Saturday 23 March 2013

Ethiopian Spiced Clarified Butter (Niter Kibbeh)

 This spiced butter is the starting point for a number of Ethiopian dishes, but can be used in many other ways: add a dollop on rice, potatoes or veggies (Mmm so good with squash), cooking eggs or even tossed with popcorn!  It's a bit time consuming but it makes a lot and will last a long time (I've heard it can last months in the cupboard, but I keep mine in the fridge - the last batch kept for 6 months!).

1 pound unsalted butter, cubed
2 minced shallots (about 1/4 cup)
1 large garlic clove (or 3 small)
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
15 cardamom pods (crushed)
3 whole cloves
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
pinch of fennel seed

 Toast the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon over medium heat in a dry heavy pot for one to two minutes, until fragrant.

Add all remaining ingredients.  Reduce to low heat and let come to a very slow simmer.  It should take 45-60 minutes for the milk solids to fully sink to the bottom, leaving a translucent golden liquid - that's your clarified butter!  During the cooking process, even at low heat, don't feel you can walk away.  You do not want to let the milk solids at the bottom get too hot or they will burn and it will be ruined.  You will also need to skim off some of the foam that will rise to the top (the foam is the water content in the butter cooking away).  I tend to use more cardamom pods than some recipes as the cardamom will rise to the top of the liquids and sometimes get removed along with the foam.

Aside from removing the foam, don't stir or you'll disturb the milk solids and it will just take longer to settle.  Once you see the translucent liquid, remove from the heat.  Using cheesecloth or a strainer, pour into a glass jar.   Discard spices and milk solids.  Store niter kibbeh in fridge.

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