In almost every class I am asked, why is it that I don’t use ghee in my cooking and my answer is and has always been, “Because, dear folks, I have never understood what happens to ghee when it melts.”
And I continue, “Nor have I understood how to get the best out of this extremely popular and ‘healthy cooking medium’. Simple!!”
And I can see that the person asking the question is surprised, because more often than not they’ve bought that nice, round tin of ghee and it’s sitting in their fridge, and they may have used it once, and then it’s languished there, never ‘going off’.
Because you see, it is always a ‘trial and error’ with ghee. You can ‘test’ and ‘flunk’ at home without anyone ‘twittering’ about how bad, or unfit, the dish was, but one small ‘mistake’ in my business and, well you know, we all live amidst a mightily chattering social media!
With oil, however, especially polyunsaturated vegetable oil it is easy. You just wait for the ‘ripples’ to disappear when heating it; you then wait for the oil to just start smoking and you are in business!!
But having said that, and even though I do hold strong views about it, I am never going to stop, or intercept, anyone from using it. I always like you experimenting and trying out anything.
So, go for it, by all means.
Simon Marnie from ABC Radio loves to cook using ghee, once said to me that it was difficult to find good ghee and he is so right.
Good ghee is not easy to buy because ‘good ghee’ is always made at home!! (There goes your tin!)
Aai, my mother, who is around 85 years old, still makes her own ghee because she believes that if the medium of cooking is not pure then the food that is cooked in it just cannot be holy.
Its a simple philosophy. And it produces superb results, time and time again.
But how, and where, does one find ‘pure’ ghee?
I did a blog on To ghee or not to ghee about a year ago, and so I am not going to talk about the benefits of using, or not using, ghee in your cooking as you can read it (or not) yourself.
But this time I want to focus on getting ‘pure’ ghee!! So, out with the notebook folks!
Pure ghee is made from pure makkhan [aka, home-made butter (unsalted)] which comes from fresh malai [aka, fresh cream].
And this is how it is made . . . but before we get onto the pure ghee, a small story, if I may be so bold!
In 1990, just before I started my own restaurant (with a business partner), I had the privilege of running a small restaurant in Newtown with my wife, Meera.
I was the ‘head chef’ and Meera was the ‘head waitress’. I had a chef named Mahadevan who specialised in tandoor cooking.
Mahadevan had come to Australia to buy and sell minerals. He was a miner as well as a partner in a mine near Madras. After he left Madras, his partners decided to sell off the mine and share the profits in his absence. So, the poor ‘MD’ lost all his investments whilst he was away hoping to crack a deal with the mines in NSW.
Little did he know that there was nothing for him to go back to. All was lost. Mahadevan, not surprisingly, ended up a wreck!!
He started drinking a lot, became an alcoholic and ended up in AA. Six months later he decided to gather himself together and make a fresh start. So, he started off by washing dishes in an Indian restaurant and when an opportunity came by for him to learn cooking, he made the most of it!
Mahadevan became a Tandooriya and a damn fine one too!!
His kebabs, especially the tandoori chicken ones, were to die for. He did something that made the chicken ‘sing’, something I had never seen before in all my cooking life.
Basically, Mahadevan ‘finished’ his tandoori chicken with a final touch, or sprinkling, of chat masala with lemon juice and ghee.
Yes, that’s right, ghee!!
Australia had no such product on the market so Mahadevan made his own ghee. From start to finish….!!
And this is how he made it and this is how I would also makes it…..
Well, the recipe is no ‘talk’, or should I say, no ‘write’ but all pictures:
the next stage of whisking when the cream starts to thicken
more thickening of the cream
the cream is really thick & rising in volume constantly
at this stage the cream is now getting ready to split
continue whisking as the cream gets grainier & the solids start to separate from the ‘buttermilk’
the cream has split & the makkhan or butter & the ‘buttermilk’ are clearly visible separately. Stop whisking now!
shape the makkhan into round balls while squeezing out the buttermilk at the same time
‘wash’ the balls of makkhan in the ice-cold water till no more buttermilk can be squeezed out. It is critical that the water is really cold, as the makkhan is then firm & easy to handle
continue this process for all the makkhan in the strainer. The home-made makkhan is ready & may be stored in the refrigerator!!
place the washed balls of makkhan in a thick-bottom pan or pot
keep on a low heat/flame
the makkhan starts to melt gradually
do not stir or disturb the makkhan as it continues to melt
there will be a layer of froth on the top & a layer of solids at the bottom of the pan
as the makkhan transforms into ghee, the froth on top will start to disappear & the solids at the bottom will start to caramelise
Voilà! The ghee is ready when the solids turn light golden & the froth on top also starts to turn golden
strain the ghee, but do not discard the solids
the ghee should be a perfectly clear & golden liquid
When making ghee it is important to remember the following:
1. The cream must be fresh, even if it is from the supermarket. There is nothing better than getting the fresh cream on the day you’re going to make your ghee.
2. You need to keep a constant supply of ice-cold water as this is the best way to solidify your ‘pure butter’ as it is being made.
3. The fresh cream must be churned gradually, this helps separate the fat from the buttermilk.
4. The buttermilk can be used to make other dishes. . .
5. The water usde to wash the makkhan is an excellent ‘feed’ for the herb garden, especially for the kari leaf plant !!
6. Pure ghee must be like ‘crystal clear’ glass and have a light golden ‘tinge’ to it.
precious liquid gold – GHEE!!
This is pure gold, also known as GHEE!!!
I think someday all the food in my restaurant will be cooked in this pure gold, but until then it will have to be polyunsaturated vegetable oil [except ‘canola’ because canola, in the state of NSW, is genetically…….!!]
Well, I hope you’re successful with making your own ghee. Let me know how you get on.
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!