Ghee is something I always associate with my childhood in India. With hot white rice mixed in with the golden smoky goodness of fresh ghee, eaten at the beginning of a meal. With my mother making ghee from scratch, from fresh butter and cream collected from the milk we got straight from the milkman, that we boiled ourselves at home. As time by, milk came in little plastic bags and was pasteurised, which meant no by-products like cream and white butter, and ghee was bought off the shelf. And for a while, it became a maligned product, associated with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. This last failed to take into account the excesses that Indian food is capable of, in terms of richness and sweetness, and ghee became the bad guy, pushed aside and scorned at as archaic, unhealthy relic.
So when I re-discovered ghee a few years ago, it was with a bit of trepidation. But its quickly become a staple in my kitchen and there are very few meals or dishes I don’t use it in. A little goes such a long way and the flavour it adds is amazing. Its been interesting following the growing popularity it’d had around the world — people as diverse as Tim Ferris, the Hemsleys and Heidi Swanson are singing it’s praises, all with excellent reason.
Ghee ranks high up as one of the most healthy natural fats and Ayurveda has always championed it as being good for your body and your well-being. It helps with digestion, increases immunity, is said to improve memory and intelligence, aids in digestion and helps in cooling the body. It’s the best fuel you can offer your body to help it function better.
Ghee can be expensive to buy — and making it at home is both a breeze and so much more cost-effective. The added bonus: your kitchen will smell of a warm, sun-kissed glow for a while after. Try to use the best quality (preferably organic) butter you can find and be a little extra-careful during the process, because ghee has a low smoking point, which means it heats very fast and could suddenly turn into a smoking mix. But don’t be put off at all, because in about 15 minutes you’ll have a jar full of beautiful, golden liquid that keeps for a while and makes everything so much more delicious. Use it for eggs, all Indian food, vegetables, meats — keep trying as you go and see how much you prefer in each dish.
250 gm best quality (organic) unsalted butter — makes about 1 cup of ghee
Cut the butter into large cubes and add to a saucepan or pot and gently heat over a low flame. The butter will melt and soon separate into a foamy top layer, the golden liquid in the centre and solids that gather at the bottom. Let the mixture come to a gently simmer, that you hold for a bit, giving everything time to cook and separate better. Keep skimming the foam off to get a better look at the liquid below. Once the milk solids start turning a gentle brown, switch off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for about 30 seconds. Remove any remaining foam and gently pour the ghee out into a clean, dry glass jar — I like to heat mine in a warm oven for about 5 minutes to ‘sterilize’ it a bit. Don’t allow any of the solids to get in, but this shouldn’t be hard at all.
Let the jar sit, partially covered, until the ghee has cooled completely. Close tightly and store at room temperature, making sure to only use a clean spoon when using the ghee. It could change it’s appearance based on the temperature: ghee is liquid and gold when it’s warm and a cloudy, solid yellow mass when it’s cooler, so don’t worry about this at all. Use it for cooking, as a moisturiser, on your lips as a balm — the list goes on.
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes
Makes about 1 cup of ghee