Ghee a Superfood?

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For centuries, Ghee has been an integral part of the Indian household. In ancient times, all food was cooked in ghee and no religious ceremony is complete without the addition of ghee to the sacred flames.

In most tambram households, no meal was complete without ghee. After the rice and dal were put on the plate, a dollop of ghee was put, after which you started eating. I also remember children getting extra ghee in their palms just because it is so tasty. However, a few years back, with the saturated fats controversy, a lot of people stopped eating ghee and switched to more healthier (or so they were told) alternatives.

Today, Ghee or clarified butter has gotten the status of a superfood! Shocked right? I was too and so decided to find out more and also check if the ancient Indians were correct in the usage of ghee.

So what exactly is ghee? Ghee is clarified butter where the milk solids in butter or cream which float to the top or sink to the bottom have been skimmed off and what remains is a clear golden product with a high smoking point and a delicate, nutty flavour. Ghee is liquid when you first make it and then solidifies to a whitish opaque creamy consistency. It hardens when you chill it, but regains its creaminess when it stays outside for some time.

235px-butterschmalz-3Because it has no milk or water solids, people with lactose intolerance can use this as a very good substitute for butter in cooking. It’s been part of the ancient medical system of Ayurveda for thousands of years, stretching back to at least 800 BC; Ayurvedic medicine claims that ghee is good for everything from sleep quality to semen health, joint suppleness, intelligence, memory and wrinkles.

Ghee is casein and lactose-free and so a great addition for those with dairy sensitivities. In addition, ghee is gluten-free and high in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid used in the body as an energy source and anti-inflammatory. Ghee is also rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamins A, D and E.

Ghee contains medium-chain fatty acids which the liver can absorb directly and burn immediately, making it a healthier source of energy than most of the carbs we eat today. Ghee is packed with butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that has several benefits, one of which is better digestion. Our bodies actually convert fibre into butyric acid, so eating it makes the body’s job easier. Butyric acid heals the digestive tract and keeps it healthy. The butyric acid in ghee also promotes immunity, by increasing the production of killer T cells in the gut.

Indian food contains several herbs and spices, each of which is loaded with numerous nutrients. Ghee absorbs these nutrients and helps them reach the correct part of the body, where they are most required. Also because of its high smoking point, ghee does not break down into free radicals while cooking, which other oils with a lower smoking point do.

800px-desi_gheeA 2010 review of ghee science in the International Quarterly Journal of Research In Ayurveda by scientists from Ohio State noted that animal studies of ghee have found a series of possible benefits, including decreases in cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides (which are associated with cardiovascular disease), and a potential link between ghee and lower coronary heart disease risk. One study in 2016 found that ghee was better for cooking than sunflower oil when looking at antioxidants and liver protection, while another in 2013 found that it helped to protect against the development of fatty deposits in arteries. Multiple studies in 2015 found that ghee, particularly low-cholesterol ghee, seemed to improve general cholesterol levels. It’s worth noting that virtually all of these studies were done on rats, not humans. But the qualities of ghee have attracted medical attention for other reasons; it was suggested in early 2017 that ghee might be a good way to administer chemotherapy, as it may help the chemo get into the body more efficiently.

Ghee is super easy to make at home. I started making ghee at home around two years ago and don’t look at store-bought ghee anymore. Buy unsalted butter and heat it in a heavy bottomed pan. Make sure your pan is deep as it will bubble a lot during the process. Boil it in a low to medium heat until the milk solids separate and sink to the bottom of the pan. The ghee will become a lovely golden colour and will have a lovely aroma. When the milk solids start to brown, stop the flame and let it cool. Strain the ghee and let it cool. Once it starts to solidify, you can start using it. It stores very well outside, it need not be refrigerated, but in the fridge, it can keep for years without spoiling.

Are you convinced about the health benefits of ghee yet? Go on and buy a container of it and start cooking with it, you will never look back and wonder why it took you so long to convert.

 

 

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Recipe: Pasta Salad

This recipe for Pasta Salad has been with us for a while now. I think I may have made it after seeing something similar some years back or even discovered it accidentally. Anyways, this is a go-to recipe for me when we are bored of Indian food and this makes a great lunch box idea for children and even adults when you want a no-mess lunch which you can eat on the go or at your desk.

Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet raw pasta
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen paneer
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. Let the pasta be al dente and not overcooked. Drain and keep aside to cool.
  • Heat up the frozen corn and when thawed, drained and keep aside.
  • Soak the paneer in hot water for 10 minutes, drain and chop into small pieces.
  • When cool, mix together the pasta, onions, bell peppers, olives, paneer and corn and mix well.
  • In a smaller dish, mix the spices, olive oil and lemon juice into a marinade.
  • Pour the marinade into the pasta salad and mix well. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves. Check for seasoning.
  • Cover and keep in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve cool.

Recipes: Sweet Sour Potatoes

When I was in college, I used to make a potato recipe in a tamarind sauce a lot. That was a signature dish I had discovered in a magazine, most likely Women’s Era and had written it down. I did not bring that notebook with me when I moved to Singapore and now that recipe is lost.

The other day I suddenly started thinking of that recipe and turned to Google to see if I can find it somewhere in the world wide web. Unfortunately, I could not remember most of the ingredients and hence could not verify if any of the recipes were the same.

I did read a recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor which I felt was the closest to what I remembered and so adapted this recipe to my own. So here’s my version of tangy and sweet-sour potatoes.

Sweet Sour Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup potatoes, scrubbed well and cut into long fingers with the jacket on
  • 1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and pulped and make it into 2 cups of tamarind water (or if you are using tamarind paste, use 2-3 tsp of the same)
  • 2 tbsp (more or less) Jaggery (you can alternate this with brown sugar if you don’t have access to jaggery)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chillies
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • In a dry pan, dry roast the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and chillies separately till they start to emit a nice aroma. Make sure you don’t burn the spices. Keep aside, cool and blend into a fine powder.
  • Heat oil in a largish pan and when the oil heats up, add the mustard seeds and let them pop. When they pop, add the asafoetida and stir for a couple of seconds. Then add in the powdered spice mix and stir for a couple of seconds.
  • Then pour in the tamarind water and jaggery and some salt and let it come to a nice rolling boil.
  • After about five minutes, when the raw smell of the tamarind goes away, add the potatoes and let them cook. Cook the potatoes till a knife pierced through one, goes in cleanly. Don’t overcook them. Check for salt at this point and add more if needed.
  • Finish off with taking the kasuri methi in the palms of your hands and crush it to release the oils and aroma and sprinkle it over the potatoes and gravy.
  • Switch off the gas and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve with rice or rotis (Indian flatbreads)
  • Recipes: Dried Red Chilli & Raisin Chutney

    I made dosai (a South Indian crepe) earlier this week and wanted a chutney to go with it. I was not in the mood for a coconut based chutney which is what is traditionally made with dosai, so I thought of a dried red chilli one and whipped this up in less than 20 minutes, including prep time. It also has a total of five ingredients, including spices. So let’s go.

    Dried Red Chilli and Raisin Chutney

    Ingredients:

    • 12-15 dried red Kashmiri chillies
    • 2 tbsp raisins
    • 8-10 cloves garlic
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or to taste)
    • Salt to taste

    Method:

    • Soak the red chillies and raisins separately in hot water for 10-15 minutes until soft.
    • Drain the water and reserve it to blend.
    • Then blend all the ingredients with reserved water to a fine paste. Check for seasoning (salt and lemon juice) and adjust accordingly.

    This was wonderful with the dosai and was also very good as a spicy dip and I have also eaten this with bread and wraps and it was yummy. Enjoy and let me know how you liked it.

    Recipes: Vegetable Makhanwala

    One weekend, I was wondering what to cook and neither S nor the children were being helpful. When asked what do you want to eat, they’d say “Anything”. So when I searched online, I found a couple of recipes for Butten chicken and also for Paneer Makhanwala. So I decided to play around with these recipes and came up with this Vegetable Makhanwala recipe.

    Makhanwala means with butter and true to its name, this recipe is not for the faint of heart, it needs loads of butter, ghee and oil, not to mention cholesterol inducing items like cream and dry fruits like almonds and cashew nuts. If you are making this for a special occasion, please go full steam ahead and don’t hold back.

    Vegetable Makhanwala

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups mixed vegetables, chopped into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces (I used cauliflower, green capsicum, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, french beans and frozen corn. You can also add peas and broccoli to this mix)
    •  1cup frozen paneer, refreshed in hot water for 20 minutes to soften it
    • 2 medium-sized onions, chopped
    • 4 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
    • 1-inch piece of ginger
    • 6-7 cloves of garlic
    • 4-5 dried red chillies
    • 4 fresh red chillies
    • 7-8 cashew nuts
    • 7-8 almonds
    • 3-4 cardamom pods
    • 3-4 cloves
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 4 tbsp butter
    • 2 tbsp ghee
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
    • 1 tsp cumin powder
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1-2 tsp garam masala powder
    •  2 tsp kasuri methi
    • 200 ml cup cooking cream
    • Salt to taste
    • Coriander

    Method:

    • In a pan, heat 2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp ghee and when the ghee and butter melts, add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds.
    • When the seeds splutter, add the garlic and let it stir for a few seconds. Then add in the ginger, fresh and dried chillies and stir for a few seconds. Next, add the onions and let it stir until it becomes translucent. Then add the almonds and cashew nuts and give it a good stir. Lastly, add the tomatoes and a tsp of salt to allow the tomatoes to start disintegrating.
    • When the tomatoes and mushy and cooked, remove from the flame, cool down and blend to a very fine paste.
    • In the same pan, heat up the remaining ghee, oil and butter and add the chopped vegetables in it. Add the dry spices – turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and some salt and cover and cook till the vegetables are three quarters done.
    • When the vegetables are almost done, pour in the blended paste and add water if needed to make the gravy to the consistency you require. Check for salt and add if needed. Also, add in the paneer, kasuri methi and garam masala and let it come to a rolling boil.
    • After about 5-7 minutes at a rolling boil, reduce the flame and add in the cooking cream. Let it come to a gentle boil and switch off the fire, garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with any rice or Indian flatbread.

    Notes:

    • Kasuri Methi is dried fenugreek leaves which can be omitted if you don’t have them.
    • If you don’t have access to either fresh or dried red chillies, just substitute one for the other. Kashmiri red chillies give you the best colour without the spice factor.
    • If you are not eating immediately after cooking, omit the last step until you are ready to serve the dish. This is because cooking cream may curdle when you heat it time and again. When you are ready to serve, heat it in a pan and when it comes to a gentle roll, lower the flame and add the cream and finally the coriander. You can omit the cream totally if you want, it tastes very good even without it.