Ghee!

“I nourish you gods, who are everywhere present, with yogurt, with butter, and with milk” – Rig Veda

I grew up with ghee… my mother and her mother made it for baking traditional middle eastern sweets… and I re-discovered my love for ghee when I found Ayurveda.  Ghee is considered a primary “rasayana” in Ayurveda – that means it is rejuvenating and promotes longevity as well as virility.  Ghee is used in vedic rituals and has many kitchen-based medicinal and nourishing qualities and is wonderful for cooking, spreading, baking, and even as a vehicle for  taking herbs.  Below is a simple ghee recipe, followed by a short article about ghee. It is very simple to make, and mainly requires organic butter plus your attention 🙂

Like I said, I learned ghee making from my mom… and she still uses it too.  Here’s her photo response to my telling her I had just made ghee…

Ingredients & Tools

  • Organic, Unsalted Butter (1 lb or more) – 1 lb of butter will take about 15-20 minutes… as you increase the amount of butter, the clarification time can increase.
  • A clean, dry, glass jar, like a mason jar.
  • A stainless steel or silver spoon.
  • A heavy / thick-bottomed stainless steel pot – large enough that there will be room at the top.
  • A fine stainless steel strainer – I use this one from Far Leaves Tea in Berkeley – or several layers of fine cotton cheese cloth.

Instructions

  1. Place the butter in the pot. 
  2. Melt the butter at medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Once the butter is liquified, turn the heat down to a low setting – just high enough that there is some gentle, slow, quiet bubbling… not so low that it is still & silent and not so high that it is sputtering or boiling. 
  4. Keep the ghee at this low temperature, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Check it frequently at the 12 minute mark (for 1 lb) as it starts to become more and more golden-translucent, so as not to burn it. Remove it from the heat if it starts to darken.  You can use the spoon to pull away the foam at the top to see the color and quality beneath. 
  6. It is done when it is a golden-clear color… you can also tell if it’s really clarified by turning up the heat, and putting your ear over the pot… if you can hear a scouring sound – like the sound of that sucking thing that vacuums your saliva at the dentist – there are still solids being clarified… if the only noise is the noise of the liquid itself bubbling, then the ghee is done!
  7. Remove from heat. 
  8. Transfer the ghee to your clean and dry glass jar while it’s still hot. 
  9. Pour the ghee slowly through your sieve or cloth. 
  10. Cover the jar
This is the strainer I use – from Farleaves.com

Here is some information about Ghee from my friends at Ancient Organics:

In India, ghee has always been a sacred and celebrated symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing; especially in the daily rituals of cooking and worship.

Ghee is a premium cooking oil celebrated for its taste, nutritional benefits, and medicinal qualities. Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and considers it to be the best fat one can eat. Ghee is the very essence of butter; the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all the moisture, milk solids and impurities. The absence of milk solids and water in ghee make it completely shelf stable. Ghee has one of the highest flash points (485ºF) which make this oil the best choice for high temperature cooking.

Ghee is comprised of full spectrum short, medium and long chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. Ghee contains Omega 3 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids along with vitamins A, D, E and K. Ghee made from organic butter of pastured cows is one of the highest natural sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). 9 phenolic anti-oxidants, as well as numerous other minerals are present in ghee.

Ghee is known as a substance that gives longevity, its elemental qualities balance the aging characteristics by enriching the living body.

Ghee has been used for centuries as a digestive and elimination aid, for energy, sexual vitality, skin and eye health, as a lubricant for the joints and for alkalizing the blood.

The purity of ghee allows it to be deep penetrating and nourishing as it passes it passes through the lipid membranes of cells. For this reason, the vitamins and minerals from food cooked in ghee will be drawn deep into the body where they impart the most benefit. The assimilation of the nutrients increases when suspended in a ghee matrix. When you add spices to ghee to cook with the flavor is carried deep into the food. Many herbal preparations use ghee as the carrier oil because of these characteristics.

(Bel0w) Me, holding a ghee lamp used during my wedding ceremony… my grandmother made the ghee that morning.

PeaNOT Sauce

Sunflower Butter, or “sunbutter” is a fantastic alternative to peanut butter because:

  • Sunflower seeds are a nutrient-rich, high protein & easy-to-digest alternative to peanuts, which are heavy, difficult to digest, and hard on the liver.
  • Sunflower seeds have a bitter & sweet taste, very similar to peanuts.
  • Sunflower seeds are not a common alergen (unlike peanuts, which often have  a mold that causes various degrees of immune system reactivity).
  • Great for kids.

You can use Sunbutter in any way you would use Peanut butter… making a protein-rich sauce or dressing is a great way to get more diverse protein into a vegetarian (yogic) diet… plus, blended up and thinned out with the digestive sour taste of citrus or apple cider vinegar, the seeds are even easier to digest & assimilate.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 TB Sunbutter
  • 2 TB maple syrup (or raw agave, or a “simple syrup” – dissolving organic sugar in warm water)
  • 1/4 Cup Shoyu (or Tamari)
  • 1/4 Cup water
  • 1/8 Cup apple cider vinegar (could also use lime juice)
  • Sesame oil (toasted sesame oil is great in this), or Sunflower oil or Olive oil – to taste (OPTIONAL; reduce or omit the oil if you are adding this to veggies that are already cooked with oil – eg. in a wok)

Instructions

Blend it up! I use a hand held immersion blender from Cuisinart… you could use a regular blender, or do it old school with some arm muscles with a firm whisk!

Serving Ideas

This sauce is great over steamed or sauted veggies & rice or rice noodles… This time I did it over veggies in a hot wok.  You can vary the ingredients quite a bit… I never measure for this… it’s really just up to your taste! But I did measure before blogging it!

The veggies are wok-stirfried broccoli, celery & sweet potato in toasted sesame oil, shredded ginger & yellow mustard powder.  Topped with thinly sliced watermelon radish.  Served over jasmine rice,  with LOTS of PeaNOT sauce on top!  Kids will like it over plain rice, or as a dipping sauce with plain veggies, cooked or raw.

Cumin Sprinkle

Ayurveda describes food according to many categories.  One of these categories is taste, or rasa (pronounced with the “a”s sounding like the “u” in the word “up”).  Click here to read more about the  śad rasa (six tastes).

Śad Rasa

The six tastes follow a common pattern that relates to either heating or cooling to the digestive system. This knowledge is key for balance.  The key to health is to have a “strong” agni (digestive fire), that is not too hot or too cold in quality.

  • Excess cold in the digestive system leads to slow digestion, slow absorption and slow metabolism as well as weight gain, sluggishness, attachment or anxiety and constipation.  This is common for kapha and vata types and during winter,  late fall, and early spring.
  • Excess heat in the digestive system leads to fast or “burning” digestion, malabsorption, skin conditions, diarrhea and anger.  Hot digestion is common for pitta types and in the summer, late spring, and early fall.

Welcome cumin… as well as coriander and fennel.  These medicinal herbs are so beneficial (and so without negative side effects) that they have been relocated from the medicine chest to the kitchen cabinet for daily use.

Roasted & Ground Cumin, Coriander and Fennel

Fondly known in American Ayurvedic circles as “CCF”, Cumin, Coriander and Fennel all support strong digestion without being over-heating.  This is an unusual feat.  Most other herbs and spices that strengthen digestion are also quite heating.  Here are some benefits of cumin, coriander and fennel:

Benefits of Cumin

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, without overheating the system
  • Pungent (spicy) in taste but cooling in effect
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha
  • Detoxifying to the digestive
  • Supports post-meal comfort and good breath

Benefits of Coriander

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, while cooling and soothing the digestive tract
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Supports healthy urinary tract function
  • Eliminates excess heat from hot flashes (moves the heat down & out of the body)
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha (especially good for pitta types and in the summer)

Benefits of Fennel

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, without overheating or aggravating pitta
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Supports post-meal comfort and good breath
  • Promotes healthy urinary tract function
  • Supports healthy and comfortable menstrual cycle
  • Promotes healthy flow of milk for lactating mothers
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha (especially good for pitta types and in the summer)
The best way to have kitchen spices is to buy the whole spice (in bulk at a health food store or from Banyan Botanicals).  WHen you buy the powder, it is not fresh, and all the volatile oils that carry the benefits are depleted.  As one of my Ayurveda teachers says, “it’s sawdust“.
To use in cooking, you can grind the spices yourself (in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder reserved for spices), or use the whole seeds by heating oil in a pan or sauce pot and then adding the whole seeds.  Stir for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat until the spices brown slightly and/or emit an aroma.  Then add your other ingredients.
I learned a great trick of roasting & grinding cumin seeds for a fantastic floral taste and lovely digestive effect from my friend, executive chef Mark Gordon of San Francisco.  You can do just cumin, or any combination of cumin, coriander and fennel.
Roasted CCF
  • Take any ratio of cumin, coriander and fennel.  Equal parts works great, or 2 parts cumin to one part coriander and one part fennel.
  • Dry roast the seeds over medium high heat in a saucepan.  Stir constantly to keep from burning and to roast evenly for about 4 minutes.
  • When an aroma emits (stick your nose in their!) or the seeds start to brown lightly, they are done.
  • Pour the seeds out of the pot into a bowl to let them cool.
  • Grind them by hand in a mortar and pestle or in an electric coffee grinder (reserved only for spices, not coffee!)
  • Store in a stainless steel or glass container.
Enjoy this blend over toast with ghee (my friend introduced this to his 7 year old and he loved it!) or quinoa and veggies or curry or whatever!  Roasted, these spices have a floral aroma and a lighter quality.
Roasted CCF over a pot of quinoa, zucchini and carrot.

Masala Chai

This morning was a chai morning… it had been rainy and cold yesterday, and was just warming up this morning but still a little chilly.  The gingery, warm, sweet elixir was calling out from the kitchen to me on my yoga blankets.  Last night I did the rare thing… I was out until 10pm, at a dance performance, so the bit of caffeine balanced with the milk and cardamom is just a perfect extra umph!

Let me start with a little chai knowledge before we get to the recipe…

  • Chai means tea.  So there is no need to call it “chai tea”… that is like saying “tea tea”.
  • Chai in India is not complicated.  It’s black tea, milk and sugar.  In the cold season there will be ginger (adrak in Hindi) and if you ask for “Elaichi Chai” you’ll get cardamom.   In some regions you may find black pepper, lemongrass or mint added as well.  If you want black tea, it’s “Kali Chai”… otherwise expect milk.
  • What you won’t see in traditional chai: green tea, honey, soymilk, clove, star anise, corn syrup, stevia or synthetic ingredients of any kind.
The magic of traditional  chai is in its has 5 ingredients – a significant number in the Vedic tradition.  There are 5 Great Elements that make up everything in existence – the Panca Mahabhutas.  So each element of chai represents these.
  1. Milk – akasha (the space that contains everything)
  2. Tea – vayu (the air that moves, blows and changes)*
  3. Massala (spice) – agni (the fire that illumines and transforms)
  4. Water – jala (the water that softens, expands, contracts and takes the shape of it’s container)
  5. Sugar – prithvi (the earth that supports and binds)
*My new favorite tea for chai is Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam Tea.  It’s very strong – one tea bag per cup of chai you are making is plenty!! You can even go down to less than that – say you are making 4 cups of chai, you can get away with only using 3 tea bags.  Usually, I’m in favor of loose-leaf tea over tea bags, however, this is really the best! The tea may seem a bit pricy, however, the box is jam packed with tea bags and will last you awhile.
Chai Recipe – Makes 2 Cups of Chai
  • 2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup whole organic milk
  • 2 Tb loose assam tea
  • 1 tsp black cardamom seeds (removed from green husk)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (or a piece of cinnamon stick)
  • Thumb size piece of fresh ginger, chopped roughly
  • 2 TB organic cane sugar
In a medium size pot, bring the water to a boil with the fresh ginger.
Boil 5 minutes
Add the tea, milk, and cardamom, cinnamon stick and start at medium heat to bring to a slow boil.  bring slowly to a boil (start at medium and slowly bring up to boil).
As soon as it boils, turn off, stir in the sugar and let rest 5 minutes.
Strain in a stainless steel strainer & serve.

Alternatives… okay, okay, if you really must 🙂

You can exchange the milk for almond milk, rice milk or oat milk.  You can exchange the sugar for maple syrup or raw agave.  If you prefer honey (best for kapha types and in the winter and spring) – use local, raw, unpasturized honey and add it after you’ve poured it into your cup and it has cooled to a drinking temperature.

For herbal chai… use Far Leaves’ tea blend .  In this case, add the tea & spice blend to the water & milk and bring it all to slow boil together, then sweeten and let rest 5 minutes before straining.