A few weeks ago when I ran the Marinade 101 series I spoke briefly about Saffron. I mentioned it was the most expensive spice in the world and a few varieties it comes in. Decided to talk about it today at length and another million dollar ingredient…Lobster.
What is Saffron?
Saffron is the yellow-orange-red stigma(s) from a small purple saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), and yes it’s the world’s most expensive spice. That’s because each flower provides only three (3) red stigmas. So, one (1) ounce of saffron = approximately 14,000 of these tiny saffron threads. The tiny red threads of saffron must be handpicked from the center of the crocus flower. They leave behind the yellow stamens which have no taste. This spice comes either powdered or in threads (the whole stigmas).
Saffron isn’t overrated for its wallet boring cost. Its strong flavour does not allow you to use too much of it so a little goes a long way and very long way for that matter. It also keeps for a long time but it must be stored a in a real cool and dry place away from sunlight for maximum freshness.
How To Prep Saffron
Heat is what gets saffron going. So, soak it in some hot liquid like water or stock before adding to the dish this you can soak the saffron for 15 minutes to 2 hours before using! also helps distribute the colour round evenly. If you are in a hurry or have forgotten to soak the saffron, add 5 teaspoons of liquid for every teaspoon of saffron. Let it soak for 20 minutes. Using the back of a spoon or in your ceramic mortar, mash the threads so that a thick paste is formed.
What You Can Do With Saffron
For me the number one thing saffron was created for is paella.
Paella is a Spanish seafood Jollof rice to quite frank. It usually is a mixture of chicken, prawns, squid, mussels, chorizo sausage and fresh parsley and spring onions. The bright yellow colour that paella has is from good quality saffron. Even in Spain, saffron is expensive but still relatively affordable since it’s something use can use little and it would yield great results. However, they are saffron “substitutes” and “flavourings” that are also widely available especially the powder which is most popular. I mean not everyone can break the bank?! If you buy Powdered saffron please note that it loses its flavor quickly and can easily be adulterated with less-expensive powders like turmeric. Buying cheaper saffron won’t save money in the long run, since more will be needed for the same flavor impact.
Again for me I find saffron most iconic in the classic Lobster Bisque. It’s a soup made from cooking down broken down shells of the lobster with tomato puree, some white wine, stock from boiling the lobster, a medley of carrots, garlic, leeks and onions. Its usually finished with some cream and saffron is added when the shells are braising to extract the maximum flavour.
Saffron is also amazing with a long braised oxtail or cut of veal or chicken legs. I found out recently some people are making saffron ice-cream these days. Well Ice-cream factory and I have some talking to do I guess then.
Saffron, in whatever form you buy, it is a great accessory to your pantry so that day you feel like showing off to whomever you have invited for lunch or dinner.
I recommend you buy saffron from Dubai duty free it’s reasonably priced there. In Lagos, you can find it at Park n Shop they carry the Natco Spice brand one or at L’epicerie or La pOinte supermarket in Victoria Island. The latter two would be more expensive but the Park n Shop you could still find it for N1,500 for 0.5grams of the perfumy strands of rouge!
Now let’s move on to another big daddy of food – LOBSTER!
After the euphoria of eating juicy prawns comes the king of all satisfaction… The lobster. In all honesty the prawn almost tastes like it has a more predominant flavour over the lobster. However, in my opinion, the lobster is supreme because it tastes like a really delicate fish and a good prawn at the same time.
Depending on the quality and type of lobster you’re having you could even feel like you’re easting some good scallops as well. So that’s the trip for me.
Lobsters and prawns have a serious price gap between them. I think that however, it should not stop you from having it every now and then.
In Nigeria here we usually get them frozen and we get a variety I am frankly not the biggest fan of ‘condition causes the crayfish to posses a curved posture right?’
How To Cook a Lobster
The fastest way to cook a lobster is plunge it in boiling water for a few minutes then place in ice cold water to shock it and stop the cooking. Twist of the head and remove the orange coral and the meat and remove the tail meat which has the most meat. The claws need to be cracked slightly and prised apart and have the meat extracted. The head can be boiled further with some onions and garlic to make a stock for some paella. seafood okro or whatever dish you fancy.
When the meat is extracted you can add it to a really good white wine sauce that has fresh herbs such as parsley and chervil running through it. or a spicy tomato sauce that would be served over fresh pasta.
Cut the raw lobster in half splitting it from the spine down and season with a good seafood seasoning mix or whatever you fancy really or just some salt, garlic and lemon.
Grill over hot coals or in a grill pan. And serve with some roasted potatoes and a salad.
If you find all this too much then try it with your special seafood Okro or give them fresh fish and lobster Egusi!
These ingredients maybe me some Louboutin and Prada shopping for your kitchen but life is that short not to buy it once in a while. Target your 21st. 25th, 40th, anniversary, She said yes, you you won the jackpot… whatever the case give yourself that good enough reason.
A special shout out to Alima Okon for her recipe she shared with me!
Have a great weekend people!
Photo Credit: Google Images
Chef Fregz loves to cook! He is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris Culinary Arts School in France and hosts monthly “Chef Fregz Specials” where he whips up a yummy menu with a different theme each time then everyone enjoys a taste.He also caters special events and private dinners. To find out more visit www.cheffregz.com.Chef Fregz provides premium private catering services. For bookings and orders email [email protected] @Chef_Fregz on Instagram and Twitter. You can check out the Chef Fregz Page on Facebook as well.