ayurvedic

Punjabi Bharta

I love Indian food. I honestly could eat it every single day. I particularly love Punjabi food. Punjab is the northern region of India and happens to be where my husband grew up. He normally does the Indian cooking in our house, but lately I have been feeling super inspired. The last time we visited India I would spend hours in the kitchen with my Auntie watching her work her magic. It was an experience I can't quite put into words. She had a sixth sense when it came to seasoning dishes without even needing to taste them and could roll out a roti with her bare hands in a matter of seconds. 

Bharta is one of my husband's all-time favorite dishes. Bharta means eggplant in Punjabi. This dish is nurturing, smoky and delicious. Indian food is designed to have an ease on the digestive track. I stuck to tradition with this recipe as I feel like it is perfect the way it is. Traditionally served over white Basmati rice, topped with ghee and with a side or yogurt or next to a roti or naan. 

Ingredients:

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  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/3 c frozen peas
  • 3 T ghee
  • 1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, cumin seed, curry powder and smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp each turmeric, fennel seed and ajwain (caraway seed)
  • 1/4 tsp  each ground cardamom and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

First step is to "smoke" or roast the eggplant. I do this by using two medium to large cast iron pans. Over medium high heat, place the eggplants into a dry cast iron skillet and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the eggplants slightly so that the surface right next to the one you just cooked can be cooked. Continue to rotate every 5 minutes or so until the whole outside of the eggplant is charcoaled. Place the second pan, fave down over the top of the pan and turn the stove off. Let sit for an hour and sweat. Remove the eggplants from the plan, the skin should easily slip off. Remove all the skip and place the eggplant into a high speed blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until you have an eggplant puree. 

In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, melt the ghee on medium heat. Add all the spices and stir until fragrant. Toasting your spices in ghee before adding any other ingredients, releases the flavor as well as activates the turmeric. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on medium-low heat until the onions are very soft (10-15 minutes). You want them to be transparent and starting to caramelize. Add the tomato paste and water (start with 1/4 cup, if it seems too thick, continue to add water 1 T at a time. You want it to be a thick gravy-like consistently). Add salt, eggplant and peas. Stir until combined and taste to adjust salt. Serve over steamed rice and top with yogurt 

GHEE: The Good Fat

HISTORY

Ghee comes from a sanskrit word meaning "clarified butter." It had been used in Indian culture for over 5000 years. It is made by simmering butter at a low temperature until the milk fat has separated. The impurities are skimmed off the top and the golden liquid is strained through cheese cloth and the residue on the bottom is discarded. Because the milk solids are removed, it can be left at room temperature and won't go rancid. 

Ghee may be the single most important ingredient in Indian cooking. It is a staple in their household and the beginning of all Indian dishes. Ghee is held with high regard as it is made with butter from cow milk. Cows are a sacred animal in India. The mother cow is revered as the physical manifestation of the Goddess as she nurtures and mothers all of us with her nectar. Because the milk solids have been removed, it withstands high heat without becoming caustic or burning. It it also used as a base in Ayurvedic remedies as many of the Ayurvedic adaptogens are fat soluble. This means that their effect and your ability to absorb their benefits in greatly increased when fat is the carrier. 

WHY GHEE?

Ghee is a wonderful source of fat for many reasons. As I mentioned before it is great for high heat cooking, but it is also super nourishing for the body. Some of the benefits of ghee includes, but are not limited to:

  • Free of lactose and casein (all my lactose intolerance friends and family, you can have ghee!)

  • High in fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K

  • High in Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid beneficial to gut health. It causes the growth and repair of new tissues in the digestive tract. Butyric acid also balanced and strengthens gut flora and can help to combat candida.

  • Because it is high in medium chain fatty acids, ghee helps support a healthy metabolism and supports weight loss

  • Digestive Health

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Brain Health: Saturated fat is essential for proper brain health and ghee is one of the highest quality saturated fats available.

  • In Ayurveda there is a term called “Ojas” or life force. Ghee is revered for being high in Ojas and giving vitality and life to the mind, body and spirit.

Any recipe that calls for oil or butter, ghee can replace. I use it to roast veggies, sauté, fry, bake. I drink 1 T of ghee in my latte every morning. It nourishes my body and “gets things going.”

WHY MAKE YOUR OWN

I've been eating ghee for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mom used it to make Kitcheree  (I will share my recipe soon, but in the meantime check out THIS one), spread on toast, add to popcorn and melted over steamed veggies. It wasn't something you found regularly on the grocery store shelves, so we made it ourselves. In the last 5 years, ghee has become more and more popular in the United States. There are a lot of wonderful ghee products out there, but I personally feel that many of them are overpriced for what you get. I find it to be quite important that my ghee is organic. Ghee made from conventional butter may have GMOs, pesticides and toxins. If you can find organic and grass-fed butter, that is even better. If you have to choose between organic and grass-fed, I would go with the organic. 

HOW TO

There are several ways to make ghee at home. I am going to share my favorite. It is easier then you can imagine, costs under $5 and once you start you will be wondering why you haven't been doing it all along. All you need is a pound of organic, unsalted butter.

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Step 1

Start with 1 lb of organic, unsalted butter. I usually get mine at Trader Joe’s as it is affordable.

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Step 2

Place butter in a saucepan and put on your stove over medium heat. Once the butter is completely melted, lower the heat to medium-low

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Step 3

As the butter simmers, the fat solids will rise to the top (some will also fall to the bottom). The process of separation takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes. You will know when it is done when you use a spoon to scoop some of the solids off the tops and the liquid underneath is a clear golden color.

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Step 4

This is what the milk solids will look like when the ghee is done. Remove from heat. To make the straining easier, you may choose to spoon the milk solids off the top and discard.

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Step 5

Place a piece of cheesecloth that has been folded over several times over a glass jar and slowly pour the ghee into the jar. Keep an eye to make sure that no milk solids are falling through (if so, you just need to do a second strain.)

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Step 6

You now have your very own, homemade ghee. If you want the ghee to be super creamy (like fourth and heart), put it in the freezer overnight and take it out in the morning. If you want a more traditional ghee texture, leave it on your counter. Store at room temperature.

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN

90% of the time I make my own ghee, but there are those weeks when I just don't have time or I wanted to get some fun flavors to add to my dishes. When those times arise, I reach for Ahara Rasa Ghee or Fourth and Heart . Ahara Rasa is a local Portland company that is both organic and grass fed. I love them as they have fun flavors like garlic & lemon, chai spice and vanilla. Fourth and Heart, though not organic has a delicious creamy texture (you get that by putting your ghee in the freezer while it is still hot) and is made from New Zealand dairy (they have different standards then the US).

Whether you choose to make your own ghee or buy it form the store, it is a great fat to add to your diet.