Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nit'ir Qibe (Ethiopian Spiced Clarified Butter)

In addition to berbere, another backbone of Ethiopian cooking is ni'tir qibe, a spiced clarified butter. Clarifying the butter accomplishes a few goals. It raises the burning temperature of the butter, so you can cook foods at higher temperatures without the butter burning. It also keeps the butter from spoiling as quickly.

This butter will blow your mind. The flavors are deep and complex. The moment it lands in a hot pan, it releases rich aromas from the herbs it cooked so long in.

It is well worth the time it takes to make nit'ir qibe from scratch, and it allows you to develop deeper flavors than you get from store-bought ghee.

Nit'ir Qibe (Spiced Clarified Butter)
recipe from The Healthy Hedonist: More Than 200 Delectable Flexitarian Recipes for Relaxed Daily Feasts by Myra Kornfield

The recipe yields 1 1/2 cups spiced ghee. Myra said that nit'ir qibe would only need to simmer on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes. I started checking mine after 10 minutes, but it wasn't ready for over an HOUR. Perhaps my simmer was too low? I tend to cook things at a lower temperature to play it safe instead of overcooking and burning something. How long did yours cook for?

1 pound unsalted butter, preferably organic (4 sticks!)
1/4 cup chopped red onions
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger root, grated
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinammom stick
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Special equipment: Make sure you have cheesecloth. I got mine from a local grocery store for two dollars and have been using it frequently.

Prepare all ingredients except butter, combine them in a small bowl, and set aside. To crush the cardamom seeds, press down on them with the side of the knife (the same way you would crush garlic to get it ready to peel). Use the pods and the seeds. The butter melts quickly, and you need to be ready to add them to the butter as soon as it is foamy.

In a small saucepan, gradually melt the butter over medium-low heat until it is melted completely, about 5 minutes. The butter will start to gurgle as the water evaporates. When the top is covered with foam, add the other ingredients, and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Gently simmer on low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the milk solids start to brown on the bottom of the pot. Check after 10 minutes, and frequently after that, pushing aside any foam and tilting the pan to see if the solids on the bottom have lightly browned.

As soon as the solids turn lightly brown, turn off the heat and let the residue settle to the bottom. Mine settled in about 3 minutes. Pour the liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard the solids (Or snack on them a little or spread them on toast. They are divine!).

Cover the clarified butter, and store it in the refrigerator. Nit'ir Qibe will store for up to 2 months.


  1. Clarified butter I can do!! Finally, I feel somewhat accomplished at something over here. All my recent years of French cooking, clarified butter and I are old friends.

  2. Ooh Kayte! I've never used clarified butter in French cooking. This one definitely has a distinctive flavor though, so I think I'll have to make a new batch and try out some French recipes.