Ethiopian Beef Tibs
My favorite meal in Ethiopia was these fabulous and yummy beef tibs! The sauce in this wonderful dish gets its kick from berbere, an Ethiopian chili powder fragrant with cardamom, fenugreek, and clove. Use it once and you’ll quickly see why much of Ethiopian cuisine is built upon it.
Cook: 45 minutes
Yield: 2-3 servings
1- Melt niter kibbeh(see recipe below) in a heavy saucepan on medium heat, then add onions, ginger, garlic, and berbere. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are dark, ruddy, and golden, about 30 minutes. Onions should be at a low sizzle during cooking process. Adjust heat accordingly. Transfer to food processor and blend until not quite a purée. Return to saucepan, season to taste with salt, and keep warm.
2- Season beef on all sides generously with kosher salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat high until lightly smoking. Add beef in a single layer, leaving plenty of open space in the pan (brown in batches if you don’t have a large enough skillet). Cook without moving until well-seared on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip meat cubes with tongs and cook on second side until well seared. Continue to cook meat, stirring and flipping occasionally until desired level of doneness is reached. For rare meat, transfer to saucepan immediately. For medium, cook an additional one to two minutes before transferring to saucepan. For well done, cook up to five more minutes before transferring to saucepan.
3- Toss beef with warm sauce, stir in lemon juice, and serve.
Niter kibbeh is a spice blend always at the peak of freshness since you lock the flavors into clarified butter. There are as many recipes for niter kibbeh as there are Ethiopian cooks; this ingredient list is just what I’ve found most satisfying and well-balanced. The coriander and bay leaves aren’t strictly traditional, but they help unite this diverse array of spices into a satisfying whole.
Recipe for Niter Kibbeh:
1 pound of unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 inches of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
2 3-inch sticks of cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon ground
8 crushed cardamom pods, or 1/2 teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon of fenugreek, whole or ground
1 teaspoon of coriander, whole or ground
2 cloves, or 1/8 teaspoon ground
2 bay leaves
1- In a saucepan, slowly melt the butter on low heat. Meanwhile, toast the spices. If grinding, toast beforehand.
2- Add all the spices to the butter, and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Keep an eye on the pot every few minutes to make sure it’s not boiling as the water evaporates. The milk solids will rise to the surface of the pot as the water cooks out.
3- Let the butter simmer, with just a few bubbles popping through, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Like a good stock, longer cooking is better, but it needs to be gentle so the milk solids don’t burn. If they do, the niter kibbeh will be irreparably bitter.
4- When the solids have turned a pleasant brown and plenty of time has past, line a mesh strainer with a cheesecloth or paper towel and place it over a small storage container. Strain the butter well, making sure there are no milk solids or spices in the final product. Your niter kibbeh will last for months in the refrigerator. The larger a batch you make, the less butter you’ll lose to straining.