Brown Rice Artichoke Risotto With Berbere

January 7, 2013

Brown Rice Risotto with Berbere
I recently discovered berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend. It’s made of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, white and black pepper and fenugreek.
Berbere has a deep red color, a fragrant aroma and tastes so (so) [so] {so} ⁅so⁆ ❲so❳ good.
Plus, it’s not that hard to find: Whole Foods carries it and I’m sure any spice/specialty store sell it as well. If you’re looking to add new flavors to your meals you should definitely give it a try.


During the last couple of days I’ve added berbere to every food I’ve been cooking. Yesterday, I mixed some into the brown rice artichoke risotto I was making. Result: unbelievable.
Italy meets Ethiopia and magic happens. I didn’t see that one coming. Not by a million miles.
I also did a little bit of historical research; apparently these two countries share a past. During the colonial years (i.e., end of the 19th century) part of Ethiopia was a colony of Italy’s empire and remained so for about 50 years. Fascinating.
Surprisingly, the two cuisines never intertwined their destinies. Berbere never made it to Italy and Ethiopians never embraced risotto.
It’s up to us - globalisation kids - to make this happen. Which is exactly what we’re set to do today.
This brown rice risotto is everything you’re looking for in a wholesome dish. Light in calories, hearty and a nutritional powerhouse.

Brown Rice Risotto with BerbereBrown Rice Artichoke Risotto with Berbere                                                                Print this Recipe!

Few notes. Some people might get “scared” when it comes to cleaning and trimming artichokes. It’s nothing complicated, if you’re not sure how to proceed here it’s explained in detail.
Making risotto with brown rice take times, it’s worth the effort though. Just make sure to use the right kind of brown rice; the best ones are brown arborio or Japanese short grain. Don’t try venturing making risotto with brown basmati or brown thai, it won’t happen.
Lastly, if you’re vegan, avoid adding the Parmesan cheese at the end.

Serves 6

1 lb / 450 gr artichoke hearts, clean and trim into quarters
2 cups / 360 gr brown rice
4 cups / 1 liter + ¼ cup / 250 ml vegetable broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup / 1 glass white wine
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup / 25 gr Parmesan cheese, grated*
1 tablespoon berbere’ curry (plus more for topping)

*Skip if you’re vegan


Heat the vegetable broth in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stir in garlic, half of the onion and saute’ for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to golden. Lower the heat, add the artichokes, ¼ cup of vegetable broth and cook for 15 minutes. If the artichokes look dry, add some broth. Once the artichokes are cooked, turn the heat off and set aside.
In the meantime, in a large saucepan heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the other half onion and saute’ until translucent. Add the brown rice and give it a stir. Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice begin to crackle, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the white wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The wine should bubble but not too quickly. You want some of the flavor to cook into the rice before it evaporates.
When the wine has just about evaporated, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock (around ½ cup), enough to just cover the rice.
Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, until the rice is cooked, 40 minutes or so.
Halfway through (at the 20 minutes mark) add the artichokes and the berbere to the rice.
It’s brown rice so it’s going to be a little bit crunchy on the outside but make sure that it’s not too hard in the middle.
When the rice is cooked. Turn off the heat, add the Parmesan cheese, and stir to give the risotto that nice texture. Let sit for 2 minutes before serving.
Serve sprinkled with a generous amount of parsley and a bit of berbere to add a touch of color.