Berekete is usually shaped into a large loaf that is slow-baked throughout the night under an open flame on a hearth, with the addition of a mixture of spices called berbere and home-made cheese called agwat (curd cheese).
If the name of this Ethiopian bread sounds familiar to you, it is probably because it is related to the word ‘bracha’ – blessing in Hebrew; also the name of the bread that is being blessed in the Kiddush before Shabbat.
The composition of the bread is similar to that of dabo, another traditional Ethiopian wheat bread, and its other famous sibling injera. However, there is a significant difference between the making of these two breads and berekete….and it is probably not what you would expect. Within observant religious communities, such as the Jewish Ethiopian Beta Israel community, which is known for being extremely strict about the laws of impurity and purity, women who are menstruating or those who have recently given birth (80 days after the birth of a daughter, and 40 days after the birth of a son) must refrain from preparing the berekete. In fact, during these periods, they lead a separate life from the whole community and live in ‘niddah huts’.
This entry was assisted by Mespan Gadai, an Amharic translator and a member of the Beta Israel congregation.