Results tagged “saffron”

Mackerel escabeche

italy, spain
This recipe is adapted from one by Thomasina Miers. Escabeche usually refers to a technique of frying fish and then marinating it in a vinegary liquid with onions, spices and herbs. Flavourings vary enormously from country to country; escabeche is popular in Italy, Spain, Latin America and the Philippines.

smmackerelescabeche0009.jpgThis dish is a relative of good old fish and chips, which is not as British as one might think. They share origins in a dish beloved of the Shahs of Persia some 1500 years ago - sikbāj - sweet and sour stewed beef. This later made its way around the Arabic world, with fish replacing beef in Christian parts. The amazing history is told by Prof Dan Jurafsky on his blog, 'The Language of Food'.

Dan writes: "The word escabeche came to Spanish from Catalan, which acquired it from its neighbour, Occitan, who got it from the Genoese, who stole it from the Neapolitans, and so on, back eventually east to the Arabic of Baghdad and the Persian of Ctesiphon." And the story continues with the Jews being expelled from Spain and Portugal and going to northern Europe, taking their fish dishes with them. Finally, in England, Belgian frites were married with battered and fried fish doused with vinegar: fish and chips.

Fabada Asturiana

This hearty stew hails from Asturias, in northern Spain, where they grow the best white beans.  The beans are dried and then used in this dish year-round. It really is the beans that make the dish - they are large, white and uniquely creamy and should be the most expensive ingredient in your stew since true fabas Asturianas sell for a small fortune.  This dish does not take much effort, but do give it time - five or so hours if possible.  There is probably nothing better on a dark, chilly evening than a steaming bowl of smoky fabada accompanied by a glass of deep red Rioja.


Pistils at dawn

Smbarnabysaffron0001.jpgToday Barnaby got up before dawn, for the first time ever.  He'd heard there was 'vegetable gold' growing up in the mountains around Taliouine here in Morocco.  But all he could find were tiny green leaves growing in tiny square plots of earth.

Then Barnaby noticed a beautiful purple flower.  He thought it was lovely.

Some women who were up at dawn too told him to pick the flowers, carefully pull out the bright red three-pronged pistils, dry them and use them as a spice in his tagines and couscous dishes.  Great, thought Barnaby; he'd found the vegetable gold!

But then he found out you need to pick 150 flowers to make just 1g of spice.  And picking pistils out of crocuses with paws isn't easy.  No wonder saffron's the most expensive product in the world!


Smsaffron0001.jpg‘Saffron’ comes from the Arabic ‘az-za'fran’, which in stems from a Semitic root meaning ‘to be/become yellow’.  Via the mediaeval Latin - ‘safranum’ -  the name spread to almost all European languages and many non European ones also.  The word is recognisable in Hindi, Amharic, Finnish, Japanese, Hebrew and even Basque, to name but a few. 

Saffron is the dried stigma of a particular autumn flowering crocus, which was probably first cultivated in the Bronze Age in or near Greece.

Bouillabaisse-marinated prawns with saffron aïoli

Apologies for the two week interval.  It turns out a) restaurant work takes up almost all one's waking hours, and b) there are a load of cool (some might say nerdy) saffron facts.   So, finally, here's a tasty and delicious party snack, complete with absolutely fascinating saffron information with which to impress your guests.  I developed this recipe while dreaming up hors d’oeuvres for my father-in-law’s 70th birthday party last month.  I like bouillabaisse and I like prawns.  It was as simple as that.

Smbouillabaisseprawns0001.jpgAll is still going well at Chez Panisse.  Having not ruined any dishes yet, they are bravely letting me stay on a while longer, which is fantastic.  In the last two weeks I have cut up a few more animals and there are still some lambs and pigs hanging in the 'walk-in' waiting to be butchered.  I've also been filmed slicing potatoes on a mandolin for 'Good Morning America', whatever that is.  (Never have I concentrated so hard on not cutting off a finger.)  And I've made a selection of soups, one of which was described as 'very nice' by the chef, which made my week, if not my whole month. 

Chez Panisse always uses what's in season, so we're mainly cooking with tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, aubergines, peppers, figs, chanterelles, courgettes and beautiful fresh cannellini, cranberry, butter beans and the like.  I'm learning loads of new dishes, some of which I hope to write up for you one day when I'm not either sleeping or peeling onions.


Culinary Anthropologist