Niter kibbeh is basically a spiced ghee, which is the clarified butter used in Indian cooking. Niter kibbeh is found in North African cooking, such as in Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have been influenced by Indian cooking, especially because of Indian spices being traded into Africa.
The clarified butter is seasoned with a mixture of aromatic dry spices, onions, garlic, and perhaps ginger.
There are, of course, many different recipes for nitter kibbeh. Spices used could include turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, and nutmeg.
The spices and other ingredients can be added during the clarification process, or the butter could be clarified and then the spices cooked with the butter-fat until it is well-flavored. In either case, it needs to be well strained and filtered through a cheese-cloth.
Niter kibbeh is sometimes spelled niter quibe. In the Tigrinya language 1 it is called tesmi. It is often used along with a dry spice mixture known as berbere, which is also the name of a paste made with the spices. This usually includes some kind of hot chile pepper and paprika.
Niter Kibbeh Basic Recipe
To make a basic niter kibbeh, refer to the instructions for making clarified butter. For each pound of butter to be clarified have ready:
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cardomom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 whole cloves, crushed, or few good pinches of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Add the dry spices to a small pan and heat on low heat for a few minutes to bring out the smell of the spices. Add the butter to the spice, along with the rest of the ingredients (onion, garlic, ginger), and allow the butter to melt. From here, follow the directions for clarified butter, making sure to strain well through cheese-cloth at the end. Will store well in the fridge for several months.