- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
When I left my home country of India behind, there was very little I could take in my 40-kilogram baggage allowance. Even with this limited capacity, leaving behind my vat of ghee was never an option. Ghee, or clarified butter, is made from milk fat and is used extensively in Indian cooking (and baking!) My mother would slather it on rotis, bread, rice, my hair—anything at all—for its nutritious value and healing properties. According to her, it’s not apples, but a spoon of ghee a day that keeps the doctors away.
One of my favorite uses for ghee is the sacred dish karah prasad, a simple sweet made with whole-wheat flour, sugar, and of course, plenty of ghee. A variation on the halwa often found in Gujarati, Tamilian, Israeli, North African cuisines, in Sikh households, karah prasad is traditionally served at the end of a prayer service in a gurdwara, as well as made at home.
With the karah prasad, ghee is very much the pièce de résistance—the better quality ghee you buy, the richer your prasad will be. Consequently, there is no way to substitute this liquid gold. For that matter, considering the simplicity of the recipe, no ingredient can be substituted, not even sugar. While the prasad derives its name from the dish in which it is cooked, the karahi can be replaced with a heavy-bottomed nonstick, enamel-coated, or stainless steel saucepan.
While making the prasad, avoid overheating the ghee—it should crackle, but not darken in color; this would only cause the flour to burn after you add it. Once the prasad is ready, serve it hot in a bowl. Or better yet, in cupped hands. Bow your head to it. Consume with childlike joy. Once you’ve finished, rub the excess ghee all over your hands. Feel at home, even 6872 kilometers away. —Sahej M
(1 heaping cup) atta flour
(1 scant cup) melted ghee
(1 heaping cup) granulated sugar
Chopped almonds, cashews, or pistachios, for serving (optional)
- In a karahi or a heavy-bottom, high-sided medium saucepan, melt the ghee over low heat. Keep cooking until it starts to crackle.
- While mixing constantly with a wooden spoon, gradually add the whole-wheat flour to the ghee. Once combined, increase the heat to medium. Continuing to mix constantly, let the mixture toast with the ghee until it turns golden-brown and emanates a nutty fragrance, 10 to 12 minutes. At this point, the mixture should not stick together as a cohesive mass, but can range from resembling coarse sand to porridge. The flour should be integrated completely with ghee. Once the mixture has darkened slightly (about the color of toffee), about 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low.
- Still stirring constantly, slowly add 2 cups of water to the mixture. This mixture tends to bubble and splutter, but constant mixing and adding water gradually helps control this. You may need to add an additional 1 cup of water if the mixture is so stiff it’s difficult to mix. Mix until it reaches a thick soup-like consistency, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Continue mixing for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the karah prasad reaches a smooth, velvety consistency. If the mixture is lumpy, stir in a bit more water. The prasad is done cooking when it stops sticking to the sides of the pan and has a fudge-like texture. Remove from the heat. Serve hot directly from the saucepan.
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