You could always find a jar of ghee in my family’s kitchen growing up. Used in curries or mixed in with rice (it gave it this delicious-looking sheen), it was one of those products we always had on standby for special occasions or when we wanted to add a little something extra to our favourite dishes. A type of clarified butter that has its roots in India and Ayurvedic medicine, it’s made by simmering butter until the moisture evaporates and the milk solids start to separate. What’s left is a clear yellow fat which has an aromatic and nutty flavour and a high burning point - higher than most oils - which therefore makes it ideal for frying and stir-frying.
As well as being great for tastebuds, it’s also beneficial for the gut too. This is due to its short fatty acid-rich profile. “Ghee contains a type of short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid which has a number of useful health functions,” explains nutritional therapist Zoe Stirling . “These include helping to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract as well as supporting the health of the cells that line it.” This in turn is thought to contribute to better gut function (although other variables such as food intolerances, will also have an impact on this too).
The benefits of ghee aren’t just confined to the gut though, they extend to the rest of the body too. “In addition, the fat content in ghee not only helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, but it is also itself a direct source of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) too,” Zoe adds. These help support everything from the immune system to eye health to bone strength and skin.
The best ghees to buy
Compared to when I little and we had to source it from our local Sri Lankan shop 45 minutes away, supermarkets are increasingly stocking up on the stuff to make it easier than ever to get your hands on a jar. Not all ghee products are created equal though - there are some provisos worth bearing in mind. Zoe recommends going for brands that have sourced their dairy from grass-fed cows and that is certified organic for a better product. Studies have suggested that they offer a higher yield of vitamins, fats and other nutrients such as iron. Zoe also recommends checking to ensure no additives or preservatives have been added for an all-round healthier product. Her top picks include Ghee Easy , £5.47, and Fushi Organic Ghee , £9.
It is also possible to make your own at home too - all you need to stock up on is unsalted butter, cheesecloths and a couple of glass jars. Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine experts and Escapada Retreat founders, Maeve O'Sullivan and Emilia Herting, share their go-to recipe with us.
How to make your own ghee
A medium saucepan, preferably one with a heavy bottom
A large spoon to stir
A fine-meshed sieve
Several layers of cheesecloth to line your sieve
A large bowl or measuring cup to receive the ghee (preferably one that has a pouring spout)
One or two glass jars to store your ghee in
2 x packs of the best quality unsalted butter you can get your hands on
1. Cut your butter into roughly one inch by one inch squares.
2. Set your butter to melt over medium heat, stirring it gently from time to time.
3. Pretty soon, you’ll see a thick, white foam start to form at the surface.
4. Keep stirring until your butter starts to simmer, at which point you’ll want to turn the heat down to medium-low.
5. For the next 5 minutes or so, you won’t be doing much stirring.
6. Just let the butter simmer and watch the bubbles emerge from that thick foam, increasing in size and number.
7. As the bubbling increases, you’ll notice that the foam will become thinner and the bubbles will become bigger and clearer.
8. Soon, the milk solids will start to curdle and attach to the sides of the pan. That is completely normal. Just scrape the sides of the pan from time to time to help those milk solids sink to the bottom.
9. As the milk solids sink to the bottom, you will notice that your butter is beginning to clear up. It will get more and more translucent, the bubbles will get larger and the foam will eventually completely disappear.
10. Your butter will start to take a nice golden coloration as the milk solids, which are now at the bottom, begin to brown. Keep a close eye on your butter and keep stirring, scraping the sides and bottom so the milk solids don’t attach to the pan and burn.
11. When the butter starts to foam for a second time? This is the indication that your ghee is now ready to be strained.
12. Now you want take it off the heat and let that foam settle for a few seconds.
13. Line your sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and set that over a large bowl, preferably one that is equipped with a pouring spout.
14. Pour your ghee right in!
15. There are then milk solids that get left behind. You will want to discard these.
16. Now transfer your beautiful filtered ghee into a glass jar.
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