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Nit'ir qibe (Ethiopian spiced butter) from grapeseed oil?

7 posts in this topic

Has anyone tried making spiced butter using grapeseed oil instead of butter? Spiced grapeseed oil should impart the same flavor and richness as spiced butter, but would be a lot healthier. I am tempted to try, but wondered if anyone has tried this before me.

I have the following recipe from The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson:

1 lb unsalted butter

1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cardamom seeds

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground turneric

8 basil leaves

The recipe calls for clarifying the butter, adding the rest of the ingredients, cooking for 15 minutes, letting stand, and then straining.

Shouldn't this work if I used grapeseed oil instead of butter?

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Clarified butter solidifies, whereas grapeseed oil doesn't; if this isn't an issue, then using grapeseed oil should be an interesting experiment, if nothing else (although unless you have problems with your cholesterol level/some related health condition, butter is not unhealthy, and has the same number of calories/gram as any oil).


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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In my understanding, nit'ir qibe is generally made with whole butter, not clarified. See, e.g., Daniel Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking (1993) at p.5, Tami Hultman, The Africa News Cookbook (1985) at p.9, and DeWitt, Wilson & Stock, Flavors of Africa Cookbook (1998) at p.37. In other words, the spiced butter is clarified by the end, but that's not the starting point. Like ghee, caramelizing the milk solids is an important element of the flavor profile. Not saying grapeseed oil won't work, but it'll be somewhat different from the traditional product. How important the difference will depend on the dish

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I believe you will end up with an infused oil, rather than imitation butter. To make a margarine, you must emulsify the oil with a water based solution - likely with the addition of an emulsifier such as lecithin.

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I guess I wasn't clear. I was asking about making and using spice-infused grapeseed oil in Ethopian recipes instead of spiced butter. I wasn't trying to make imitation butter at all. My husband and myself both control our (previously-high) cholesterol levels through diet. I can't see any reason why spice-infused oil wouldn't work as well as spiced butter in recipes.

I think I'm going to try it. I'll report back after I do.

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You were perfectly clear ;)

As I said, as long as the fact that it will be liquid at temperatures that the traditional version would be solid is not an issue, it seems worth trying, although the grapeseed oil, which is light and has an unobtrusive flavour, probably won't bring much to the mix (olive or walnut oil might be interesting); I'm interested in hearing about the results.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Well, I tried it. I made spiced grapeseed oil using the recipe above. The spiced oil came out great and worked really really well in two Ethopian recipes from Marcus Samuelsson's book.

I chose to use grapeseed oil (instead of olive oil or walnut oil) because the grapeseed oil I have is very rich but does have an unobstrusive flavor. Since I wasn't using the authenic fat -- i.e. butter -- I didn't want to introduce a different flavor, only the spiced richness. The spiced grapeseed oil did this very well indeed. Success!

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