Thursday, 29 August 2013

Spice - Saffron

Hi peeps!

Welcome to another Thursday. As promised last week; every Thursday we will be adding another herb or spice to our Spice Rack. We get intimate with Saffron today and I am no different than the next chef; Saffron has to be one of the best ingredients to add to your dishes. Here's some facts and info about this amazing little spice.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the entire world. It is harvested from the crocus sativus or more commonly known as the saffron crocus. Only in mid-autumn do they flower. Harvests are by necessity a speedy affair: after blossoming at dawn, flowers quickly wilt as the day passes. All plants bloom within a window of one or two weeks. Roughly 150 flowers together yield but 1 g (0.035 oz) of dry saffron threads; to produce 12 g (0.42 oz) of dried saffron (or 72 g (2.5 oz) moist and freshly harvested), 1 kg (2.2 lb) of flowers are needed; 1 lb (0.45 kg) yields 0.2 oz (5.7 g) of dried saffron. One freshly picked flower yields an average 30 mg (0.0011 oz) of fresh saffron or 7 mg (0.00025 oz) dried. To put it bluntly, it takes over 75,000 saffron plants to produce just under one pound of saffron and this is why saffron remains the world's most expensive spice. Lucky for us; a little saffron goes a long way! According to Medical MD, here are some other uses of saffron:

Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough (pertussis), and to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant). It is also used for sleep problems (insomnia), cancer, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), intestinal gas (flatulence), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, spitting up blood (hemoptysis), pain, heartburn, and dry skin.
Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to prevent early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility.
Saffron is also used for to increase interest in sex (as an aphrodisiac) and to induce sweating.
Some people apply saffron directly to the scalp for baldness (alopecia).
In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.

How does it work?
There isn't enough information to know how saffron might work.

In the kitchen: In foods, saffron is used as a spice, yellow food coloring, and as a flavoring agent; it is sweet and but one or two little pieces can flavour and colour an entire dish beautifully! Let's take a look at a saffron recipe now:

LAMB TAGINE - Allrecipe

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 pounds lamb meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 carrots, peeled, cut into fourths, then sliced lengthwise into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lemon, zested
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 (14.5 ounce) can homemade chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch saffron
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
1 tablespoon water (optional)

Place diced lamb in a bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and set aside. In a large resealable bag, toss together the paprika, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, ginger, saffron, garlic powder, and coriander; mix well. Add the lamb to the bag, and toss around to coat well. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of the lamb, and brown well. Remove to a plate, and repeat with remaining lamb. Add onions and carrots to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh garlic and ginger; continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and stir in the lemon zest, chicken broth, tomato paste, and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender.

If the consistency of the tagine is too thin, you may thicken it with a mixture of cornstarch and water during the last 5 minutes.

I think its only fair that we have a saffron dessert to accompany the gorgeous Lamb Tagine:

Ingredients: (made 2 small ramekins of mousse)

8-oz. plain, yogurt (about 1 cup) [Or Greek style yogurt- skip the draining if you are using this]

A generous Pinch of Saffron

2 tbsp of Rose Petal Honey (Recipe below)[ may be substituted with sugar, or any natural sweetners like agave nectar. I have used the honey here to keep the flavor of the rose consistent] – use more or less to taste

About 6 Tablespoons of Low Fat Milk

1 Tablespoon chopped Organic Rose Petals (I used the roses from our garden ) – Can use more if you want (The Chef Mother insists that you check before using just any flowers and insists that you make sure the flowers you are to eat are one hundred percent edible first.)

A little less than 1/2 Teaspoon of Unflavored Gelatin (Or any gelatin substitute like Agar Agar)

Vegetable oil to very light grease the ramekins

More Rose Petals & Slivered Almonds for Garnish(Optional)

For the Honey:
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Loosely packed Organic Rose Petals of any fragrant rose

To Prepare the Honey:

Wash the rose petals. Dry them lightly .. pat with paper towels.

Lightly fill a jar ( I used a small bowl, since I made in real small amount), & pour the honey over it.

Let it stand for a few days to a couple of weeks. It gets more fragrant with time.

Preparing the Mousse:

Drain yogurt in a paper-towel-lined/or cheese cloth sieve. Press and stir with a large spoon & then leave to drain. Put the bowl in refrigerator.

After 10 -12 hours the liquid will have strained through enough that the yogurt in sieve & the yogurt will be thick and creamy. (even better if drained overnight/24 hrs) – The draining step may be skipped if you are using the thick Greek Style Yogurt.

Transfer to a clean bowl. Whisk it well in the bowl to make it fluffy & airy.

Gently crush the saffron threads between your fingers. Blend it in with the yogurt. Set aside & let it sit for a couple of hours for the flavor of the saffron to be infused. The Yogurt will take on the light yellow color from the saffron.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 Tablespoon water in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften. Heat the milk in the microwave for about 40 seconds or till almost boiling hot. Stir gelatin until dissolved & there are no lumps.

Mix yogurt, rose petals & honey.

Mix a little yogurt into gelatin and then mix the gelatin into the rest of the yogurt, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk them together well again to blend & fluff.

Line the Ramekins with vegetable oil.

You can line them with a few rose petals if you want. Spoon the yogurt mix in to the ramekins. Cover & put them in a refrigerator and chill until it sets.

To Assemble:

Before serving place a plate over the ramekin, turn it over & tap the ramekin lightly for it to come out.

Drizzle some rose petal honey over the mousse before serving completely chilled.

Interesting, right?! Well, when you have a few extra bucks to splash out on; go get yourself some saffron and try out these awesome recipes. Sounds like the perfect "Impress Me" lunch without a doubt!

See ya'll for tomorrow's blog!
Saffron hugs*
Chef Shants xxxxx

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