"In ayurvedic terms, ghee is a 'sweet food," wrote KT Achaya in A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food. "It is strengthening, aids digestion [and] acts quite powerfully on the mind, improving the memory and intellect."
Never mind if you're an unbeliever. For cooks, ghee has plenty of other qualities that makes it one of the better types of fat for the kitchen. Use it to sautee or deep-fry without worrying about toxic compounds - its smoke point is a sky-scraping 250 °C and it keeps for up to a month unrefrigerated.
Because hardly any lactose or casein remain, it goes down easily for stomachs that are intolerant to lactose or milk protein. Even most of the water has evaporated, leaving an intensified pure buttery flavour. This makes it perfect for pancakes, popping popcorn, banana bread and even to add an extra buttery oomph you never knew your salted egg sauce was missing.
You can conveniently replicate the traditional method in your home kitchen. Butter can’t be churned from conventional store-bought milk because it’s been homogenised, breaking the fat down to tiny globules that would take forever to come together. Unless you have easy access to raw milk, opt for heavy cream instead. Mix a little yoghurt into the cream and leave it to curdle overnight before churning it (if you don’t care for cultured butter, simply dive straight into simmering store-bought unsalted butter).
- 1 litre heavy cream
- 80ml Yoghurt
- Thoroughly mix the yoghurt into the cream and leave it to thicken for 12 hours
- Blend the curdled cream with a handheld mixer or blender until the butter separates
- Pour off the buttermilk (use it in muffins or pancakes)
- Pour iced water over the butter and press out the remaining buttermilk
- Gently simmer the butter until the milk solids separate and sink to the bottom of the pan (the ghee is ready when the bubbling stops)
- Strain the milk solids out of the ghee