Let's talk about a classic Ethiopian dish, often found in Ethiopian restaurants, but rarely made at home unless it's a special occasion or a holiday. With the summer season creeping up on us, it means there will be weddings to attend, graduations to go to and lots of various festivities around us where this dish will gracefully be offered. It's called Kitfo, a steak tartar look alike usually served raw or cooked. Its presentation is elegant, served in a clay bowl with a touch of Koba (a false banana leaf) laying under it. Its ingredients are very simple, but to even out the taste and make a good Kitfo is quite challenging.
Its name comes from the root word "K-T-F" which means to "chop thinly or minced". Its origins are from the Gurague region, in the province of Showa, Ethiopia. Till this day, the best Kitfo is found in Gurague restaurants or at Gurague households. What makes this dish special is the tenderness of the meat coupled with the tangy taste of the spiced butter and spices. As simple as it sounds, this dish needs some tender, loving, care. The beef must be hand chopped, thinly minced with all the fat out, the homemade spiced butter must be prepared beforehand, and Mitmita a spicy peppered powder made of hottest Ethiopian Chili Pepper must be mixed well with the ground Korerima (Ethiopian cardamom) and sea salt.
Basically, there are two key ingredients to make a good quality Kitfo. One is the beef and the other one is the spiced butter (or known as Kibbé). The beef has to be top quality extra lean red meat with all the fat residue out. It's better if it's hand chopped. Once mixed in with the Mitmita and seasoned clarified butter, it becomes tender and smooth. The second ingredient is the spiced butter (Kibbé). The preparation of the Kibbé can differ from home to home and is usually prepared ahead of time, not when one is making Kitfo. The basic components to spice up the butter are Kosseret (similar to thyme); Bessobela (Ethiopian Basil); Korerima (Ethiopian cardamom); turmeric and coriander. High quality butter is cooked down with these spices and clarified for a final result.
Kitfo is usually served with Ayeb (Ethiopian cheese) and Gomen (collard greens) usually eaten with Injera, the spongy Ethiopian flatbread. However, among the Guragues in Ethiopia and in many Kitfo restaurants, it is served with Kocho, a fermented bread made from false banana leaf and grated root.
1 pound finely ground low fat beef (hand-chopped preferably)
4-6 tablespoons Kibbé (spiced butter, often found at your local Ethiopian store)
2 teaspoon Mitmita powder (or more to taste)
2 teaspoon Korerima (cardamom) powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
To prepare the dish raw: mix the minced beef with Mitmita, Korerima and Salt.
Melt the butter in a saucepan using low heat. When it's hot and liquefied, remove it from the heat, add the beef and mix with the butter. Make sure you mix all the ingredients well. Preferably use your hands and mix according to taste. If it needs more Mitmita, add in to give it a nice spicy kick. Make sure the butter doesn't get cold and serve right away. If you wish to have leb-leb or slightly cooked, return it to the heat for a minute and keep mixing it. For a well done result, cook more.
Traditionally, Kitfo is eaten raw.
To make Ayeb, boil 32 ounce of buttermilk over low heat for about 15 or 20 minutes, until the liquid separates from the soft white curds. Gently pour off the whey, getting rid of as much of the liquid as you can. The curds left behind is your Ayeb. Allow it to cool a little before the meal. Serve the Kitfo with a spoonful of Ayeb surrounding it, or mix right into the Kitfo.
If you have never eaten Kitfo, this is your chance. It leaves the most stunning flavor on your taste buds and simply melts in your mouth. Visit your local Ethiopian restaurant or be audacious and make it yourself. Brundo has all the spices you need, including the clarified butter if you don't want to go through the process of clarifying your own butter.
Appreciate the flavor, enjoy this special dish the Gurague people have graciously presented us with.