I have toyed a little with Indian cooking, learning the bits and pieces I know from my world-traveling husband and friends who are versed in Ayurveda, an Indian science that includes healthful methods for cooking. One of the simplest ingredients used in Ayurvedic cooking is ghee – basically butter that is simmered until the solids separate. Then, the clear golden liquid is poured off and used like oil in cooking. The beauty of this is that the resulting ghee performs more like oil, handling higher temperatures, but has the flavor of butter. You can buy ghee, but it is so easy to make your own using only one easy-to-find ingredient: a pound of unsalted butter.
Ghee can be used in place of oil or butter in pretty much anything. But the whole process is so magical you might want to start out like I did, using your ghee in an Indian dish such as Indian-Spiced Vegetables in Sour Cream. The recipe calls for butter, but I used the more traditional Indian ingredient, ghee.
To make a supply of ghee, simply cut up a pound of butter and let it melt over low heat. When it is melted, increase the heat to medium and you’ll soon notice a white foam rising to the top.
The butter will start to crackle and pop – really! This is the sound of the moisture evaporating. If it gets too wild and spatters, turn your temperature down a bit.
No stirring is needed so far, but keep an eye on your butter because after about 7-10 minutes, the foam will subside and the crackling will slow way down.
Now you begin to stir for about 5 more minutes. A bubbly foam will rise to the top; keep pushing it aside to check on the solids that have now sunk to the bottom of the pot.
As soon as you notice the solids are browning, immediately remove the pot from the heat. It’s important to not burn the solids or they’ll impart a burnt flavor to your ghee. You want a nice toasty flavor instead.
Now, simply pour the clear liquid into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Many recipes call for straining through two layers of cheesecloth or a mesh strainer, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you pour slowly, it works quite well.
Isn’t it beautiful? You now have about 1 ½ cups of ghee to use in place of butter or oil in your cooking. When using ghee, keep in mind these two important rules: Always use a clean dry utensil when scooping out your ghee, and keep your ghee in the fridge where it can last 4 months according to my Indian cookbook. You really shouldn’t wait that long to use it, however!
Which brings us to our recipe: Indian-Spiced Vegetables in Sour Cream.
This recipe takes 15 minutes to assemble and then slow-cooks for 4-5 hours. Get all your spices and ingredients prepared and you’re practically done! In one or several small prep bowls, measure out your spices – coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt. Peel a 1-2 inch chunk of the funky-shaped gingerroot with a paring knife, and then finely chop with larger knife.
Finely chop the garlic, and then the jalapeño, removing the insides and seeds of the chile pepper to keep the heat manageable. Many people wear gloves for this task; if you don’t, remember to wash your hands with soap afterward, and take care not to touch your eyes or face for a while after cutting hot chiles. I try to touch only the outside of the pepper, scraping out the insides with my knife, and chopping without touching the pepper pieces. Be careful!
Now, open the can of garbanzos, measure the broth and cut the cauliflower into 2-inch pieces. For the cauliflower, rinse well and begin by tearing off the outer green leaves.
Then use a knife to cut out the base of the cauliflower.
When you pull out the core it should look something like this. Remove any of the leaf bottoms still attached.
Begin detaching the ‘little trees’ of cauliflower by cutting at the base of the core.
Continue until all of the ‘trees’ are on your cutting board. Cut any large trees in half so they’re closer to 2 inches, but err on the side of larger than 2 inches. They’re going to cook for quite a while.
At this point all your ingredients should be prepared and ready for action!
Heat your 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat with the ¼ cup butter or an equal amount of ghee. I used my ghee, which you may notice has solidified after a few hours in the refrigerator. It’s still quite soft.
When the ghee is hot or the butter is sizzling, add your spices – including the chopped gingerroot and garlic – and stir until they’re brown. Not more than 1-2 minutes.
Pour in the chicken broth, jalapeños, garbanzos and cauliflower pieces and stir. Don’t worry too much about coating everything.
Next, pour it all into your slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Use a spatula to get all of the delicious spices from your pan and give everything an extra stir to coat the cauliflower. As you cook this dish, you can’t help but notice the lovely fragrance!
An hour or so before dinner time, I prepared some white basmati rice and made some chapatis – a simple whole wheat flat bread common in India. None of this is necessary, but it did make a nice meal, and I got to brush my magical golden ghee onto my chapatis as if I were in India. If you are not so ambitious – most people aren’t, and that is OK – you could easily substitute warm pita breads and brush them with butter or ghee for a delicious addition to your meal.
The kitchen is fragrant and alive with spice! Fifteen minutes before dinner, turn the slow cooker to High, quickly add the frozen peas and sour cream, stir to combine, and cover and continue cooking as you get the table ready.
Serve the cilantro and some chutney on the side as options, and you have a lovely Indian-inspired meal.
I definitely recommend a spoonful of hot mango chutney, and if the spicing of this dish is too hot for you, add a little sour cream or plain yogurt for a cooling effect. My husband exclaimed, “This is very spicy for a Land O'Lakes recipe!”
This dish was a delight, and a little out of the ordinary for our family. I am always amazed at the sweetness of cauliflower when cooked perfectly as in this recipe. Try these Indian-Spiced Vegetables in Sour Cream for yourself, and let me know if you feel as exotic as we did. I’d love to hear your comments!
Check back in a few days to see a fall-appropriate treat from Amanda.
Liz is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recip