Monday, January 26, 2009

Ghee – Home made and awesome!

What first comes to your mind is fat, cholesterol, exponentially increasing gluteus maximus, hours at the gym... But sadly, this is the top ingredient in many of your favourite dishes, mostly sweets. Ghee just adds a wonderful flavour to most dishes - especially Sambar Rice, Rasam Rice, Bisibela Bath... One of the reasons mum's Sambar rice was a big hit amongst people was also due to the fact that she drizzled just a little bit of ghee on it. Ghee brings down the spice and is therefore a favourite amongst kids too.

S, after growing up, never took ghee with his food until I re-introduced him to it. Now, he never eats his Rasam or Sambar rice without ghee. The store bought Ghee is just lumpy, not well prepared,looks adulterated and more like melted vanaspati. Mum always used to make ghee at home, so I decided to do the same.

We buy Land'o'lakes cooking butter, the unsalted one. This is very much like our Indian Aavin butter that mum uses to make ghee, except that it is divided into four sticks with measuring details for baking. Two sticks make 1 measuring cup of butter - that is roughly a quarter kilo. That's all the butter that I use to make ghee as our consumption is less. The yield is perhaps less than or almost close to one measuring cup, I haven't checked. But the taste and texture are both amazing. Now S won't eat store-bought ghee. I know quite a few people who despise store-bought ghee. I used to be one of them.

You'll need:
1. A nice non-stick vessel

2. 2 sticks of butter - 1 measuring cup

3. A spatula

It's simple:
1. Chop up the butter and throw it into the pan. Once it has come to room temperature, set the heat on medium to low and begin melting it.'Right temperature' are the operative words in making ghee.

2. The butter will begin frothing up and crackling.

3. In a few minutes, the froth will disappear and the crackling slows down.

4. This is when you ought to be careful. Lower down the heat and continue cooking, gently stirring it. You can even give the whole vessel a swirl if you don't want to disturb the cooking process.

5. Keep a constant eye on the stove without even looking away for a second. You could scorch your ghee if you don't pay utmost attention; but this is not time consuming at all. If the solids in the bottom appear to catch on, use your spatula to make sure that doesn't happen. This won't happen unless your stove is on high heat. Some cooking ranges yield high heat on a medium setting too.

6. The ghee is done when the milk solids deposited in the bottom of your pan turns from white to light tan. At this stage, you switch the heat off and allow it to cool down a bit. If you aren't attentive and scorch it up, you'll have brown fat deposits floating on top of your ghee and the end product will taste somewhat overcooked - a different kind of bitter. The ideal stage to stop would be when the solids in the bottom turn light tan and the surface is clear with no fat particles.

7. Transfer the ghee to a container and allow it to cool down.

Mum used to retain the milk solids in the pan. At home, mum used to mix this with rice and when we were kids, we used to gobble it up. Dad is a big fan of this too. Mum-in-law also apparently did the same at home. S and my sister-in-law used to eat it mixed with rice and salt. Most people throw it away - you don't end up with a lot of milk solids, it's just about a spoon full.

It is always good to melt your ghee before consuming or using it in dishes. Mum used to always say 'Nei urukki, more perukki, neer surukki sapidanum' - which translates to 'melt your ghee, dilute your curd, and heat your water before consuming them'. It is an old Tamil saying that many elders used to emphasise that this way of consuming ghee, buttermilk, and water does good to your health - lesser harm to be precise.

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