Monday, March 22, 2010

African Food Safari: Kulwha

I hate humid and sticky days. I hate the sluggishness, the way ice creams melt in your hand before you can eat them, getting splashed incessantly at the pool because everyone's cooling off the frugal way. In fact, the only two things that thrived in the heat yesterday were my cats and the amazing fragrance of freshly ground spices in my kitchen. But if you could have smelt it, you'd agree that sweating over a stove isn't a bad way at all to start off a stinking hot Sunday morning.

Nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds and cardamom pods ground with a mortar and pestle

To make kulwha, you must first make niter kibbeh, a spice-infused clarified butter. 500g of unsalted butter is gently simmered for half an hour until it separates, at which point, you infuse the oil with spices and discard the milk fats. Allow to cool and you can use this as a wonderfully aromatic cooking oil.

Curdling butter

Niter kibbeh

The niter kibbeh is then cooked with olive oil, green chili, onion, tomato, an African spice mix called berbere and diced lamb over high heat to make the Eritrean stir-fry kulwha. Put this in the fridge for a few hours for the flavours to stew and then serve with injera or rice.

I love how quickly and simply this all comes together. It only needs 3 or 4 minutes in the pan so that the tomato and lamb retain their juiciness. The flavour is again surprisingly mild but delicious. It's spicy but not hot, the tomato and onion are sweet, the lamb is juicy and meaty and you can taste the distinct flavour of the niter kibbeh, which tastes as beautiful as it sounds. If you're a fan of earthy and understated spices, this is definitely worth a try.

Recipe by Rahel Ogbaghiorghis in the Food Safari cookbook.

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