What in the world is Ghee?

Dosa (rice pancake) with a cup of ghee (clarified butter) at Mavalli Tiffin Room in Bangalore. (Wikimedia)

What in the world is ghee? Perhaps, you’ve heard about it in passing but never took the time to find out. Well, just sit back and  let MCCN give you a few facts on the subject.  Ghee is a form of clarified butter originally from South Asia used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani cuisines. It is made by simmering unsalted butter in a cooking vessel until all the water has boiled off, the milk solids (milk proteins) have settled to the bottom, and a froth has floated on top.

The foamy and watery froth is then removed and the clarified butter is spooned out as not to disturb the milk solids that have settled on the bottom. Chefs often use the clarified butter because it does not burn down. Refrigeration is not required as long as as it is kept in an air tight container. It must be kept dry…so even dipping a wet spoon in ghee can cause oxidation.

What foods are cooked with ghee? Well, it is a staple in the Indian culture when cooking rice and biryani dishes. Naan and roti are also brushed with ghee, and  the clarified butter is also used in making many desserts. If you think that South Asia has a lock on ghee, you are mistaken. Other countries which use their own form of ghee include Egypt, which has a very similar process; Ethiopia, also uses a similar process except spices are added during the process that result in a distinctive taste, and Brazil uses an unrefrigerated butter very similar to ghee  called manteiga-de-garrafa (butter-in-a-bottle) or manteiga-da-terra (butter of the land). Morocco has a very unique process in making their clarified butter, aging spiced ghee in the ground for months or even years, resulting in a product called smen.

Ghee is very high in Vitamin A and Vitamin D content. It can be supportive for eye and bone health and helps the absorption of not only vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients. The downside to ghee is it  contains a approximately 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, so moderation is the key when using as ingredient or using directly on your food.

The Benefits of Ghee

1.  Ghee stimulates the digestion (Agni) better than any other oil.

2.  Ghee has a high smoking point and is excellent for frying unlike vegetable oils

3.  Ghee increases the medicinal properties of spices when spices are sautéed in ghee

4.  Ghee is said to be more alkaline than other oils and resulting in a smoother skin tone and makes one look younger

5. One needs less ghee (half or two-thirds) as compared to oil to achieve the same goals.

6  Ghee balances both Vata (the Ayurvedic mind/body operator that controls movement in mind and body) and Pitta (the operator that controls heat and metabolism).

7.  Like aloe, ghee is said to prevent blisters and scarring if applied quickly to affected skin.

8. A high concentration of butyric acid, a fatty acid that contains anti-viral properties, is believed to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.

Information obtained from: Wikipedia, Associated Content and Indian Foods Co.

India’s Tea Time

indian chai, indian tea, masala chai, indian drinks

Masala chai is an integral part of India's tea time.

Did you think tea time was only popular in England? Well think again! Tea is a popular social event in India. And why wouldn’t it be? India is the world’s largest producer, exporter and consumer of tea. The Indian Tea Time menu is a high tea (a fairly substantial meal) but in today’s world it can be made into a dinner and an excellent menu for entertaining. What’s on the menu? See for yourself!

 

 

 

 

Indian Tea Time Menu

Chutney/Cucumber Sandwiches-Thin slices of tomato and cucumber with a spread of cilantro-mint-ginger chutney on sliced bread.

Bhel-Phuri (Mix 2 boiled and mashed Potatoes , 1 finely chopped cucumber, 2 finely cut tomatoes and 1 minced onion with a pack of Bhel Mix (crispy rice, sev or chickpea noodles). Pour 3 to 4 table spoons of raisin chutney and 1 to 2 tablespoons of mint chutney to the above mixture. Mix well. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve. – a meal in itself.)

Masala Chai –  (tea infused with spices, fresh ginger and served with milk and sugar).

Gujarati Farsan or Namkeen – Crispy spicy snack made of rice, chickpea dough and nuts.

Kheer – Indian rice pudding

Have your own Indian tea time by making your own Masala Chai! Here’s a basic recipe for your drinking pleasure:

Basic Recipe

Ingredients

Water by 2/3 cup per person

Milk (whole or skim) by 2/3 cup per person

1½ cups Dried tea leaves (or tea powder) 1.5 tsp. for first person and then 1 tsp. per person. More than 5 persons reduce per person tea to 3/4 tsp. Brooke Bond Red label, Mamri, or Taj Mahal Black tea [do not use green tea) For gourmet chai use Assam Tea Leaves. These variety of Teas may be ordered from http://www.indianfoodsco.com. Sugar to taste.

Methods

1. Boil the water in a saucepan.

2. Add the tea spices by a pinch per person or whole spices as explained above. More if you want it more robust in spices. Experiment for personal taste.

3. Add the tea leaves.

4. When the concoction starts boiling, Add milk.

5. Boil for about a minute.

6. Strain the tea into the cups.

7. Remove strainer add sweetener as per taste and stir the tea well.

Spices for the tea above per cup or per person

Add a 1/4 inch piece of ginger, crushed with a mallet

1 cardamom pod, crushed in a mortar

1/4 inch cinnamon stick

2 whole black peppers – crushed in a mortar

1 small pinch of fennel

1 strand of saffron

1 pinch of ginger powder

1 Clove

1 pinch of dried mint

Photo and information resources: SBS Feast and Indian Food Co.

Indian Food Spotlight: Alu Ki Tikki (Potato Patties)

Aloo ki Tikki, Indian food, potato fritters,

Indian Appetizer usually served with chutney sauce

INGREDIENTS

1 lb potatoes (approx. 2 large)

2 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 red onion

1 inch piece ginger

1 to 2 green chilies (or serrano)

tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp chickepea flour (also called – besan, chana, or gram flour)

1/2 fresh lemon (1 tbsp lemon juice)

1/2 tsp garam masala

(chickpea flour)

3 tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil*

tbsp chickepea flour (also called – besan, chana, or gram flour)

1/2 fresh lemon (1 tbsp lemon juice)

It’s a very simple mix of potatoes, peas, onion, ginger, chilies, spices and a touch of fresh lemon juice. To bind it all together you add a bit of besan (chickpea flour). Then you form it into patties and then fry.

DIRECTIONS

Peel and cut the potatoes into about 1″-inch dice.

Then cover with cold water, add the salt and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer and let cook until soft enough to mash, about 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile go ahead and cook the peas.

Once the potatoes are just cooked through (soft enough to mash, but not mushy), drain and add back to the hot pot and set aside. This will dry out the potatoes a bit while you go ahead and prepare the rest of your mise en place.

To prepare the mirepoix, finely dice the onions, ginger and green chilies. If you like things spicy, add both chilies with or without the seeds. Now, set this all aside while you mash the potatoes.

To fry the mirepoix heat a fry pan over medium high heat. Once hot add the oil, followed by the the onions, ginger and chilies. et cook for about a minute until the onions just start to soften. Then add all of the spices and let cook for a few seconds until aromatic.

To mix the patties, gently fold together the potatoes, peas, onion-spice mixture, chickpea flour and lemon juice.

If adding the cilantro, finely chop and add to the mix.

To form the patties, take about an 1/8 of a cup and form into golf ball-like rounds. Then gently press them flat to form patties.

Up to this step can be done several hours ahead of time, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

To fry the patties use a good non-stick fry pan, if you have one.

Serve the patties either warm or room temperature with tamarind, tomato, or mint chutney.

If desired, sprinkle the tops of the patties with a bit of chat masala.

Heat the pan, over medium heat, once hot add the oil, followed by the patties. Once golden brown on the one side, flip and continue to cook on the other side.

Once golden brown and heated through place onto a plate lined with paper towels.

* Note: The amount of oil you use is up to you, basically it is just used for color. The more oil you use the more evenly golden they will be.

Serve the patties either warm or room temperature with tamarind, tomato, or mint chutney. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the patties with a bit of chat masala.

Recipe from Rouxbe Cooking School