Ghee and chutneys are like key parts of an ayurvedic sandwich. The ghee is the bottom slice of bread; chutneys the top slice. The main stuff goes in the middle, but without that bread, your sandwich wouldn’t be the same.
Ghee is clarified butter. There you have it.
To expound on the topic, clarified butter is when you heat butter to a simmer, thereby pulling out the milk solids and boiling off the water. The result is pure milk fat with no proteins or sugars – this would render the butter digestible for people with dairy allergies and lactose intolerance. If those are properties of interest to you, I recommend you only buy ghee that claims to be casein free and/or lactose free.
Ghee is used as a foundation for many dishes – it provides the oil you’ll saute your aromatics in. It works like olive oil does in Italian cooking. Or pork fat in less health conscious recipes. Ghee gives the silkiness, the fat, that makes life sweet and delicious.
Ghee is considered a prized ingredient in the ayurvedic arsenal. Quality ghee is said to produce ojas, the element considered the foundation of immunity in ayurveda. Ojas is really good. One website said ghee is the recipient of a “crowded river of praise” (1). Wow.
To make the ghee, you just cook the butter at a fairly low temperature and bring it to just a simmer. You don’t want to burn the solids.
Below: About to make some ghee.
Below: Pouring off the ghee. The milk solids are the brown bits you see in the saucepan.
Below: Two ghees – the darker one is close to burned, but OK.
Chef Charlotte Jernigan had us infuse some oils. I chose a roasted peanut oil, added lime and garlic with red pepper flakes. See photo below…
Chutneys are intensely flavored condiments you can eat with breads or along with your main dish. What really helped me envision chutneys was Chef Charlotte’s direction that you’re going for something really salty/spicy/sweet. This is because you want the chutney to hold up to whatever else you’re eating it with. Also, you’re not going to make a meal out of a chutney, so it can be extra salty or spicy. The main idea is to create something really strong and unique to provide a counterpoint to the meal.
I guess you could make a chutney out of a lot of different things, but I ended up making a few variants on the classic coconut+cilantro+spices theme. Another favorite was apple+spices. Chutneys are a great tool to have in my culinary toolbox.
Below: Apple raising chutney at bottom.
Below: A cool, herby and delicious cilantro-coconut chutney. Really great with any Indian meals.
Below: A palate of chutneys! One of them is coconut black peppercorns. A few of them are apple based, and some cilantro based.