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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ethiopian Spiced Butter - Niter Kibbeh

Another backbone of Ethiopian cuisine is a spiced butter called Niter Kibbeh (or qibe). Who knew it was possible to make butter even more delicious?? It's essentially clarified butter (called "ghee" in Indian cuisine) but with spices steeped into it. The extra spices in make dishes magical. You can use it on any meat, especially chicken and fish.
Butter consists of three major components: water, fat and milk solids. The general idea for making clarified butter is that you melt it slowly over a low flame until the water boils off and the milk fat separates and floats to the top. Then, you pour it through a cheesecloth lined sieve to strain out the milk solids, leaving you with the pure fat. It can take a lot more heat that regular butter and it's extremely stable unrefrigerated. It can last for about a month sitting on the counter. Forms of clarified butter are extremely common all over the world where refrigeration is not as readily available.

Niter Kibbeh is basically the same as clarified butter, but toasted spices are included during the clarifying process and it is also cooked at a slightly higher temperature to impart a bit of extra flavor from when the milk solids caramelize. The flavor is left behind even though the milk solids are strained out later.

Since it does so well in high heat, it's excellent for sauteing chicken, fish, pork or even beef on the stove and the exotic spices will really take your cooking up a level. People love the spice combination and usually end up unsuccessfully trying to figure out what's in it. If you have any foody friends, this can make an extremely unique homemade gift for them. Pour some into a cool jar after straining and voila!

All these spices can be found at your regular grocery store except for Fenugreek, which is easily found at Indian food stores. There's powder (called "Methi") or seeds available. Either work, but my recipe uses powder. If you get seeds, just grind them in a grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

  • 2 sticks cinammon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated if possible)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp fresh minced onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger

  1. Add all the spices to a medium sauce pan and put heat on medium.
  2. Toast them for 2 to 3 minutes. Shake pan frequently to keep them from burning.
    Starting to smell toasty!
  3. Toss in all the butter and reduce heat to medium low.
  4. While the butter is melting, mince 3 tbsp onion, smash 6 cloves of garlic and toss them into the butter. (You don't have to be too careful, this will all be strained out later).
  5. Slice off a 2" piece of fresh ginger and peel slightly. Cut into 1/4 slices and toss into butter.
    Butter, onions, garlic and spices are all melting together

    After a few minutes, a foam begins to rise to the top, but eventually it goes away
  6. Simmer on low for about 45 minutes. When finished, the top should have a foam on it and it should have a slight nutty smell.
    In the end, a new thicker foam will appear on top with a slight caramelized color
  7. Pour through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a glass bowl. Let cool.
    I bought a new set of 3 sieves today for $9.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Perfect timing! :)
    Make sure to use a glass bowl for this - you wouldn't want any plastic toxins leaching into your hot butter!
  8. Cover and store on the counter until needed, up to 1 month. (You can probably get 2 to 3 months tightly seated in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer.)
    Clarified butter will turn a bit cloudy as it cools. It becomes clear again when heated.

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