Zenash begins her preparation for niter kibbeh, by melting a case of butter, 36 pounds, in a large brazier, and letting it bubble away with aromatics and spices for at least 3 hours. The cook’s particular choice of spices for the butter is another opportunity for self-expression.
The spiced clarified butter can be a wonderful secret weapon to have on hand. It keeps for months in the refrigerator and gives many different dishes, not exclusively Ethiopian foods, a boost of flavor and luxuriousness. You can also use it to sauté, since the clarified butter has a high smoke point.
After scanning the web for recipes and quantities appropriate for the home cook, this is what I suggest.
Makes about 1 cup
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbl grated ginger
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Ethiopian sacred basil
Cut the butter into cubes.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Simmer gently for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.
The niter kibbeh is ready when the butter is clear on top and the browned solids are visible on the bottom. Remove from heat.
Place a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Pour the butter through the strainer and discard the solids. You want a completely clear butter with no physical residue of spice or aromatics.
Store the clarified butter in the refrigerator in a tightly covered glass jar. It will keep for months.
My husband likes to appear the moment I strain the mixture and dab the buttery spiced onions on a fresh French baguette. It’s damn good.