Cooking with ghee - the figure-friendly fat
Traditional Indian ghee has a long list of surprising health benefits
I had a very juvenile moment on radio years ago with Pat Kenny when I was doing a segment on Indian food. I placed a large tub of ghee next to him, forcing him to say this colloquially rude word live on air. Pat, being the consummate broadcaster, went on to explain the etymology of the word and how the slang use of it came into being. It's a Dublin thing!
Ghee, of course, is a traditional type of clarified butter used in Indian cuisine. Clarified butter is made by melting butter, discarding the dairy solids and just using the pure, clear fat that is left. Ghee goes through an extra step of gentle cooking to evaporate the moisture. It is rapidly gaining popularity with avid supporters of Paleo and low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diets and some even suggest taking ghee in your coffee to aid weight loss!
I don't know if I'd go that far now, but ghee does have several health benefits and culinary uses that makes it an ingredient worth looking at.
Lactose free: When butter is melted to produce ghee, most of the dairy solids are discarded. This means that ghee is a pure fat with only trace amounts of lactose or casein. You can use ghee in the same way as you would regular butter, so it is the ideal substitute.
High smoke point: In culinary terms, the smoke point is the temperature at which fat starts to burn. Obviously, burnt flavours tarnish the taste and appearance of the dish. And from a health standpoint, burnt fats start to change into unhealthy compounds that are potentially carcinogenic. I would use ghee to sauté onions, and fry steak and pancakes.
Long shelf life: When ghee is produced, all the moisture is evaporated and the dairy solids are removed. The fat that is left is very stable and won't go off if left at room temperature. It retains its original flavour and freshness for up to a year without refrigeration.
Fat busting: Ghee is a natural source of the essential fatty acid conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) found in animal fats. Bodybuilders often beef up on CLA or take supplements as studies show that it may improve the fat to lean muscle tissue ratio. One of its functions is that boosts the enzymes that help metabolise body fat and also resist new fat cells from forming.
Cancer fighting: Ghee contains cancer fighting CLA and butyric acid. Both have been shown to prevent and slow down certain types of cancers and tumour growth.
Vitamin rich: Ghee is rich is vitamin A, D, E and K which are vital for a healthy immune system, bones, brain, heart healthy and blood clotting.
Improves vitamin absorption: Ghee aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from other foods. This has been a problem before in very low-fat diets.
Aids digestive health: Ghee helps heal and restore the integrity of the gut lining. It reduces inflammation, has anti-viral properties and has been shown to be beneficial for sufferers of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
You can buy ghee from Asian shops in various different sizes. The brand you'll see most often is Pride Ghee Butter which comes in a gold and green tin with a rubber lid.
There are benefits to making your own ghee as the better quality butter you use, the more nutritious it will be. And we know that Ireland produces the best butter, no contest!
Recipes taken from Delish and Relish cookbooks by Rozanne Stevens. For cookbooks and cookery courses, log onto www.rozannestevens.com
Health & Living