Caitlin Bensel
Active Time
15 MIN
Total Time
15 MIN
Yield
Serves : 1 1/4 cups

The spice markets of Lagos, Nigeria, can be thrilling places to visit, with merchants selling calabash nutmeg, alligator pepper, and dozens of other spices. Bags of these spices are piled high atop one another, their fragrance intermingling in the humid air.

While the names of the spices are probably unfamiliar to your ears, they resonate with flavors your taste buds have encountered on other journeys. A great way to try them is in compound butter; the butter serves as a creamy blank canvas, delivering the exotic flavors in an approachable way that invites you to keep tasting.

In the first recipe, Ehuru and Wildflower Honey Butter, calabash nutmeg (also known as ehuru) is paired with wildflower honey. Every year my mom gets a batch of honey harvested from Kafanchan, a town in Kaduna State, north of Lagos. The honey is dark like molasses and tastes like it was filtered through toasted millet. Now, I’m aware that most people can’t get Kafanchan honey here in America, but a wildflower or even buckwheat honey will do. You want a honey that is more robust than sweet to match the earthy, caramelly taste of the calabash nutmeg, also known as ehuru. A typical nutmeg this is not; its flavor reveals both savory and sweet—coriander and cumin, with an aroma of frankincense and a hint of cedar. It may seem like an unnecessary step to toast the seeds, but this helps loosen the nut from its shell and bloom the oils of the spice.

The Alligator Pepper and Makrut Lime Butter, on the other hand, is more of a wake-up call to the senses: lime leaves lend a bright and floral citrus-y accent to the slow-burning sharpness of the pepper. Typically sold as whole dried pods, alligator peppers are not solely consigned to the kitchen. A little taste of the pungently peppery seeds with notes of cardamom and citrus (similar in flavor to grains of paradise) are served to welcome guests for a variety of occasions and ceremonies in both Yoruba and Igbo culture. I still remember a wooden bowl of the pods sitting on the coffee table in the living room of my childhood home, just waiting to be cracked open. This recipe reminds me of that same welcoming sentiment—I slather it on composed appetizers and toast slices for the guests who’ve just arrived at my dinners.

These compound butters will work well as spreads for any kind of bread, on sandwich buns, and can also be used to finish grilled fish, roasted vegetables, and meat dishes. The only limit is your imagination.

How to Make It

Step 1    

Heat ehuru pods in a small saucepan over medium-low. Toast until ehuru pods are dark brown in spots, about 4 minutes, turning once halfway through. Working quickly with 1 pod at a time (the seeds are easier to peel when warm), place ehuru pod on top of a clean kitchen towel. Stand pod on its longest and narrowest side, using the flat side of a chef’s knife to firmly hold pod in place. Smash flat side of the blade against the pod, cracking the pod along its natural seam. Pry off shell completely with a paring knife, and release seed inside. Discard shells. Place seeds in a spice grinder, and process until medium-coarse granules form, about 10 seconds.

Step 2    

Using a rubber spatula, stir together ground ehuru seeds, butter, sea salt, and sorghum syrup until thoroughly blended. Gently stir in 3 tablespoons flowers. Transfer the butter into a serving vessel, and serve immediately. To store, spoon butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into a log, and refrigerate up to 1 week. Freeze, wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 1 month. Before serving, bring to room temperature, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon flowers and flaky sea salt.

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