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What is Ghee?

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I am often asked about ghee and I find I am usually trying to change a perception that ghee is really bad for you. Well if you look at the saturated fat content in isolation then, i’m on a hiding to nothing – guilty as charged its highin fat. But as you know i never look at food in isolation, you can’t because it performs a biological reaction when it hits your body chemistry and this is where the benefit of ghee lies. I’ve grown up cooking with it – but always in the right context.

What Is Ghee?

Ghee is clarified or purified butter. It is lactose free and does not contain any milk solids as these have been removed in the cooking process. Ghee therefore is composed of almost entirely saturated fat. OMG – If this is making you switch off already then I urge you to read on – all the way to the bottom before you make a judgement.

In our cookery classes I talk about oils and virtues of one oil over another, the most important thing about cooking with oil is not to burn it or hydrogenate it. Using vegetable oils at too higher temperatures can still achieve this, which means the oils become fat pockets in the body. Ghee is actually an ideal fat for frying because it has a high smoke point (where its molecules begin to break down) at 250 °C (482 °F), which is well above typical cooking temperatures of around 200 °C (392 °F) and above that of most vegetable oils. This means Ghee has a very stable saturated bond so its less likely to form free radicals in the body (free radicals oxidate in body to become bad cells and lock together to form clumps – which eventually can become a tumour or cancerous).

The medicinal values and Research behind ghee

In Ayurvedic food philosophy ghee is concerned to be an immune enhancing food. Quite contrary to all the reports you might hear about ghee being so bad for you!

Ghee is made up of short chain fatty acids – which are metabolised by the body very easily, much like coconut milk or oil, which is why I am a huge advocate of the using coconut milk and oil where possible, again contrary to most peoples perception of the bad fat in coconut milk.

The ressearch indicates that ghee is likely to reduce cholesterol both in the serum and intestine, (really quite contrary to the previous hype about ghee increasing cholestrol). It does so by increasing the stimulation of stomach acids – biliary lipids (the bile acid) to help the digestive process, whilst other fats, such as butter and oils, slow down the digestive process and can sit heavy in the stomach. When cooking lentils I always swap out oil with ghee to ensure maximum digestion of lentils to prevent any gas and for the protein and mineral value to be absorbed more quickly. Ghee is also reputed to be good for nerves and the brain as it helps to rejuvenate the body tissues, bones, hair and skin. It helps control eye pressure and is beneficial to glaucoma patients. Surprising huh!

Rich in Antioxidants

Further more ghee is rich in antioxidants and acts as an aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods, feeding all layers of body tissue to strengthen the immune system. Its high concentration of butyric acid, a fatty acid that contains anti-viral properties, is believed to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells which may eventually become tumours. It goes back to my point earlier about free radicals that go awol in the body to do damage at some point.

It is also very good for the skin, I remember my mother always applying a light application 2-3 a day of ghee for burns or blisters or grazes to the skin because of its healing properties for the skins and tissue.

How do you make ghee?

Ghee is made by heating butter at a low heat and bringing it to a boil and simmering gently until all the water has evaporated and the milk solids have settled to the bottom and you are left with a clear golden liquid. This liquid should then be carefully removed so not to disturb the separated milk solid at the bottom of the pan.

As the water has been evaporated during the simmering process ghee does not spoil therefore can be stored for long periods without refrigeration, so long as it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation and remains moisture-free. In fact it is advisable not to put ghee in the fridge as it can allow moisture to seep in.

I try to steer away from butter in cooking essentially because butter oxidizes very quickly which is not good for the body, whereas ghee does not due to the cooking process.

I hope I have dispelled the myth about ghee and clarified its uses in cooking, if you still not convinced – have a go and try it out. Or come along to the Acadmey and we’ll cook with Ghee together and you’lll see the difference for yourself.

Witten by Kumud Gandhi – Food devotee, writer & broadcaster, Founder of The Cooking Academy A cookery school that puts healthy ingredients at the heart of everything they teach. For further information go to www.thecookingacademy.co.uk or contact Kumud Gandhi at kumud@thecookingacademy.co.uk.

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