By Marcus Samuelsson | August 18, 2014

Berbere-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Image by waferboard

This dish goes all the way back to 1999 when I first made it for a dinner at the Sheraton Addis Ababa during my first visit to Ethiopia. It’s one of my classics in how it blends tradition with nuace. You can find this recipe in The Soul of a New Cuisine.

Berbere-Crusted Rack of Lamb
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 2 french racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 3 tablespoons Berbere (recipe below),divided
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons beaten egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons dry red wine, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground dried serrano chilies or other ground dried chilies
  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice


For the Lamb:

Combine the oil, rosemary, and garlic in a large zipper-lock bag. Add the lamb, then seal the bag, forcing out the excess air. Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours, turning the bag several times.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Make the berbere paste: stir together 1 tablespoon of the berbere, the mustard, yolk, and bread crumbs in a small bowl, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the wine, just enough to make a paste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and pat dry; discard the marinade. Heat a dry, large, heavy sauté pan over high heat until very hot. Reduce the heat to medium-high and brown the lamb, one rack at a time, abut 3 minutes per side. Transfer, fat side up, to a large roasting pan.

Smear the berbere paste on the fat side of the lamb. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the rack reads 125°F, for medium-rare, about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, toast the remaining two tablespoons berbere in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and 1 tablespoon wine and bring to a boil, then boil until reduced to the consistency of a sauce. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter bit by bit until incorporated.

Cut the lamb into chops and serve the sauce on the side.

For the Berbere:

Finely grind the fenugreek seeds with a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice or coffee grinder. Stir together with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

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