Ghee

Take your butter and make it even better!

Katya did something very different for this week’s newsletter and I love it. Find Katya on IG @honestlygreen 

Happy Sunday! 

Or Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday… whichever day you’re reading this. If you’re anything like me, this lands in your inbox and you don’t have time/the attention span to read it right now. Here’s a top tip for you - create a folder in your inbox called Appetite, and move all of my incoming newsletters there. And then read when you have the time or when you’re stuck with an unloved ingredient. 

This issue is all about ghee and I got my friend Sohini to help me out. I’ll be honest, this issue wouldn’t be possible without her so I am really grateful. You get TWO incredible recipes from her, a step by step guide to make your own Ghee and a few words from Sohini. She hosts Smoke and Lime supper clubs in London, but she’s sadly leaving to travel the world for a little while in October. You can follow her here: Smoke and Lime

Right, ghee… I personally didn’t know about ghee until a few years ago. We don’t cook a lot of Indian food at home and I never thought to pick it up as an ingredient to have i the house. I’ve been meaning to make my own, and really, now I don’t have any excuses. So ghee making, here I come! 

We all have dishes and ingredients that bring up the most evocative, delicious memories in our minds and I loved hearing what ghee means to Sohini: 

‘’The word ghee sets off childhood memories of it being made at home – the aromas were heavenly and umami. It also meant our favourite treat at the end of the process - ghee bhaat (the residue of crunchy golden brown solids, the salts, were mixed with boiled rice and scooped up by all of our hands)’’.

ABOUT GHEE

What is ghee? Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in ancient India. It is commonly used in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, Middle Eastern cuisine, Southeast Asian cuisine, traditional medicine, and religious rituals.

‘‘Ghee is made from ideally cultured butter that has been heated to separate the water, milk solids and salt. The residue from this process is known as ghee, which has an ever-so-slight nutty flavour and is grainy in texture. It has a high smoking point so it doesn't burn like oil and often used back home to fry, flavour and also just eat by itself. Cooking with homemade ghee means you have to add much less of it than oil as it will not just evaporate, obviously the flavour aspect is brilliant too. Ghee should never be overpowering, it just adds a slight umami finish to the food and it is my go-to medium for cooking. I grew up watching my grandmothers and my mother make their own ghee so when eventually I started to make my own a few years ago, I never went back. It is extremely cost-effective and a much more wholesome way to cook. 

Ghee has been used in Ayurvedic medicine and cooking for thousands of years and is well known across India not only for its uses in food but also for skincare, hair and nourishment.’

Homemade ghee is the purest form of ghee that you will be able to get and despite the Vedic method being extremely long and arduous, luckily most families have got their own tried and tested quick recipes.’’ Sohini

It’s been dubbed as a superfood in the recent years (much like any foreign ingredient gaining popularity in the West). A well-known fashion/gossip/lifestyle website headlined their curation of ghee recipes with “One of the Kardashians eats it, so I guess it’s kind of cool?’’ I closed that tab straight away… 

Ghee is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K, all of these vitamins have a role in removing free radicals from the body and protecting cells. It also helps with maintaining skin health and it makes your skin glow. 

Ghee is also burnt in the Hindu religious ritual of Aarti and is the principal fuel used for the Hindu votive lamp known as the diya or deep. It is used in marriages and funerals, and for bathing murtis during worship.

QUICK SUGGESTIONS FOR USE:

So this week’s quick suggestions are slightly different. Using ghee is pretty straight forward, especially now that you know a little bit more about it. Think of times when you use butter to finish dishes or to bake and try using ghee instead. It will alter the flavour slightly (but in a VERY GOOD way). 

Savoury

  • Next time you make sofrito for you soups/stews/casseroles start with ghee instead of your usual oil or butter. 

  • Who doesn’t love a paratha? How about a Chilli Cheese Paratha from Archana Doshi? 

  • Make a Phulka and dose it in Ghee 

Sweet

  • If you like to bake you may have noticed recently that a lot of recipes call for brown butter. Ghee IS brown butter and has become incredibly trendy (without crediting the origin of it, I have to add….). So next time you’re baking, use ghee instead of butter and see how it will alter your final flavour. 

  • I love halwa because it’s nice and tender, not sickly sweet like the majority of Western desserts. Give this Mango Halwa a go https://recipes.timesofindia.com/recipes/mango-halwa/rs53557688.cms

Drinks 

  • I couldn’t think of any recipes where Ghee is used in drinks. I did, however, find this really interesting article on the benefits of drinking Ghee on an empty stomach. I guess that’s where the bulletproof coffee idea stems from? 

Other 

  • ‘‘It makes an incredible hair mask and is a secret in our households to do this once a month for boosting hair growth.’’ Sohini

Even more recipes to use up Ghee: BBC Good Food

RECIPES OF THE WEEK: 

Ghee Roast Chicken 

“Do not skimp on the ghee for this recipe. It is an indulgent dish and not meant to be healthy. I learnt this dish from an aunty and honestly, it is so intensely good that describing it does not do it justice. It’s best to start this dish the night before and let it marinate overnight, or at least give it two hours to marinate”. - Sohini

Ingredients: 

For the marinade:

  • 4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin off) 

  • 6 tbsp lime juice

  • 6 tbsp Greek yoghurt

  • 1 tsp salt 

  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder

For the spice mix:

  • 4-6 Dry red chillies (seeds in) 

  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp cloves

  • 8 cardamoms 

  • 2 tsp peppercorns 

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds 

The rest:

  • 6 tbsp ghee (plus more for drizzling) 

  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped

  • 1 cup lightly salted water 

  • Coriander to serve 

Method: 

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and leave to rest. 

  2. Heat up a large pan on medium heat. Add all the spice ingredients and roast for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Take off the heat and leave to cool. 

  3. Once the spice mix is cool, turn into a fine powder either using a grinder or a mortar and pestle. 

  4. Using the same large pan, melt 4 tbsp ghee, add in the spice powder. Fry on medium heat for 2 minutes and let it cool. 

  5. Once the mix is cool, add it to the marinating chicken + 2 tsp ginger garlic paste. Leave to marinate overnight or at least for two hours. 

  6. Use a heavy bottom frying pan, heat up it up to medium heat and add 2 tbsp ghee, then add the shallots until golden brown. 

  7. Spread the shallots evenly in a thin layer and put the chicken on top. Keep the heat medium to high to get chicken nice and brown. It will take 2-3 minutes to get each side brown. 

  8. Mix marinating juices from the bowl with 1 cup salted water. Add this to the pan, cover with a lid and let this cook for 25-30 minutes. 

  9. If the chicken is looking too wet, can up the heat and let it dry off. You’re after all the browned spices and curd sticking and coating the chicken pieces. 

  10. Serve with lots of coriander and a final drizzle of melted ghee. Best eaten with parathas or rice! 

Garlic Ghee Daal

This one is a super homey, comforting dish that honestly, takes no time.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup red lentils 

  • 3 cups of water

  • 1/2 tsp salt 

  • Garlic Ghee:

  • 2 tbsp ghee

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1/2 tsp nigella seeds

  • 4 cloves chopped garlic

  • 1/2 shallot, sliced 

  • 2 green chillies, halved

Method: 

1. Start with soaking lentils for at least 30 mins and then wash them thoroughly. 

2. In a saucepan add in the washed lentils along with water and salt and get it to a rolling boil before reducing the heat to low and letting it cook for 15-20 mins. There is no such thing as overcooking lentils so let them split and start to disintegrate into the water. Bengalis prefer slightly runny daal, almost like a broth so if it is looking dry, add some hot water. 

3. In a small frying pan, add ghee and let it melt and start to bubble. Add the cumin seeds, nigella seeds, cloves of chopped garlic, shallot and green chillies. Fry for 1 min and then add it into the lentils.

4. Garnish with coriander and a squeeze of lime!

WHERE TO BUY

Sohini recommends the Wholefoods version of organic ghee. Most shop bought ghee will have stabilisers and preservatives, which defeats the purpose of using ghee for its purity. If you do decide to buy from the shop, make sure you check the ingredients. You are looking for curd, butter and milk. Anything with palm oil, fructose syrup and e-numbers is not ghee. 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN 

It looks like it’s a lengthy process, but don’t fret. Sohini provides a very detailed step by step guide to make your own Ghee. 

  1. Start with good quality salted butter. Unsalted also works really well but I love to use the salty residue that is left from using salted butter. I’d recommend Anchor or Lurpak to start with but basically, the better the initial butter, the more flavour impact you’ll get from your ghee.

  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, add in 2 blocks of butter and start melting it at low heat

  3. No stirring or messing with it, just let it slowly melt

  4. After 15 minutes, you’ll start to see a frothy layer on top, again, don’t stir. Much like a caramel, my home version of ghee just needs to be left alone

  5. After another 15 minutes, those milk froth bubbles will start to evaporate and there will be a rolling boil

  6. This process basically is to make the butter as pure as possible and separate all the milk, salts and impurities

  7. Switch the heat off and let it rest for 10-15 mins

  8. At this stage, you can use a strainer and pour the ghee into a jar or just pour it without the strain

  9. The bottom layer (dark brown solids) is salt, so if you decide to not strain, these will sink to the bottom of the jar. I typically strain it and keep the solids in a separate jar and use it as a salt replacement for food

  10. Store ghee in the fridge for up to 4 months, just do not contaminate the jar

    The ghee salts are known as ‘khakri’ in West Bengal and we love eating it with a little bit of rice and green chilli. It’s like a nutty flavour bomb!

Who to follow: Mira Manek

What to watch: Don’t Call it Curry, Ugly Delicious; No Reservations: Rajasthan ; Raja Rasoi Our Anya Kahaniya

Cookbook to explore: Bong Mom’s Cookbook; Come into My Kitchen ; The Bengali Five Spice Chronicle

A podcast to listen to: Lecker: Dipa PT1 & Lecker: Dipa PT2

I really enjoyed collaborating with Sohini on this issue! And I’d love to continue adding new voices to Appetite. So if you’re a keen cook and have an ingredient that you love and want to share, please get in touch. Have a great week! 

Anya xx 

Coming up next week: saffron, so much love for saffron…

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