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ODE TO DESI GHEE

IT EVOKES NOSTALGIA, PROVIDES HEALTH BENEFITS & CAN BE EASILY MADE AT HOME ..

The Nostalgia That Ghee Evokes...

By Sonal Kulshrestha

Ghee goes back a long way for everyone who was raised in India. Ghee was and still is an integral part of our lives simply by virtue of the fact that it has been quite deliberately instilled in us (by our parents and grandparents before that) that ghee is not to be ignored- make that never to be ignored. I mean, how many times have we seen our 'dadi' (paternal grandma), 'nani' (maternal grandma) and even our mom use 'shudh ghee' (pure ghee) in little 'diyas' (lamps) to perform 'aarti' (prayer)? Millions of times. We have been told countless times to only use ghee for the purpose as it is regarded as pure and holy, a product of cows whose sanctity cannot be argued. How many times have we been very lovingly fed 'rotis' and 'dal' laden with ghee? Innumerable times. How many times do we continue to feed our children (yes, even though we live in America) 'rotis' and 'dal' that at least has a dab of ghee shining like a glittering armor on the top? I am guilty as charged. Are you?

The earliest memories that I have of desi ghee floating atop food are from our visits to our dadi's place in Allahabad. She had this very sacred container of ghee that only she held the privilege of touching. She used it to pour ghee into the little pooja (prayer) lamps, so the container's sanctity had to be maintained at all cost, of course. She herself never touched it without having showered. I remember once my sister, in all her innocence, did the unthinkable! She actually poured ghee all by herself from the holy container. Lo and behold, we saw a new container next time. My dadi had, of course, discarded the one whose purity had been compromised. I also remember we used to love her 'arhar' (lentil) dal- thanks partly to all that ghee, I now think. Upon our return back to Delhi we would ask mom to make 'dal like dadi'. In retrospect, I now think that my mom never took the credit away from my dadi. She would quietly serve us ghee-laden dal until we forgot about requesting it, then she would just as quietly revert to an amount of ghee that matched her believe  in how much ghee is just fine, for around that time ghee's glory was starting to decline as people were starting to get conscious of the flab of fat around their middle that was being equated to their ghee intake. In the absence of fast food in the 1980s, there weren't that many culprits around to lay the blame on.

Fast forward to 1994, when I got married, moved to America and for the first time, took the reins of running a kitchen in my very inexperienced hands. Was ghee a part of it? Very much so in Diwali diyas and other religious festivals. Not so much in the kitchen as a cooking ingredient, neither as a taste enhancer. I made the 'dal tadka' (lentil seasoning) with oil, avoided making things like 'sooji halwa' and other mouth-watering items that are unimaginable without ghee. When I cooked food following my mom's recipes, they didn't quite seem right without that little scoop of ghee. Slowly and steadily ghee started making its way back into the food I cooked. That and my mother-in-law's visit made me finally welcomed it back with open arms, perhaps I should say with a small spoon in hand, into my recipes. She insisted that ghee was good for the eyes, hair and skin and demanded we use it. I gave in, after all why would she not want anything but the very best for us? Plus even researches outside of India were revealing the health benefits of ghee (read the article below). From then to now, I make my own ghee and ghee- we celebrate! Ghee- my kids celebrate!

(Sonal Kulshrestha lives in Dallas, Texas in the USA. She is a Java Programmer by profession and a writer by passion. She has two kids- a daughter and a son. She regards herself as a mother of her kids first.)

Ghee is Good & How To Make It

Ghee is a super food!  Good fats are integral to our health—almost 30% of total calories in our diet must come from fat. Ghee contains vital, essential fatty acids, the Omega 3s.  In a zero- size aspiring culture, fat has become synonymous with”bad for us”.  Ghee, when it is a by product of organic milk (milk from grass fed cows, raised without hormones or antibiotics), is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Traditionally made ghee lubricates joints and tissues, cleanses intestines and arteries.  It improves hormonal function and digestion.  It boosts the immunity and the Omega 3 fatty acids in it have a calming influence on an over active immune system.  Ghee also contributes to creating a better ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, and helps control triglycerides.

Ghee which is made traditionally (recipe follows), with organic butter, is often included in the diet of dairy allergic people.  As always, introduce with caution. For an absolutely ‘yum’ taste, use a small dollop of ghee to enhance flavors when making dairy free dishes which have to be cooked in water/rice milk/soy milk.  Try it with rice and tapioca puddings, Indian sweets such as carrot and other halvas, and even use it as a much healthier alternative to margarine in baked goods.  It is healthier than butter and tastes great in Western / American style cooking.

Ghee,like other fats helps to lower the glycemic index of sugar  In other words, it helps to metabolize sugar slowly and prevents a ‘sugar high’ in the system.  (An oatmeal cookie actually has a lower glycemic index than a bowlful of breakfast oatmeal)  Add a level teaspoon of ghee to oatmeal when cooking it with water, sprinkle a little cinnamon powder and serve—just delicious!

Ghee made the traditional way, at home, is most beneficial to health.  Grandma added yogurt culture to milk fat, churned it into butter, then boiled the butter to make ghee.  She also added a big helping of loving care along the way.  The only shortcut to home made butter is store available organic, unsalted white butter.  There is a big difference between homemade ghee, and the so called ‘pure ghee’ available on store shelves.  Most of the time, commercially made ghee consists of hydrogenated vegetable oil and heated milk fat without the use of active cultures.

Making ghee is actually quite easy.  Here is a simple recipe–

Melt 2 cups home made or store bought unsalted, white organic butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, allow butter to simmer gently.  After 5 minutes or so, foam will rise to the surface.  Do not remove or stir the foam.  Let butter cook till foam thickens and settles at the base of the pan.  There will be a continuous crackling sound as the butter boils. Once the foam caramelizes and turns into a brown sediment, butter has turned into ghee.

You will find that the liquid is a golden color and is now boiling silently, with  just a trace of air bubbles on the surface.  Remove 

(Photo Credit: Mangala Deshmukh) 

from heat.  When a little cool, pour the liquid, using a strainer, into a clean, dry container.  The strainer ensures that no trace of sediment enters the final product.


Although ghee lovers like to add sugar or jaggery to the caramelized sediment and eat it like a rich snack, it is not meant for the dairy allergic.

Once you taste home made ghee, you will never be able to settle for any thing else! 

(Mangala Deshmukh is a blogger, whose love for her grandson led her to create her blog, 'Can't Believe Its Allergy Free'. COMING SOON! - look out for her column on desideewar ..

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