Dubai: If you are looking for a comforting dish or an easy way to turn leftover rice into a meal, make ghee rice. This popular combination is perfect for whipping up a quick and nutritious meal with just a handful of ingredients. For many Indians, the earthy flavours of clarified butter and rice's taste are homegrown.
I remember eating ghee, namak or salt and rice fondly as a child. Growing up, I often eat it to finish any leftover rice, or when I am running short on time or simply when I miss the whiff of freshly churned butter at home. The taste hits different, and the flavour takes me back to my childhood, where the aroma of ghee wafts through the kitchen. According to a Dubai-based yoga practitioner and homoeopath – Dr Rupal Merchant,
"Kids love ghee rice. And it helps them build good gut bacteria, which in turn builds their immunity." However, she advises on taking care of how much ghee one consumes. "Inspired by the health benefits, don't get swayed and do not consume ghee in large quantities.” It is fat after all.
According to a Dubai-based yoga practitioner and homeopath – Dr Rupal Merchant, "Kids love ghee rice. And it helps them build good gut bacteria, which in turn builds their immunity." However, she advises on taking care of the how much ghee one consumes. "Inspired by the health benefits, don't get swayed and do not consume ghee in large quantities.” It is fat after all.
“Ghee rice is good when one is suffering from indigestion and also takes care of constipation," she said. It has lesser dairy and protein content but is much healthier than regular butter.
Ghee alone has many health benefits and is a crucial cooking ingredient used across different cultures.
Dr Merchant said: "Pure desi ghee made of cow milk has fat-soluble vitamins. So it helps in maintaining good health of intestinal mucosa (the inner lining of the intestinal tract), keeping the gut health strong."
How to make freshly churned ghee at home?
A traditional ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, ghee is made by melting freshly churned white butter over a low flame. Milk spoilage is a concern in many Indian households because of the country's subtropical climate. To avoid this, many cooks boil (raw) milk first, allow it to cool and only then store it in refrigerators. This process leaves a thick layer on top of the milk, called malai or fresh cream. My mother keeps collecting the malai in a jar for over one week. Then she sets as yoghurt overnight. Subsequent to that, it is churned using a blender. That freshly churned butter is gently melted over a low flame to create ghee or clarified butter. It is a very sustainable cooking approach where no residue is left or discarded.
Traditionally, a mathna or Indian style hand churner is used to churn ghee manually. Boil the freshly churned butter on low flame for about 45 to 60 minutes and skim the foam formed on top. A few milk solids will remain at the bottom of the pan during this process, which is fine. Once done, filter it through a strainer to separate the solids before storing it in an airtight jar.
Kallol Choudhary, a Dubai-based Bengali restaurant owner of Pinch of Spice, said: "In the Indian state of West Bengal, ghee rice is offered as an offering to deities and is considered auspicious."
His quick recipe for ghee rice: Simply cook 1 cup of rice with 2 tablespoons of ghee and salt added, serve hot. Another method is to fry the soaked rice in ghee for about 30 minutes, sauté it for 1 minute on medium heat, then cook it. Frying rice for a few minutes will ensure that the rice does not turn mushy when cooked. You can also squeeze in some lemon juice to the boiling water to prevent rice grains from sticking.
Want a little more flavour?
Sauté 1 tablespoon of cashews and raisins in ghee, add along with one bay leaf, a one-inch cinnamon stick, one green cardamom and a green chili. Then, add the rice and mix well. To cook, add 1 cup of lukewarm water to the pan, cook the rice on low flame for 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy this bowl f nutty rice on a cold rainy day.
In the Southern coastal state of India – Kerala, ghee rice is called Nei Choru, where Nei means ghee and choru means rice. It is usually tempered with curry leaves and other locally grown spices such as black pepper, Nei choru or Ney Choru pairs well with chicken curry, mutton curry or any thick gravy dish. Similarly, in the neighbouring Indian state – Tamil Nadu, ghee rice is popularly called Nei Sadam.
More to ghee than rice
Many cooks and chefs use ghee interchangeably with butter, barring the purists. In Indian cooking, clarified butter is popularly smeared on rotis or flatbreads and used in tempering. Spices tempered in clarified butter tastes distinctively different, good of course, with a slightly nutty background note. It is also used to make traditional Indian desserts or sweets such as halwas from semolina or moong (yellow lentils). Roasting the flour with a generous quantity of ghee is how halwas are typically made, the ratio being 1:1. Motichoor ladoos, gulab jamuns and even jalebis use ghee as a binding agent to fry and accentuate the taste.
A spoonful of ghee to start your day
The 'fat first' or Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic diet (a diet based on lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, limits the use of dairy, legumes and grains), is trending amongst people wanting to move to a healthier lifestyle. Dr Merchant tells why the practice of consuming fat first is a good practice. "Taking a spoonful of ghee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach helps to eradicate fat-soluble toxins from your body and kick start the body to burn its own fat," she said.
Another Dubai-based nutritionist Rashi Choudhary shares recipes of different types of fat first drinks one can have in the mornings, such as butter coffee that uses grass-fed butter or ghee.
Try the recipe for a version of ghee rice from West Bengal called Mishti or sweet Pulao:
500 gms gobindobhog rice or chini guro rice, you may also use any short grain rice, but avoid using Basmati rice
3 bay leaves
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
100 gms ghee or clarified butter
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 tsp Bengali garam masala
1 tsp kewra water or screwpine flower water
1 tsp rose water
1. Take gobindobhog or chini guro rice or any short grain rice. Wash and rinse rice thoroughly and soak in water for some time, say about 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Then, in a pot, add water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg and salt. Bring it to a boil.
3. Add the soaked rice to the pot and boil it on a high flame first, give it a stir and continue cooking on low flame. After it is 75 per cent cooked, drain the water. Note: You can test this by taking a few rice grains and pressing them between your forefinger and thumb. The grains should not be mushy but still a little hard to feel.
4. In a nonstick pan on medium heat, add ghee, add half of the cooked rice and mix well. Then, add sugar, garam masala and white pepper. Then add the rest of the cooked rice. Sprinkle Kewra or screwpine flower water and rose water, along with ghee. Cover it for a minute and serve hot.
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