March 8, 2010

This week, we enter the world of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is usually translated as ‘the science of life’ and it’s an ancient Indian system of wellbeing, around 5,000 years old, thought up by some ancient sages who went and sat in the mountains for a bit. I won’t delve into it too much here as it’s actually pretty complex and, you know, what’s Wikipedia for? Suffice to say, it’s connnected with yoga and food, two of my favourite things, and thus I like it.

In order to follow an Ayurvedic diet, you first have to find out what your dosha is. There are three doshas which correspond to three basic physical types – most people are a fairly equal mix of two doshas, but you might be predominantly one, or more rarely an equal mix of all three. There are many quizzes out there to help you find your dosha like this one or this one if you’re curious/like quizzes.

For the more cynical among you, I realise this may seem to veer dangerously close to new age hippy gubbins, but what do you expect from someone who last week brought a book all about eating according to the full moon? (It’s fantastic.) Anyway, if you’re still with me, I’m about to talk about butter.

Ayurveda thinks very highly of ghee: it’s thought to have healing qualitities and to build up strength in the body, including increasing digestive strength. It has a pacifying and grounding effect because its qualities (all food in ayurveda has qualities) are heavy, slow, oily, liquid, dense and soft.  It also, of course, tastes good, and unlike butter it will last almost indefinitely at room temperature (if you’ve done it right – I need to watch mine).

I was slightly nervous about making my first ghee, seeing as I’d been led to believe it was little short of a magical substance, and I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten it before. Turns out, it’s really very easy: all you do is melt some butter over a low heat so that the water evaporates and the milk solids rise to the top (clarifying the butter) and then strain it into a jar. It will be liquid and golden coloured at first, but as it cools it will set and turn a pale lemon yellow.


You want to use a good butter for this – good butter will make good ghee, as you might expect. It should be unsalted and preferably organic.

Melt as much butter as you plan to use in a pan over a low-medium heat. I started with one block, which gave me one small jar of ghee, but you might want to do two or three at a time if you’re planning on eating a lot of ghee.

The butter will start to bubble and fizzle – it should be quite noisy. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook until the fizzling sound dies down and the middle of the liquid looks clear. There will be a white foamy substance on the top and you may be able to see debris on the bottom. This only took about 10 minutes for me, though some sources suggest cooking it for much longer. I read that while it’s cooking it smells like croissants, and it does. You can brown it slightly for extra flavour, but make sure it doesn’t burn (according to my book, it will start bubbling madly again if it’s burning).

Cool the liquid and strain it into a jar, either through a very fine-meshed sieve or a piece of muslin or cloth. That’s it – it’s ready to use as you would other cooking fats.

*Note: ghee is recommended for all doshas, though kaphas should use it in small amounts.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook: A Personalized Guide to Good Nutrition and Health’.

PS – my favourite Masterchef contestant got knocked out, so I guess it’s all down to Tim, the ‘children’s doctor’ (er, paediatrician?) now.


3 Responses to “Ghee”

  1. gastrogeek Says:

    I have a deep and lasting love affair with ghee, having been brought up on the stuff. I had no idea it was good for you though, fascinating post!

    • oxfordfood Says:

      I had no idea it tasted so good! I can’t believe I’d never tried it before. I think I’m going to be putting it in pretty much everything from now on…

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