Blog - Curry Twist

The Glory Of Saffron

Order tandoori chicken in an Indian restaurant anywhere in the world, and you will find it colored a bright orange. Ask the chef, “Why orange?” and he will probably say that it is tradition – it has always been prepared so.

To understand why tandoori chicken is orange you must go back more than a thousand years, to the days when the great Arab alchemists labored to convert base metals into gold. They discarded one formula after another until they found a magical substance that colored anything it touched gold. They called it zafaran; the English modified the name only slightly, to saffron.

Saffron comes from crocus bulbs that flower two weeks in a year, each violet blossom enclosing three orange stigmas. Delicately plucked by hand and dried, a stigma becomes an inch long strand of saffron. A million strands weigh only a little over four pounds, making saffron the most expensive spice known.

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Arab alchemists also developed theories of dietetics, using scientific principles to develop healing sauces. Saffron was the most important ingredient in their repertoire, believed to possess miraculous powers. It had brought them the closest they ever got to creating gold; surely, they reasoned, it had therapeutic properties as well. Saffron became essential to Arab cuisine and the most highly regarded dishes were those with a golden hue. All shades of yellow were thought auspicious: cookbooks recommended using turmeric or safflower if saffron was too expensive.

Medieval Europeans adopted many Arab theories, including those on alchemy, dietetics and cooking. Saffron grew well in temperate western climates and became the most popular spice for cooking. All chefs learned the technique of endoring, basting meats with saffron and egg yolks to give them a golden glow.

India’s Muslim rulers developed a taste for Arab and Persian cuisine, including their fondness for saffron. The seventeenth century emperor Jahangir personally inspected saffron fields in Kashmir. Saffron became the hallmark of royal kitchens, symbolizing richness and sophistication. Indian restaurants still carry on that tradition, striving to obtain the color of saffron even if they have to resort to food colouring when the spice itself is too expensive to use. And they will never, ever, serve tandoori chicken that is not the right shade of orange.

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Although saffron is expensive, a little bit goes a long way, especially if it is of good quality. The traditional, and still the best, way to use saffron in cooking is by soaking it in some warm milk to draw out it's colour, aroma and flavour. Keep your saffron in a sealed bag in the freezer and it will remain fresh for a very long time.

Saffron Rosewater Ice Cream With Pistachios

This addictive ice cream is wonderful served with fresh berries too. If you wish to make it egg-less, substitute a can of condensed milk for the egg custard base. For more recipes cooking with saffron, try grilled Saffron Chicken Tikka or this delicious Chicken Biryani or this unusual Roll Cake!

1 can (354ml) evaporated milk

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 tsp saffron threads

1/4 cup + 3 tbsp sugar, divided

3 large egg yolks

3 tbsp rosewater

2 tbsp unsalted, unroasted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Combine evaporated milk, whipping cream, saffron and 1/4 cup sugar in heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to very low and keep warm, stirring occasionally. Don't worry if a skin starts forming over milk, it will be integrated into the ice cream later.

Meanwhile, half fill a large saucepan with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Combine egg yolks, remaining 3 tbsp sugar and the rosewater in a rounded bowl big enough to fit over the saucepan without touching the water.

Beat with a whisk until thickened, increased in volume and lightened in colour, about 4 min. Remove from heat and continue beating for 1 more min until smooth.

One by one, add 2 ladles of the warm saffron milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking gently after each addition to bring it up to temperature.

Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan containing remainder of the warm saffron milk, whisking gently to incorporate. Increase heat to medium low and continue whisking for about 5-7 min until milk thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped pistachios.

Cool ice cream mixture at room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer to a rounded bowl, cover tightly and freeze overnight.

Remove from freezer, uncover and rest at room temperature for 1 hour or until ice cream is starting to thaw and soften. Break up ice cream into smaller pieces with a knife. Using a hand blender, blend ice cream until it is smooth and no lumps remain. It is OK to have the pistachios remain chunky.

Cover and freeze again for another 2 hours or longer.

Alternatively you can churn ice cream in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer's directions.

Scoop into serving bowls and serve.

Serves Four

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Wedding Cake In San Francisco

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" goes the old song and it perfectly expresses our feelings, for so did we! There recently to see our son Rohan wed his lovely new bride Adora, we fell in love with this charming city and the momentous occasion that brought us together.

The ceremony took place in the rotunda of beautiful San Francisco City Hall, with family members from both sides in attendance. Adora has been a part of our lives for many years, during which we have come to know her and love her, but officially welcoming her into our family was an especially joyful moment for us. Another foodie is just what we needed!

A trip to San Francisco is always a good excuse to see the sights of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge is such an iconic scene that it is well worth driving out of town to see it. We were even lucky to get some sunshine during our drive!

San Francisco is such a compact city that you can see most of it on foot. The steep hills require you to be in good shape if you are planning to do much walking. Toiling up Powell Street can give you quite a workout, and you still need to have enough energy to skip out of the way of cable cars hurtling down the hill!

The gracious row houses lining the streets are another sight synonymous with San Francisco. The Painted Ladies, a row of historic Victorian houses are the most famous and the most photographed. Their beautiful, intricate painted designs and detailing are worth a trip to Alamo Square.

And for shoppers, the stores surrounding Union Square are an irresistible draw. I was spoiled for choice with so many big name flagship stores in one place! And when shopping gets tiring, there is a huge granite plaza bordered with swaying palm trees and cafes in which to relax and watch the world go by.  

San Francisco also has the largest and oldest Chinatown in North America. It still sprawls over a large area, combining restaurants,  grocery stores and herbal medicine shops with historic churches, buildings and even the famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory!
The best known dim sum restaurant, Yank Sing is worth visiting for fantastic food. It is one of few restaurants that still have carts trundling around, filled to the brim with delicately steamed, delicious dumplings.

A joyous wedding is best followed by a memorable meal and our celebration continued at renowned chef Michael Mina's award winning restaurant. His delicious, contemporary, creative dishes such as sesame oil infused ahi tuna tartare, seared fish with mushrooms in dashi broth and succulent beef wrapped in puff pastry filled us with even more joy!

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What's a wedding without cake? Adora, an avid, accomplished baker has created this gorgeous roll cake just for this blog. Easy to make at home, these delicious slices of soft orange scented sponge cake with saffron cream will fill you with happiness!

Orange Cardamom Roll Cake With Saffron Cream Filling

For the filling:

80 ml whipping cream

30g white chocolate chips

A pinch of saffron

For the cake:

25g unsalted butter

1 tbsp fresh orange zest

25g cake flour

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

50g sugar

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

To prepare the filling, warm cream in microwave until scalding, about 1 min. Stir in chocolate chips and saffron until completely melted. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease an 8X8 baking pan and line with parchment, creating an overlap on all sides to help lift cake. Set aside an extra 8X12 sheet of parchment, (for later use in the recipe).

To make cake, melt butter in microwave for about 30 sec. Add orange zest.

Combine flour and ground cardamom in separate bowl.

Combine egg yolks and half of sugar with hand mixer until thickened and pale in colour, about 2 min.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites (with clean mixer blades) and remaining sugar, until soft peaks form, about 2-3 min. Add egg yolk mixture and beat until combined, about 1 min.

Sift in half the flour mixture, folding it in with a spatula and lifting it from the bottom to keep it light and aerated. Add remaining flour mixture, folding and lifting to aerate.

Fold in orange zest butter until just combined (melt it again if necessary).

Pour batter into center of cake pan, spreading it into an even layer with spatula. Tap pan on counter to remove any air bubbles.

Bake cake for 10-12 min until golden and spongy to the touch. Immediately lift cake onto work surface using parchment overlap handles (keep parchment under cake).

Working while cake is still warm, place extra sheet of parchment on top of cake, sandwiching it between the two sheets of parchment. Flip cake upside down and peel off top sheet of parchment. Roll cake tightly (like a sushi roll), using bottom parchment as guide. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whip reserved chilled saffron cream chocolate mixture with hand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Unroll cake and spread cream filling evenly over top, leaving a 2 cm border all around. Roll cake tightly (without squeezing out the filling!) and wrap in parchment, pressing gently to shape it. Refrigerate for 30 min.

Unwrap cake, trim edges and cut into 1 inch thick slices, wiping excess cream off knife for neat edges.

Serves Eight
Many thanks to Adora for cake recipe and photos!

Congratulations Rohan and Adora!