Ghee is the name for anhydrous butter fat, an ingredient originating and deeply revered in India. Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and celebrates it as a symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing. 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 butter is melted and the simmered long enough to boil off all the water, during which time it separates into layers and the fat takes on a buttery taste. Ghee is the layer of clear butter fat. The slow cooking needs to be precise, or else the fat layer burns and darkens easily.
One of the oldest memories I have is of my grandmother making ghee; and of me relishing every ingredient in the process. Naani began by starting to collect malai (milk fat) - she would buy cow’s milk for days, and simmer boil it for hours on end in a bronze pot. After the milk cooled down, she skimmed off the thick layer of fat that formed on the top of the milk. She was always gracious enough to ladle out large spoonfuls of this malai into our outstretched bowls. We’d layer our parathas with sugared malai for lunch, instead of the boring sabzi.