Friday, September 29, 2006
MIXTRESS OF SPICES
The minute I saw the announcement for JFI-Ghee http://cookingmedley.blogspot.com I knew what I would enter. Only, I didn't know the recipe. My friend at college used to bring out a Horlicks jar of ghee with pale pink onion bits floating at the bottom during dinnertime. Maybe there was pepper and cumin too, I’m not sure. For extra flavour, she would say, her eyes shining with anticipation as she set the jar down on the table.
I don’t remember ever tasting it because I wasn’t a fan of ghee then. I’m no fan now either, but definitely more adventurous, so when this memory got raked up, I had to somehow find a way to make it. I mulled over it, imagined it several times, trawled the Net, asked people, looked up recipe books, but finally decided on the ingredients after reading a recipe on this web site http://rwood.com for seasoned homemade ghee.
The recipe called for a pound of butter, but as she writes, yours truly realises she reversed the kilo-pound equivalents in her fevered new blogger’s enthusiasm and ordered a kilo of butter to be delivered home. The shop around the corner only had 750 gm, and so she ended up using that rather than the kilo she wanted, and the 450 gm that she was supposed to use! The result wasn’t too bad, anyway, and it was a wonderful photo-op! How I made it:
750 gm butter
1 white onion, chopped
2 big cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp turmeric
1-inch piece cinnamon
1 bay leaf
A few cardamom
Some powdered nutmeg or mace
Method: Place the butter and spices in a heavy saucepan and melt over medium heat. Don’t cover the pot. Soon, the butter will start foaming. Once it begins, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for about half an hour. You’ll begin to wonder if your kitchen hasn’t turned into Niagara Falls - that’s the kind of noise my ghee made. At home, it was never such a big production - it was made, the solids (called Godaari) were scooped into a spoon and given out as a treat to eat, and that was the end of it. By now, you would have realized this was my first attempt at ghee-making, so I was anxiously looking for the signs the recipe specified:
Changing from cloudy yellow to clear golden colour (it never seemed to)
Developing a popcorn-like aroma (it never did, not even when I risked burning my face sniffing into the saucepan)
Stops foaming and making crackling noises (nope, it did neither, but later the foam broke up into small bits, though it still covered the surface)
Develops a thin, light tan crust on the nearly motionless surface (when did it ever stop bubbling?)
Milk solids at the bottom turn from white to tan (it was all so murky, I couldn’t see a thing till I fished for them with a fork)
You’re supposed to keep a close watch on the ghee and remove from heat when done. Signs of overcooking, says the web site, are browning and foaming (heavens, mine looked like that throughout, from foaming to finish - I'm not sure where I went wrong but I was determined to not give up, so I continued hovering anxiously over the stove.) Let cool until it is just warm. Sieve it into a jar or a container, discard the strained solids.
At this stage, mine looked fine. And it tastes nice too. Kaaram neyyi (Hot ghee), a guinea pig said, but they probably meant spicy, as nothing chilli ever went into it!
We tried it with plain rice, with various kaarams, dal and chapati, it tasted best with plain rice and plain dal. It will probably make a good base for pulaos and enhance the taste of plain basmati rice! I’ll let you know.