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Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Azafran La Flor | Azafranes de La Mancha Logo Flor
(Saffron Flower)
Photo from: Azafran La Flor
OCast açafran, Gr. krokos L. Crocus sativus, Ar. za’farān, zaarfaran, jadī, ješad, rihğan,  korkom, Per Ar safrón, Eng. saffron. It is thought to have originated in northern Turkey and to have been used in the Mediterranean for more than 5,000 years. Saffron consists of the stigma from autumn crocus. One ounce contains 14,000 stigma. As it must be hand picked still, it is historically known as flavoring for the rich. The Greeks thought it indispensable for good health and used it in healing tonics. Romans liked it so much that they colored the water in their fountains with it on festive occasions. There is a theory that the Romans introduced it to Spain but if so it fell into disuse with the fall of the empire. By the 10th C, the Muslims had reintroduced it to the Iberian Peninsula. Although cultivated in Andalusia, the finest saffron was grown along the Tajo River, around Toledo, Guadalajara and in Cuenca where it continues to be cultivated today. It was extremely important in Mediterranean cuisine for flavoring and coloring dishes yellow or gold. In Fadalat, it was the fourth most used seasoning after pepper, cilantro and cinnamon. Although saffron was recommended for flavor prior to Arab domination in Europe, the Muslims promoted it more as they thought color and flavor enhanced the quality of food. In Al-Andalus it was used in dishes containing garum or vinegar and food served between courses at banquets. It was included in stuffing and fowl. Sometimes saffron was dissolved in water and added at the end of cooking time as vinegar and garum to conserve the flavor and to prevent the meat from becoming too acid. It was added to other meats upon commencing preparation, with pepper and spices to regulate the flavor. It was used also in pastries, pottages and drinks. In medieval times, people delighted in coloring foods from rice to fish. By the 12th C. the English incorporated it into their cuisine. From the 14th-16th C, it was indispensable in medieval European cooking. Even the Berkley’s grew it in England and a town in Suffolk called Saffron Walden is named for this plant. It was said that with wine it makes one trigger-happy, as saffron is a type of laughing gas. Welsh fairies thrived on it. During the Middle Ages and the Rennaissance it was believed that saffron had magical powers. La Celestina painted the palms of hands with saffron as it was believed that it penetrates the heart. It was said that she also painted names, formulas and prayers on papers or parchment that only the superstitious could understand. Saffron does beautify the cutis adding color to it. It does fortify the respiratory tracts. As well, as a condiment, it is a stimulant. Only the stigma of the flower contains flavor and dye. It was prohibited to sell it as a paste. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:66; Chirino/Herrera. 1973:42:7;88:14;117:10 etc; ES: Nocera. Oct 12, 02; ES: Sorrenti. Apr 4, 02; Laza. 2002:102; Ibn Razīn/Merín. 2007:39; Nola. 1989:lxv-3; and Villena/Calero. 2002:115]


PAGEL/PAJEL. Pez de color gris con una tonalidad roja sobre el lomo.
(Pandora. Grey fish with reddish color on loins)

For the Escabeche:
1 slice of bread without crust
¼ c vinegar
1/3 c blanched almonds without skind
1/3 c hazelnuts
1 c pinenuts
2 c fish broth
1/3 c seedless raisins
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
½ tsp freshly ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp mashed saffron
1 c honey

For the fish:
¼ c virgin olive oil
pandoras or dentex

1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 c pine nuts
1 tbsp chopped parsley


Soak bread in the vinegar. Grind the nuts with the bread in a food processor. Add the broth, bend well. Strain it through a cheese cloth. Return the mixture to the food processor and add raisins. Grind well. Pour it into a saucepan and heat. Add the spices. Mix a little broth with the saffron to dissolve it and add that to the mixture to give the sauce a deep color. Add the honey and cook until the sauce has thickened. Let cool.

Fry pandoras or dentex. Remove from pan and let cool. When that and the escabeche are cool pour the escabeche over the fish. Garnish with ground cinnamon and stick pine nuts into the fish pointing upwards and all around the plate. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the dish and refrigerate until ready to consume it or served warm is not bad. 

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