Walk into an Ethiopian restaurant and you’re likely to notice a distinctive aroma that’s very hard to put your finger on: a subtle combination with hints of warm sweet tropical spices, earthy vegetables, blistering hot peppers, and glistening clarified butter.

Make up a batch of nitter kibbeh, and you’ll be right there again.

nitter-finished This is a super simple cooking medium that imparts deep and slightly mysterious flavor to a pan of vegetables or the protein of your choice, from tempeh to a thinly pounded chicken filet to a mild white-fleshed fish; shrimp and scallops are especially happy with this. I rarely eat red meat, so you’re on your own there, but if you come up with other good candidates, let me know.

Here’s the butter melted, then with the spices ready to pour in, then after the spices have been in it for a while.

Nitter Kibbeh, the spiced clarified butter of Ethiopia

I assemble the ingredients and chop the veggies right next to the melting butter, so I can keep an eye on it. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to do all the prep beforehand, particularly if your stove is touchy and burns things easily. (Our old one, an inherited electric glass cooktop that I particularly loathed, did that. Our new one, an induction top, is HEAVEN, and you have to try pretty hard to burn something on it because of the science behind it. It’s a science oven! Ok, a science stove. )

Jennifer Lawrence has a mishap with her science oven in American Hustle.

Anyway, the nitter kibbeh will keep in a glass jar for a while. One night, we even tossed it with popcorn, and it was awesome.

Cheesecloth is definitely better than a coffee filter for straining, and I’m kind of amazed at how much I’ve been using the stuff lately. So hunt it down at the grocery store (usually hidden in the cooking aisle near the temporary aluminum foil baking dishes).

nitter-cheesecloth

It also lifts this plate of roast veggies from a pretty dish of roast veggies to something extra special. Enjoy.

nitter-veggies

 

 

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Nitter Kibbeh, Ethiopian Spiced Butter
This clarified butter, infused with spices, is an excellent alternative to olive oil for roasting vegetables or sautéing tempeh, chicken, and/or fish.
Votes: 1
Rating: 4
You:
Rate this recipe!
Cuisine African, Ethiopian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 45 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
Cuisine African, Ethiopian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 45 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 4
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy pan over moderate heat; stir so that it DOES NOT BROWN.
  2. Increase heat to bring butter to a boil. When surface is completely covered with white foam, carefully stir in all other ingredients. Reduce heat to the lowest possible point and let simmer undisturbed for 45 minutes. The milk solids will settle to the bottom of the pan and turn brown.
  3. Place four layers of damp (not wet) cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer. Strain the nitter kibbeh through the cheesecloth, discarding the solids. Store in a jar for up to 2 months.
  4. NOTE: If there is ANY solid matter at all in the nitter kibbeh, you run the risk of it going rancid. So be sure to get everything out.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from a recipe in African Cooking by Laurens van der Post and the Editors of Time-Life Books, 1970. Time, Inc.

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