Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Farah's Saffron Chicken

We couldn't very well explore the world of spices without mentioning saffron, likely the world's first cultivated spice and certainly the most expensive. There is archeological evidence that saffron was used way back in 1700BC on the island of Crete.

It takes an acre of land, or about 75,000 crocus flowers to produce a pound of saffron, say nothing of the significant labor it requires to harvest. Saffron farmers extract the stamen of the crocus by hand, and these temperamental little flowers only bloom for 1 week each year. Consider that next time you dig into a fragrant boullabaisse or paella.  (Source:

See those reddish threads?  They are hand picked to produce....

We tapped our friend Farah again, this time for her favorite use of saffron.  She chose a recipe that hearkens back to her Indian heritage:   her family's version of Kesar Murg, which is Hindi for....
Saffron Chicken
Serves 6
6 large pieces boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion 
1 inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp Saffron dissolved in a little milk
1 tsp Coriander powder
4 tsp cashews, pureed, or 4 tsp cashew butter
1 cup Yogurt
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tbsp whole Cloves
1/2 tbsp green Cardamom pods
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp white pepper
chili powder and salt to taste
fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

Puree onion, garlic and ginger in blender or food processor with 3 Tbsp oil.  In large pot, heat remaining oil. Add puree, along with bay leaves, cloves and cardamom pods and fry on low heat til oil separates from solids.
Add coriander powder, cashew puree (or cashew butter) and stir.
Add boneless chicken, stir to coat. Mix in yogurt, salt, pepper, chili powder, and saffron/milk mixture.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till chicken is cooked, approximately 25 minutes.
Whisk in cream. Serve with naan, crusty french bread, or  basmati rice.

Fortunately, culinary culture does not clash but marries happily--in contrast to the social and linguistic culture clash spoofed in this amusing clip from Outsourced.  Enjoy.....

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