If you’ve spent any time reading Indian recipes, eating at Indian restaurants or hanging out at your local Indian supermarket, you’ll have undoubtedly heard of the word ‘ghee’. Ghee is Indian-style clarified butter; basically, butter that has been simmering for so long that the milk solids separate and are then strained. And wonderfully aromatic and nutty it is, too.
It’s no wonder ghee is so popular in Indian cuisine: it can be used for baking, sautéing and frying due to its high smoking point, and it has a wonderfully rich, sweet aroma that enhances any dish. Unlike clarified butter, it is cooked extremely slowly, giving it caramel-like tones. It is traditionally made with raw milk and, due to the Holy Cow, is considered sacred and therapeutic in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ghee is an extremely versatile cooking ingredient; but what exactly can you do with it? Well, if you are not very familiar with Indian cooking, you would be forgiven for not knowing where to start. Put simply, you can use it for frying other ingredients at a high heat and for sautéing spices, as a baking ingredient, or for brushing onto flatbreads. Because it is so rich and flavoursome, you will usually need to use less than you would with oil or regular butter, so it is not as bad for you as you may have been led to believe; after all, everything in moderation! Here are a few specific ways in which ghee can be used:
For those cooking on a budget, lentils should be your new best friend. To make a hearty bowl of creamy lentils, simply melt the ghee in a pan before adding cumin, garam masala, onion, chilli, ginger and garlic, then add the lentils and water and simmer gently.
This dish takes the curry house favourite to a whole new level. It is much lighter and more fragrant than the cream-laced version, and is made by sautéing a ginger and garlic purée before adding cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and onions. The small amount of ghee gives the dish just enough creaminess and richness.
Otherwise known as gajar ka halwa, this delicious pudding is made by simmering grated carrots in ghee and milk, before adding plenty of nuts and spices. Rabri is another popular Indian-style dessert made by toasting pistachios and cashews in ghee and mixing with flavoured milk.
Shamiana Lamb Pilaf:
This is a traditional Himalayan wedding dish, consisting of tender slow-cooked lamb in seasoned ghee with rice. Alternatively, you can make a vegetarian version using onions, broccoli, spices and rice; the ghee gives it a tasty, nutty flavour.
Ghee is used in the dough of samosas to add an extra rich element. The delicious pastry is then used to wrap up a filling of lamb, peas, yoghurt and spices. Street food at its tastiest.
If you’re looking to sample some mouth-watering Indian dishes, head to one of London’s best Indian restaurants. The teams of regional chefs will know how to use ghee to get the best results, so if you’re not familiar with the ingredient – leave it to the experts!