Homemade Ghee

Ghee is an integral part of Iyengar cooking and a must have in most Brahmin kitchens. In fact, a traditional meal when served, does not get a go ahead to be eaten until ghee is drizzled over.
Ghee has more of a sacred role in the Brahmin culture than that of a mere food flavor enhancer. It is an unsurpassed choice for lighting lamps used in worshiping and any food offering to God is always sprinkled with Ghee. It is even considered as a sattvic food to nourish the spiritual soul.
The best ghee it seems, is known to be made from a free-range grass-fed cow’s milk. I have had enough and more of my fair share of Ghee having grown up on a daily potion of it. Ghee that smells, tastes as well as is good for you is really hard to find in stores. So, I always swear by home-made Ghee, a purist’s dream come true.
Ghee is most often passed off as clarified butter. I do not want to get into an argument over it, instead, I will say this for sure. Ghee is far superior than butter in many aspects. Unlike butter, Ghee can be heated to higher temperatures without burning. Characterized by it’s clear golden-yellow color and a signature aroma, when used in cooking, it adds an unparalleled flavor and taste to whatever dish it is in. It has a wide range of uses in Indian cooking like sautéing, tempering, making sweets or quite simply drizzled over a wide variety of food Rice or Chapati, Naan or Roti and many more.
Ghee alongside butter has received a lot of bad press in the recent years because of it’s perceived saturated fat content. However, as per Ayurveda, Ghee is believed to have superior medicinal properties and is considered as brain food, a good information source is here.
Ghee making in itself is as much satisfying as eating it, especially when the mellow aroma of the simmering Ghee fills your kitchen. Once you start relishing your favorite dishes with Ghee, there’s no looking back. Mavilakku, Tasty Vegetable Pongal, Obbattu are a few of my recipes that have Ghee in them.
So, what say? Ready for Glee..err Ghee?
Things you’ll need:
I prefer Organic Butter as it is free of rBST and additives including natural flavors and with it is the closest we can get to make pure Ghee.
  • 16 oz Unsalted Butter
  • Thick bottom medium saucepan (I prefer stainless steel)
  • Clean dry ladle
  • Clean glass jar with airtight lid
  • Tea strainer
How it’s done:
There are two ways to do this on the stove top:

As the butter boils and simmers, repeatedly skim the milk solids into a separate bowl until all the solids are ladled out. This way, the milk solids are not allowed to settle at the bottom and hence, there is no chance of milk solids burning.
OR
Let the butter do all the work boiling and simmering; water evaporates out and eventually, the milk solids become heavier and sink to the bottom. Let cool, strain thereafter and store for later use.

I have made Ghee with both the methods. I chose to explain the latter, as we can get the same end result with much less work on our part. Who does not want a shortcut, right? Well, it sure needs you to keep a watch as most of the cues are visual. So, keep your eyes peeled and never leave sight of the boiling butter.
Step-by-step:
A little patience goes a long way in Ghee making. So hang on.
Unwrap and place the butter sticks in a clean thick bottom saucepan over medium heat. Do not let the saucepan heat up before placing the butter sticks, as the butter burns before melting and ruins the taste of the end product.


Let all of the butter melt in the pot. It is important to not cover the pot throughout the ghee making process as the water content in the butter needs to evaporate. At this point, the lighter mixture of milk solids combined water globules float to form an off white layer at the top.

Over medium heat, let the melted butter slowly come to a boil. Do not increase the flame/heat beyond medium at any point.

As the butter boils and water content evaporates, the soft milk solids start to dis-integrate.

As the milk solids separate out, more of the yellow fat portion is visible now.
Brace yourself, ‘cos the boiling butter can get violently noisy and the bubbles might even start bursting out a few times. There’s no need to fear though. Reduce the flame/heat a bit and here on, stir every now and then with a clean dry ladle to keep the solids from sticking to the bottom.

Soon, all the water has evaporated and big foamy bubbles start to form at the top.

Notice how the big foamy bubbles cover the entire top surface. Now is the time to reduce the flame/ heat further and let simmer.

From here onwards, changes are quick and fast, so stay right here. Notice how the big foamy bubbles give way to a large number of frothy little ones.

Reduce the flame further to the minimum possible setting. If your’s is an electrical stove like mine, switch off now. The top layer is frothy white and the milk solids have browned, shrunk and settled at the bottom of the pot by now.

Switch off the stove (gas stove). The thick bottom of the saucepan retains enough heat for the cooking to continue through the last couple of stages before Ghee is ready.
Clear golden-yellow liquid with a little bit of foam floating around is a tell-tale sign that we are almost there. It is near sunset yellow in the picture because of the brown solids at the bottom.  Be very careful to not burn the solids sticking to the bottom. Burnt solids totally ruin the aroma of Ghee and render it distasteful while all the patience shown so far will go down the dumps.

Keep aside and allow to cool. Do not cover the pot until cooled completely. When cooled, strain into a clean dry glass jar and cover with an airtight lid. Ghee turns rancid when exposed to oxygen in the air.

Ghee can be stored on the kitchen counter at room temperature, it should not be refrigerated. When ladling out, make sure that the spoon is not wet, as moisture is detrimental to the Ghee.

Though a liquid when made, Ghee settles to a more natural semi-solid state.

Here are a few home remedial uses for Ghee:
  • A few drops of Ghee trickled down the nostrils is believed to heal nose bleeds
  • A drop of Ghee is excellent to alleviate chapped lips
  • 1/2 a tsp of sugar rolled into a ball with a few drops of Ghee is believed to soothe a sore throat.
  • A tsp of Ghee, a tsp of sugar, pinch of turmeric and a pinch of ground black pepper blended into hot milk is believed to bring relief to dry cough
Tips:
  • Make use of the left-over Ghee in the pot, before putting it away for wash. A few ideas but not limited to, include rinsing the pot with hot Rasam or scooping a ladle of rice into the pot and swishing it all around to coat all the ghee.
  • A betel leaf  dropped into the Ghee at the end imparts a refreshing flavor to the Ghee. This was done in my granddad’s place in earlier days.

Nalgari Aloo Palak

Spiced Potatoes and Spinach – South India style

It was almost time for him to come home, but I was nowhere close to starting dinner preparations. I had to take her to the children’s park but I was in no mood albeit she was feeling crabby and needy. I wanted some fresh air too, more so to be by myself. After a brief phone call and half an hour later he eventually made it home, picked her up to the park and I, refused to go. He suggested we go out for dinner, but knowing me, I turned that down too.
I prefer home-made, I said.
After pondering for a good 15 mins, I dragged myself to the kitchen and scrambled through the refrigerator. Potatoes, Spinach, lemon and some Nalgari powder, neighbor Maami* gave me the other day! Was it the bulb in the refrigerator or the light bulb inside my head? And quickly, I was out of my blues and into cooking the green.
The very thought of Aloo Palak immediately fills me with a whiff of Garam malasa and a mild aroma of cumin seeds. Unlike that, this one tells the tale of a blend of spices so south Indian, hence named that way.
It is inexplicable just how heavenly it looked to my eyes. Almost like in the movie Ratatouille, how the critic is flown back into the memory lane, the first bite of it took me right down to a Darshini* in namma* Bengalooru, to the taste of the Potato palya* on Masala Dosa, a taste you can only taste in hotels (as it is called there), comforting me like no other. When Maami handed me the Nalgari powder, I seldom imagined that I could use it to rouse such a nostalgic taste. Anyways, here’s the finger licking good recipe for it.
Things you’ll need:
  • 2 medium Potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Spinach
  • 1/4 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp Kobri / desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp Nalgari powder (will post the recipe soon)
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • Salt
I’ve used red potatoes and I keep the skin as it adds so much to the visual appeal apart from its taste and nutritional benefits.

For tempering:
  • 2-3 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch of Hing
  • a pinch of methi / fenugreek seeds crushed (pinch with your three fingers here)
  • 1 tsp urad dal / split black gram
  • 4-5 small green chillies, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
How it’s done:
  • Microwave the potatoes in a bowl of water covering them for 5 mins or until semi cooked and let cool.
  • Dice the potatoes when cooled.
  • Heat oil in a medium size kadai or skillet over medium to high heat. Add in the mustard seeds and let splutter.
  • Add in the methi seeds, urad dal, green chillies and hing in that order.
  • When the urad dal turns golden brown, add the turmeric and onions and sauté until onions turn translucent.
  • Add the potatoes, cover and cook for 5 – 10 mins
  • Stir in the spinach and cook covered until done
  • Sprinkle in the salt, Nalgari powder and Kobri and stir well.
  • Switch off,  squeeze in the lemon juice, mix well and serve hot with Chapati, Roti or Puri.
{Stir fried Potatoes; With Spinach}
{Nalgari powder sprinkled; Ready to be plated}

Tip:

Alternatively, the potatoes can be diced raw and cooked in the skillet till done. Microwave method reduces the cooking time in half.
*
Maami [Maahmy]~ Used to call an acquainted elderly / married lady, Tamil
Namma [Nuhmma] ~ Our, Kannada
Palya [pul ya]~ A side dish made of vegetables, Kannada
Darshini [Duhr shee ni]~ Self service fast food eat outs, Karnataka

Menthi Pudina Pachadi

Fenugreek and Mint Chutney

[puh cha di ~ Telugu; may thih  ~ Hindi]

I hate to confess. In my newfound fervor for blogging, here’s the scene behind the closed doors – the laundry basket brimming with soiled clothes waiting to be picked up for a wash, washed clothes given the silent treatment inside the dryer, living room screaming to be re-claimed from my toddler’s toys scattered all over and I dare say anything further than this, lest I start to feel a panic attack. They have a way of making me sluggish, I’d rather say overwhelmingly so. Not so funnily enough, instead of attending to the chores left to be deliberately forgotten, all I want to do is blog more and cook less today.
When the clock struck 11:oo subtly reminding me of the upcoming lunch hour, I wanted to wash my hands off with just a one dish wonder. Well, my toddler has to eat, so rice has to go in the cooker. How about just a little something with rice then?
Skimming through the refrigerator, I found a bunch of methi leaves promising me that perfect escape from kitchen slavery. It reminded me of the flavorful chutney my mother-in-law had made long back and how I had licked it off my plate. Quick to realize that I ran short of methi leaves, I picked up a small bunch of mint leaves as well and made this recipe. The outcome surprised me, as mint and fenugreek aromas did not wage a war. Instead, they were sitting hand in hand in perfect harmony giving a well-balanced sublime flavor, that kept me asking for more. The nuttiness of the peanuts and the silent sweetness of the jaggery lifted my soul as they sank into the depths of my gut.
Don’t wait until your laundry fills up to try it. It is a perfect accompaniment for Dosa, Idli, Chapati or simply steamed rice (as shown here).
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 small bunch of Fresh Methi / Fenugreek leaves
  • 1 small bunch of mint / pudina leaves (an addition to the original recipe)
  • 1/4 cup Peanuts roasted
  • marble sized Tamarind
  • marble sized Jaggery
  • 3-4 dried Red chillies
For tempering:
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • a pinch of Hing / Asafoetida

How it’s done:
  • Peanuts are easily roasted, heated in the microwave for about 2 mins in 30 sec intervals. Just remember to check in between. Or they can be dry roasted the regular way on a kadai or skillet.
  • In a kadai or small skillet, temper mustard and hing in 1 tsp hot oil. With a spoon, scoop out only the spluttered mustard and hing and keep aside.
  • Add the remaining oil to the kadai / skillet. When hot, add in the red chillies and tamarind and sauté until the red chillies are brown. Do not burn the tamarind. Scoop them out and keep aside.
  • In the same skillet, sauté the methi and mint leaves until all of the sizzling stops. They can be sautéed separately as well. Spread them out on a plate and let cool.
  • In a blender, grind all the ingredients except the tempering, together with salt,  jaggery and some water to a smooth paste. Add water just enough to let the blades move. Too much water tends to ruin the flavor, not only the consistency.
  • Remove into a bowl, garnish with the tempering and serve.

{Just washed fenugreek leaves}

{Roasted Ingredients}

{Menthi koora Pachadi ready for tasting}
Tip:
If methi and mint leaves are not sautéed well enough, the chutney can turn out bitter.

Hesarubele Carrot Kosambari

Lentil and Carrot Salad

[hay suh roo bay lay, koh sum bury] (Kannada)

This is a totally unassuming, what you see is what you get kind of dish. Simple, Easy and tasty as much as it is pretty.
Traditionally, kosambari is made as part of a festive spread and vice versa.
I am going to let you in on the secret of making kosambari, any kind for that matter. You have got your base covered if you have these:
  • lemon
  • coconut
  • cilantro/Coriander
  • tempering
Any combination of vegetables and lentils can be used with the above ingredients to make a tasty kosambari. Here are a few other possible yummy combos:
  • Soaked bengal gram/split chana dal and minced cucumber
  • Soaked bengal gram/split chana dal
  • Soaked split yellow dal
  • Mincedcucumber
  • Grated carrot
  • Radish and Carrot
Last one sounds weird? It is an awesome way to include raw radish into your diet and tastes wicked awesome too. Still skeptic? Carrot neutralizes the pungency of radish and makes for a wonderful co-ingredient. Try it and you’ll agree with me. Take a look here.
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 Carrot grated
  • 1/8 cup split yellow dal, soaked in water for 2-3 hours
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • 3-4 stems cilantro
  • salt
For tempering:
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp Hing/Asafoetida
  • 2 green chillies minced
How it’s done:
  • Wash the dal again and drain off all the remaining water. Though it seems redundant, this is an important step as it rids the dal of the soaked in smell.
  • Heat oil in a small kadai or skillet. When the oil is really hot but not smoking, add in the mustard seeds. Oil is hot enough when the mustard seeds start spluttering as soon as you add them. Add hing and green chillies and sauté until they turn a slight white. switch off and keep aside. Do not skip the tempering as the spluttered mustard, hing and green chillies mix is what lends the kosambari it’s characteristic taste.
  • Add the tempering to the other ingredients, mix and serve immediately.
Tip:
When part of a full course meal, kosambari is always made last so it can be served fresh immediately as the salt makes it watery if it sits longer.