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April 01, 2016

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Lent Season

One of the most significant things of Ethiopia and Eritrea is the literature, the unique alphabets derived from the ancient language Ge’ez. These two are the only countries in the world that use these distinctive alphabets and follow the Coptic calendar with 13 months, 12 of which comprised of 30 days and the extra month having 5 or 6 days depending on leap year.

What makes Ethiopia even fascinating is that it has over 80 different ethnic group each with its own language, culture and food. In addition, it’s one country where Muslims, Christians, Jews and Pagans coexist in harmony, respecting each other’s belief. With unique customs and traditions, throughout Ethiopia, a new visitor to the country will have plenty to take on. For instance, if we take on food, not only the food is different from one region to another, but it may differ seasonally. It is obvious that religion is an instrumental part of the Ethiopian people and has often dictated nutritional habits.

Say you travel through Ethiopia during the month of March or April, which is for the most part lent season for the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox followers (about 43% of Ethiopia’s population[1]), where they abstain from consuming meat and dairy products until Easter, you may have some difficulty finding a wide range of meat dishes. In urban areas this has changed for the most part because other non-orthodox Christians and Muslims (the other dominant religion there) do not fast during many of the Orthodox lent season and not all Orthodox Christians observe lent. But still, there is a significant change in the food that is consumed and in some remote areas, it will be difficult to find any meat dishes. For example, most butcheries are closed during this time and families prefer serving meat to their guests and will opt out from inviting you for a meal until lent season is over. However, for the vegetarian visitor, it is heaven and amazingly, the vegan option in Ethiopia is limitless.

During this time, restaurants pull out their creativity and fill up the menu with a superb variety of veggie dishes served with Injera. You can eat well virtually anywhere in the country during this time. The normal dish during lent season is “Beyanetu” or known as Veggie Combo, which consists samples of Gomen (collard greens), Atakilt (cabbage, potatoes & carrots), Kai Ser (beet root), Misser Wot (red lentils), Kik Alicha (split peas in turmeric sauce), Buticha (chick pea dish), and Azifa (whole lentils with mustard) and so on. There is the popular Shouro (chick pea dish simmered with garlic and ginger), but it’s during these times that you see exotic veggie dishes such as Siljo, a fermented puree made out of Bakela (fava beans flour) mixed with sunflower seed milk, mustard, spices and herbs, Suff Fitfit (crumbled pieces of Injera with sunflower seed milk, mixed with onions, green peppers & tomatoes) or Telba Fitfit (pieces of injera mixed with flax seed puree). The options are endless. The variety of different legume stews, curries, vegetables and side dishes like stuffed jalapenos makes parishioners guilty of indulging such delicious, healthy, natural and divine food and still call it Lent.  

We want to wish our Ethiopian Christian Orthodox followers a wonderful lent season.

Recipe for Siljo an exotic fasting dish:


 

[1] Ethiopian Orthodox 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.5%, traditional 2.7%, Catholic 0.7%, other 0.6% (CIA The World Fact Book, 2007 est.) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html

January 01, 2016

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New Year with New Energy

The Brundo family wishes you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.

A New Year is exciting. It’s like an artist ready to paint on a clean canvas. Here we are at the beginning of another year, ready to write our journey and set out our goals.  Of course, some of what will happen in this upcoming year is out of our control but to the most part, we are the authors of what we set out to do. Our aspirations and hopes often times begin with a fresh start and there is nothing like a new year to get us going.
So in this segment, we will highlight some of the things we do and where we aspire to be by the end of this year. As many of you know, initially Brundo started out as a small retail store, two doors down from Café Colucci our sister restaurant in Oakland, CA. It was 1998, the Ethiopian community in the Bay Area was growing exponentially and the need for Ethiopian spices and products was high. Brundo became the one stop shop for Ethiopian products, selling spices, injera and raw meat. In fact, the name Brundo means “Butcher shop” and at the time, we were selling a lot of meat products. We noticed the sudden interest in Ethiopian food and the need for recipes and cooking classes. We started renting culinary kitchens to hold our cooking classes and the demand kept growing.  Simultaneously, our catering services were picking up too and we were constantly in need of spices to hold up our restaurant and retail store. In 2009, with the scarcity and low quality of spices received from our distributors, we decided to venture off to Ethiopia and see if we can import our own spices. That endeavor has been a blessing and we were able to open Brundo International, the first commercial scale spice blending and agro-processing company in Mojo, Ethiopia to fully support our work in the US (see last’s month blog for details). What started out as a small retail store in Oakland was now selling products online and reaching out people from all over the world. We now specialize in natural, organic, sustainable and heirloom products working directly with local farmers. We are known for our unique spices, chili peppers, and legume blends (hummus, Shouro) and oil seed (safflower, flax and sesame). We import directly from our spice factory, package them at our distribution facility located in Oakland and sell them by mail in markets and homes around the United States. With our first shipment that arrived on November 2015, we are busy marketing and distributing.

Our future plan is to gain organic certification as we’re currently waiting to be validated by USDA. We also plan on buying more machinery and equipment to ensure quality output and expand our processing plant. We also plan on improving the logistics of our shipping, storing and distribution as we grow the business. We strive to serve you well and bring you quality products.

If you are interested in wholesale or bulk spice please register to access our business to business (wholesale) pricing or visit us at our store. For further information email us at wholesale@brundo.com or call at 510-289-4050.

December 01, 2015

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A dream come true

This is how the story begins…. In 2006, our restaurant Café Colucci, which has been serving Ethiopian food for bay area residents since 1991, started experiencing a major problem in securing quality products from Ethiopia. Spices such as Berbere (red hot chili pepper) became scarce and the quality of our other spices we received from our distributors fluctuated. The same happened at our retail store Brundo as we were constantly running out of spices to sell. This was frustrating as our supply became unpredictable and most of all unreliable and our restaurant was unable to serve customers with quality food. After changing suppliers and witnessing that the problem remained, we decided to do the unthinkable and find a solution ourselves.

We started exploring our options in taking control of our supply chain and start a small operation of spice production in Ethiopia. The process was arduous, but at the end, we were able to rent a small facility, hire few Balemoyas , produce our own spices and obtain a license to export our goods. This small endeavor was instrumental not only in helping us produce amazing and potent spices for our restaurant but in using the left over to sell at our online store and use in our cooking classes. We also engaged in preserving old traditions of spice blending and scaling up the production to meet the continuous demand. In 2009, the business took a big turn. Brundo International was able to secure a permanent location to lease a land and build a spice factory and processing plant in Mojo, about 40 miles outside of the capital city Addis Ababa. Furthermore, we were able to partner with local farmers to supply us with the necessary harvest for our needs once the facility opened.

As many of you remember from our post in February 2015 (see link), we were excited to announce the opening of our plant with over 30 employees responsible in picking, drying, and blending herbs, as well as processing spices for export to sell at our Brundo store in Oakland, online and for use at Café Colucci. Since then, the staff at Brundo International has been working diligently to bring you fresh spices directly from farm to table. The operational work has been going smoothly and on November 10, 2015, our first shipment, a full container of various spices and herbs, made it to Oakland with a clear pass through FDA and customs. What we have accomplished is by no means an easy task, but the chances and risks we took were worth it. We had the vision but most of all we were committed and determined to make this dream a reality. Our first container from our fully staffed spice factory directly from our dry port, Mojo to Oakland, was a milestone.

We are excited to share this news with you and in the upcoming months, we plan to feature the amazing staff of Brundo International, the local farmers we partner with and give you an in depth look of our work in Ethiopia. For now we want to say thank you to our loyal customers who believed in us and who helped us achieve this dream.

Thank you.

 

November 02, 2015

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Nature's Pharmacy

As we all know, October in America is breast cancer awareness month. We were all inundated with messages raising awareness about cancer and on taking steps on how to detect the disease in its early stage and encourage others to get checked. The messages mostly were on the conventional method of treating the disease and finding a cure. Plenty of resources were available for women who have been diagnosed, for their friends and families who were caretakers and on staying active and eating right as well on raising funds for research. Nonetheless, I realized there was something missing from this big picture. How come no one talks about Alternative Medicine? What about natural herbs and spices? 
 
I know that there are plenty of spices that not only boost our immune system but also fight cancer by shrinking tumors, but I have never really got the urge to dig in. So this time, I decided to venture off and dig in deeper into nature's gift to us. Starting from google search to reading published articles on alternative medicines and the use of herbs and spices, I learned that some of the spices that we have in our own cabinets were actually medicinal.
With that thought, I took a little trip to our Brundo spice store with a different set of eyes. This time, I felt like I was stepping in Nature's Pharmacy. Here are some of the items I have researched about and found on our shelves:
Turmeric or Ird: part of the ginger family is highly anti-inflammatory, which means it will act to reduce certain signs of inflammation as swelling, tenderness, fever and pain from a body injury or infection. Research has shown too that Turmeric can help stop faulty cellular division, meaning it will help prevent cells from going cancerous.
Cayenne Pepper and Mitmita contain capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers that gives it the hot spicy flavor. Capsaicin is known to be a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are one of the first lines of defense that the body sends to keep invaders in check and prevent them from causing or damaging our cells. So it's important that we eat food that are highly antioxidant, like fruits such as blueberries, grapes and nuts and veggies. But Cayenne Pepper is # 1 on the list and studies have even shown that capsaicin found in cayenne pepper has halted the growth of prostate cancer cells and even had the power to kill them off. See link:http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/6/3222.full
Black Cumin or Tikur Azmud: these tiny black seeds are often used for baking bread and preparing spices. The black cumin oil has been used for various medicinal purposes, to boost the immune system and fight invaders, but studies has shown that not only it increases the white blood cells, our good helper cells to fight diseases but also exhibits chemo-preventive measures. For patients with cancer, the black cumin oil employs anticancer effects by activating tumor suppressor genes, blocking blood vessels that feed the cancer cells, eventually killing these cancer cells.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492235 
http://gaynoroncology.com/black-cumin-seed-oil-targets-cancer/
While these spices are just the few that I have named, there are a lot of other spices and herbs that are medicinal to our bodies. Garlic, Ginger, Basil, Cloves are some of the spices that are packed with anticancer nutrients and are considered immune booster. So don't be afraid to consume more of these. Sprinkle a tea spoon of turmeric in your food, or in your juicer. Take a tea spoon of black cumin oil every day and see the changes. Knowledge is power. Next time look into your shelves before rushing to the pharmacy to get drugs. After all, most of these drugs are made from plants, so start at home.
Ird - Turmeric
Cayenne Pepper
Mitmita (also known as Birds Eye Chili Pepper)
Tikur Azmud (Black Cumin)
October 01, 2015

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Teff - The New Super Grain

A couple of years ago, articles about Teff flooded the internet and major news agencies. Talking about the content of this highly nutritious seeds, many even rated it above Quinoa, the Andean grain that took on the world few years ago. Teff was now the super grain. Packed with calcium, iron, fiber and protein and with its gluten free composition, it was the new grain to substitute wheat and its kind. But still, it felt short from being a household name, especially in Northern America. If you'd ask any American household about Quinoa they would know what it is, but Teff was still fairly new to many. It is true some companies have found the lucrative market making bread and cereal with Teff and have been selling the readymade food items online, but not as much. Apart from finding the Teff flour by itself at Whole Foods or at various Ethiopian Stores, there is hardly anything made with it and no big market. Evidently there is Injera, the flat spongy bread found in many Ethiopian restaurants, used to scoop up all the delicious sauces and meat, but nothing that expands beyond that.
Unquestionably, there is a market ready to flourish here in the west, so why hadn't Teff picked up on the hype? The delay may be attributed not to the scarcity of Teff but to the control of the market? About 6.3 million farmers in Ethiopia grow Teff for 90+ million Ethiopians and the 2+ million Ethiopians living in the diaspora. Almost 20% of the land is cultivated to grow these tiny seeds and more can be allocated to reach the high demand if necessary. Even Ethiopian Airlines is packed in its daily flight with containers of injera ready to be consumed by those living abroad. Certainly, shortage is not the problem. However, the controlled market is due to the concern of what the flood gates might bring, should Teff be open for exports. As studies show in the Andean community, with the open market of Quinoa, lots of poor communities were hit harder rather than gain capital from their new sales. The growing demand had pushed prices of Quinoa so high that some locals could no longer afford to eat their staple food. Farmers who couldn't keep up with the demand were forced to sell their land to big companies that could work the land and yield more crops. Pesticide companies, looking to capitalize in this new market also infiltrated the land. Before the country realized, some of its crops were being engulfed by the big food manufacturers and they were losing control. Learning from the Quinoa world, it's understandable if Ethiopia uses a cautionary method to control theTeff Market.
Definitely, there are customers waiting and farmers ready to exportTeff. When it gets to the international market, we hope it will be used in more products and included in more recipes other than the plainInjera bread. It will be a great opportunity for Ethiopia to grow and expand the production and distribution of this amazing grain. But it's a market that needs to be approached delicately with social responsibility. At the heart of this, Brundo International anticipates to someday bring you this highly nutritious grain directly from the farm to your table.
 
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What is Teff: Harvested in the highlands of Ethiopia, Teff is the smallest grain in the world, tiny in size yet packed with nutrition, and it takes 150 grains of teff to equal one kernel of wheat. There are a few varieties of teff that vary from Ivory to dark brown, the most popular colors are red, ivory and brown. Teff is an ancient and intriguing grain native to Ethiopia, it originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC.
Teff is an excellent source of protein, amino acids and fiber. For instance, a 2-ounce serving of teff has 7 grams of protein, equal to an extra-large egg. Teff is higher in calcium and iron content than oats or millet. A cup of cooked teff contains 387 mg of calcium which is 40% of the U.S. recommended daily allowance. One half cup Teff can be used to replace 1 cup of sesame seeds. Cooked Teff is gelatinous and adds body to puddings and pies. It is a healthy thickener for soups, stews, and gravies. Its mild slight sweetness makes Teff easy to include in many breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, stir fry dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, and puddings.
For more information visit our website at 
https://brundo.com/Dry_Seeds.html
September 11, 2015

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Every end marks a new beginning….

Kiremet alfo bega siteka ….. (Translation “Winter gone, Spring taking over”)

It’s 2015 in the west but Ethiopians will be ushering in the year of 2008 on September 12th, a leap year this time. Seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian calendar, the Ethiopian calendar is one of its kind. The first day of new years falls at the end of the rainy days and the sun signals the arrival of a new season, gracing the fields and mountains with fresh Daisies, known as Adey Abeba

Enkutatash, literally means the “gifts of Jewels” and is often referred to as the 1st day of the year (Meskerem 1). It’s a day many Ethiopians look forward to. A day to start fresh and celebrate with the hopes of good fortunes for the New Year. It’s a time of unfolding horizons and realization of dreams. It’s a new day and new beginning.

Although the festivities varies from region to region it’s often times celebrated with parishioners attending church service early morning and young children going from door to door singing new year songs and giving bouquets of daisies and art works, while showering their neighbors with countless blessings. People call their loved ones to wish them a happy new year or stop by to exchange gifts and share traditional meals together. 

The food is not to be missed on this day. Dishes such as Doro Wot (the popular chicken stew simmered in Berbere Sauce); Begue Wot and Alicha (lamb with hot berbere or turmeric sauce); Tibs (with your choice of meat, chicken, beef or lamb sautéed with onions and tomatoes); Doulet (a challenging delicacy of minced lamb tripe, liver and lean beef with onions and jalapenos); Kitfo (minced beef seasoned with mitmita and clarified butter with a side of Ayeb, Ethiopian cheese); Defo dabo (Ethiopian bread) are some of the dishes that grace the table along with some Tej (honey wine) and Tella (Ethiopian beer). Addis Amet is quiet unique and a memorable time of joviality. Wherever you may be at this time, we hope that you can partake in this festivity and bring in the New Year with reaffirmations of love from your family and friends.

The Brundo family wishes you a prosperous year and many blessings in the year to come.

Yellow is the symbol of peace, hope and love. From September to November, these daisies cover the hills, valleys and mountains of Ethiopia hence making it a perfect start for the New Year. 
Enkwan Aderesachu

August 01, 2015

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Mul-Mul anyone?

The rainy season in Ethiopia known as "Kiremt" used to bring excitement to many of us growing up in Ethiopia. Primarily because schools were closed, it was time to rest and enjoy our time offs, but it was also a season for transformation. Before the New Year creeped up on us, this was the season where we ventured out to different regions in Ethiopia, or pockets of the city, visiting relatives or hanging out with friends and learning about life. For many children, this was an adventurous time, we played outside in the rain, and we chased and caught "ambetas", small seasonal locusts, who used to pay us a visit at this time. For adults, of course it was a hassle commuting to work with treacherous roads and constant rain. But despite it all, there was something in the air that made this season manageable. Maybe it was the anticipation for the New Year, the coming of age for many children, slightly matured from the previous year, ripened and getting ready for a new season. This anticipation is felt more with the Buhe celebration that occurs on August 19, 3 weeks before the New Year. Although, Buhe is a unique religious holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it's also honored and celebrated by many children across the country, mostly boys, singing "Hoya Hoye", going door to door to receive a special baked bread called "Mul-Mul". The Hoya-Hoye song is meant to praise the owner of the house and bless them with good wishes for the New Year to come. The children will then express their appreciation with different songs when they receive the special Mul-Mul Dabo especially baked for them. What makes this bread unique, besides its yummy taste, is the fact that it's individually sized for one person. Before the baking begins, the dough is wrapped in a thick green Koba leaf (a banana leaf, some households use Enset - the banana leaf alike) and is baked sandwiched between two Mitads (Clay gridles) with smoldering coals on top and bottom evenly baking the bread. As a result of this type of baking, this bread is moist and tender. It's also incredibly delicious with its distinct flavor, Tikur Azmud (Black Cumin seed) and Dimbilal (coriander seed) infused with the aroma of the Enset or Koba leaf.  

On the eve of Buhe, the city's air is usually filled with a heavenly aroma of the fresh baked Mul-Muls and the smoke from the bone fires (Chibo) that were burning in every household. This is where families gather around the bone fire, singing and celebrating the rainy season while welcoming the New Year with great expectation.

Looking back, these were priceless moments, a time for refinement and change. Old habits washed away by the rain and a new emergence set to occur with a fresh season that started on New Year's Day. For that reason, it made the month of August and the Kiremt a very special season for many of us who grew up in Ethiopia.

 

Recipe for Mul-Mul Dabo*:
The dough is made from a whole grain wheat with barley flour, salt, water and ersho (wild yeast).
Some add Tikur Azmud (black cumin), Dimbilal (coriander seed) some households add oil. Mix all ingredients evenly and set the dough until it rises. Once leavened, wrap the dough top to bottom with the Koba or Enset leaf, fully covered, and topped with metal sheet. Bake in oven, 400 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes.
Sometimes there is no way of knowing if the bread is ready except by the smell of fresh baked bread and the crisp leaves.