Thursday, 18 April 2019
Niter Kibbeh (Spiced Ethiopian Butter)
I'm working on a few Ethiopian recipes for the blog so I wanted to make a separate post for this butter because they use it in a number of their dishes. It's called Niter Kibbeh, and it's a clarified butter gently slow-cooked with spices to infuse it with their flavour. Not to be confused with Kibbeh, which is another recipe on the blog for something entirely different. It just coincidentally has a very similar name. Clarified butter (or ghee) is butterfat that's been rendered and separated from the water and milk solids. Sounds like an involved process but all that means is melting butter and skimming away any foamy impurities from the top. This recipe is even easier because you don't have to bother skimming. We're going to simmer whole spices and dried herbs in butter and then pass it through a sieve with some cheesecloth. That not only separates the solids from the butter but it also clarifies it for us.
The only challenge you may face is finding all of the ingredients. I live in Canada and, fortunately, one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It's a foodie paradise with lots of resources but even I couldn't find a couple of the ingredients after some searching. I will include them in the recipe below, but if you can't find them either, they can be omitted. If you don't mind waiting, you can purchase them online. They're both dried Ethiopian herbs called besobela and kosseret. The former is also known as "sacred basil" but I didn't read any sources that said you could alternate with regular dried basil. They're understandably obscure; so if you can find them, great, if not, no worries.
One more thing, please note this recipe calls for black cardamom (or kororima). These are not to be confused with green cardamom, which is the much more common variety where I live. You know the little greenish ones you often see in Indian cuisine? Those have a very different flavour from black cardamom and cannot be substituted. I mean, it would probably be quite nice, but it won't have the same flavour. If you care at all about authenticity, I don't recommend this recipe if you can't find black cardamom. It has a deep, smoky, earthy flavour that's essential to Ethiopian cuisine. Below is a visual comparison of green cardamom, left, and black cardamom, right. Similar enough in shape, but obviously quite different in size and colour.
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 black cardamom pods, see above
3 whole cloves
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh preferred)
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp besobela, if you can find it, otherwise omit
1 tbsp kosseret, if you can find it, otherwise omit
Toast the whole spices over medium heat in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant. Be very careful not to burn them.
Then combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce the heat to low.
Maintain a gentle simmer for 60-90 minutes. Be very careful not to burn the butter. If the butter burns it will be ruined and there will be no saving it. After 90 minutes, mine looked like this:
Line a small sieve with cheesecloth and pour in the contents, squeezing out as much butter through the sieve as you can.
Pour your fresh batch of nitter kibbeh into a container and allow to cool down completely before sealing airtight. Stored in a cool, dry place it will last for several months and even longer in the fridge (although it will solidify and be not as easy to scoop). This recipe yields about 2 cups.
So it does require some patience and attention. Maybe even a little hunting for ingredients. Other than that, very easy. I'll show you how to incorporate this in some Ethiopian dishes, but feel free to use it whenever you feel like it. Because the butter simmered for so long it takes on that nutty flavour that it does as well as all the complex flavours of all the spices together. It smells so good as you're making it too.
Stay tuned, I'm going to be posting some Ethiopian dishes in the near future. I've already prepared a few of them and they turned out amazing. Here is a sneak peak:
I hope you give this recipe a try so you can make some tasty Ethiopian food of your own and impress all your family and friends.
See you again soon!