence from Ethiopia.  After independence, Eritrea entered into a war over Red Sea islands with Yemen and then a more devastating border war with Ethiopia in 1998, causing an estimated 100,000 casualties. A peace agreement in 2000 established a UN-patrolled buffer zone along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border.


Eritrea were subject to a social media hoax earlier this year regarding supposed new marriage laws – “Due to the recent troubles in our country, we are experiencing a serious shortage of men, and an abundance of woman. Men are now legally required to take at least two wives, and any that fail to do so will face strict punishment.”  When the hoax went viral the Government took to twitter to dispel the rumour – “the media frenzy to parrot this ludicrous, fabricated and trite story… on mandatory polygamy is appalling”.


Some Eritrean recipes I came across were: Zigini (spicy beef stew) with injera (flatbread),   Gored gored (raw beef dish), Fata (spicy tomato bread salad with yoghurt).  I opted to cook Tsebhi Dorho (spicy chicken) which involved making Berbere (a spice blend) and Tegelese Tesmi (herbed butter).
Rating: 8/10
Serves 4-5 with rice & bread on the side
Prep time: 1 hour + 30 mins marinating time

Cook time: 30 mins for the Tegelese Tesmi & 1 hr 15 mins for the Tesbhi Dorho


For the Tesbhi Dorho:
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp Berbere spice – see below
3 tbsp Tegelese Tesmi (herbed butter) – see below
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500g chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into serving pieces
Salt & black pepper to taste
Hard boiled eggs, sliced (optional)
For the Berbere spice mix:
1 tsp (level) crushed chillies
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground onion powder
1/4 tsp fenugreek
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch garlic powder (not salt)
2 small cloves ground in pestle
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice

For the Tegelese Tesmi:
100g unsalted butter
50ml water
1 small onion very finely chopped
1 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

For the Tegelese Tesmi:
Put the butter and the water in a frying-pan and heat them until the butter has melted.
Add the other ingredients and simmer the mixture on a low fire for 30 minutes, until the mixture stops skimming and the butter is clear.
Do NOT stir the mixture.
Sieve the butter and allow to cool down in a well closed jam jar.

For the Berbere spice blend:
Mix all the spices together and put in a closed jar until you need to use them.

For the Tesbhi Dorho:
Sprinkle chicken with lemon juice and salt and allow to marinate for about thirty minutes.
In a skillet, sauté onions in a small amount of water.
Add Berbere spice and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add Tegelese Tesmi and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, ginger and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add chicken and 1/2 cup water and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and fully cooked.
If you are using eggs, add them and cook for a couple of minutes.
Serve with cooked basmati rice and plain nan.


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