Category Archives: saffron

Saffron Toasts

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It doesn’t get much easier than a recipe with only four ingredients.  These golden toasts from King Arthur Flour taste like a savory and earthy biscotti.  I love them since they are fast and easy to make. They are good on their own but absolutely delicious when served along side a hearty tomato soup, corn and vegetable chowder or pumpkin soup.  Talk about the ultimate in comfort food.

SAFFRON TOASTS

1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm water

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Soak the saffron threads in the water for 10-15 minutes to soften them for baking.  Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color, thickened, and foamy.
  • Stir in the saffron and water.  Lightly sprinkle the flour over the surface of the  mixture and fold it in gently.  The mix will be thick and sponge-like, full of air and deep yellow in color.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes.  The edges will be well browned and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the loaf out onto a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay each slice on a baking sheet making sure that the cut sides are facing up (and down).
  • Place the pan under the broiler until the toasts begin to darken at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip each slice over and broil the reverse side as well.
  • Allow the toasts to cool completely before serving.  Store in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 3 weeks.

Yield:  16-18 slices

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Roasted Chicken, Corn & Saffron Soup

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Some days just call for soup. Here in Belgium, even though the calendar says it is spring, we still have days that are decidedly chilly. And when it is cool outside nothing warms the body more than a comforting bowl of soup. Chicken soup is a family favorite and this soup, from Saveur , proves that not all chicken soups are the same.

You start by roasting your own chicken, which is incredibly easy (and as a bonus the cooking of the chicken takes the chill off of the house on a cool day). If you aren’t up to roasting your own bird, or are pressed for time, you can substitute a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken but then you won’t have the rich pan drippings which add so much flavor and depth to the soup. The soup is studded with both corn and noodles and the surprising addition of saffron adds both a rich golden color and an earthiness that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

This definitely isn’t your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup but it is so delicious that it is sure to become a new family favorite. So the next time the weather turns chilly, fire up the oven, turn on the stove and make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.

ROASTED CHICKEN, CORN & SAFFRON SOUP

1 (3–4 pounds) whole chicken
2 tablespoonsolive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
34 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
12 ounces egg noodles
  • Heat the oven to 400°.
  • In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, rub the chicken with the olive oil and then liberally season the outside with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the chicken until golden brown and very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the dish to a rack, lift the chicken from the dish, and place the chicken on a cutting board.
  • Let the chicken stand until cool enough to handle and then pick the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Roughly chop the meat and transfer to a large saucepan.
  • Pour 2 cups chicken stock into the baking dish and scrape the dish with a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom.
  • Pour the stock from the dish into the saucepan with the chicken along with the remaining 10 cups stock.
  • Add the corn and saffron to the broth and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the stock is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the egg noodles and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serves 8

Honey Braised Lamb Shanks

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I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it.  Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat.  There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it.  The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender.  I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy.  Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend.  As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already.  Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can  soak up all of the yummy juices.

HONEY BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 lamb shanks

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup whole almonds

2/3 cup honey

Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  • Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices.  Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
  • Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 4

Saffron Toasts

photo 1-8

It doesn’t get much easier than a recipe with only four ingredients.  These golden toasts from King Arthur Flour taste like a savory and earthy biscotti.  I love them since they are fast and easy to make. They are good on their own but absolutely delicious when served along side a hearty tomato soup, corn and vegetable chowder or pumpkin soup.  Talk about the ultimate in comfort food.

SAFFRON TOASTS

1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm water

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Soak the saffron threads in the water for 10-15 minutes to soften them for baking.  Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color, thickened, and foamy.
  • Stir in the saffron and water.  Lightly sprinkle the flour over the surface of the  mixture and fold it in gently.  The mix will be thick and sponge-like, full of air and deep yellow in color.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes.  The edges will be well browned and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the loaf out onto a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay each slice on a baking sheet making sure that the cut sides are facing up (and down).
  • Place the pan under the broiler until the toasts begin to darken at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip each slice over and broil the reverse side as well.
  • Allow the toasts to cool completely before serving.  Store in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 3 weeks.

Yield:  16-18 slices

Lamb w/ Dates & Apricots

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The northern African country of Morocco is on my bucket-list for travels.  Every time I hear about or read a new article about the country my wanderlust grows.  And naturally, it is the cuisine that inspires me the most.  I’m sure I would love every bite of food there.  So until I actually make it there, I must satisfy my Moroccan food cravings  out of my own kitchen.  With the right ingredients, however, this is quite easy to do.

This easy hands-off recipe, adapted from an old Cooking Light Magazine, brings together some of my favorite flavors of all time.  The earthy flavors of cumin, coriander, and saffron contrast with the sweetness of the apricots and dates in this Moroccan inspired lamb dish.  You can easily adjust the amount of seasonings to suit your taste buds.  Serve the lamb over a bed of couscous to complete the Moroccan theme.

LAMB w/ DATES & APRICOTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless leg of lamb, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots

1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced

1/2 cup pitted dates, halved

2 tablespoons chopped mint

2 cups cooked couscous (for serving)

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Saute for 8 minutes or until it is browned on all sides.  Remove from the pan.
  • Add the onion, orange juice, and garlic to the pan; cook until the liquid has evaporated, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.
  • Stir in the cumin, coriander, and saffron and cook for 15 seconds.
  • Return the lamb to the pan and add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the carrots, apricots, and dates and cook for an additional 18  minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the mint and adjust the seasonings.
  • Serve over the couscous.

Serves: 4

Chicken Tagine w/ Apricot- Poppy Seed Sauce

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I love the rich and complex flavors that accompany Mediterranean food.  The combination of herbs and spices commonly used in this part of the world never cease to surprise me; sometimes it is the most unlikely flavor combinations that are the most palette pleasing.  Moroccan food is especially flavorful but it is these complex flavors that can make a dish seem especially complex and time consuming.  When we were living in the Washington DC area I could fulfill my food cravings by choosing from a variety of good Moroccan restaurants.  Here in Albania I satisfy my hunger by making the food myself.

This dish is inspired by Hassan M’Souli’s Moroccan Modern.  I’ve pieced together a variety of recipes to create a recipe that fulfills my desire for Moroccan food and uses ingredients I have in my pantry (while providing me with the opportunity to use my new tagine).  I’m not going to kid you; this recipe is difficult but it is time consuming.  But plan ahead and spend a lazy weekend day in the kitchen,.  I promise your efforts will be well worth it.

CHICKEN TAGINE w/ APRICOT-POPPY SEED SAUCE

Charmoula Marinade

1/2 tablespoon dried crushed chili

1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 onion, diced

1 bay leaf, crushed

4 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 preserved lemon, sliced thinly

1/4 olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour before using.

The charmoula marinade may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Yields:  1 1/2 cups

Chicken w/Apricot- Poppy Seed Sauce

4 chicken leg quarters

1 1/2 cups Charmoula Marinade

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup water

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1/4 cup poppy seeds

7 tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Pinch saffron threads

1 pound dried apricots

  • Place the chick in a large casserole dish and coat with the Charmoula marinade.  Use your hands to coat all sides of the chicken pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is browned.  Turn and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan and place in the bottom of a tagine or oven-proof dutch oven.
  • Add the water, cinnamon sticks and cloves to the skillet and bring to a boil.
  • In a small skillet, dry toast the poppy seeds for about 30 seconds to toast them lightly.  Add to the water mixture.
  • Reduce the heat in the skillet to medium and add the butter, sugar, ground cinnamon, and saffron threads.  Stir to combine.
  • When the butter has melted add in the apricots and stir to coat.
  • Pour the entire mixture over the chicken in the tagine.
  • Cover the tagine and place on the lowest rack in a cold oven.
  • Turn the oven on to 325 degrees and roast until the chicken is cooked through, 30-45 minutes.

Serve over couscous or risotto.

Serves 4

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