SAFFRON is the world’s most expensive spice. It is the stigma of the crocus flower and each one has approximately three strands of saffron.
It takes around 150 flowers – the stigmas are removed by hand – to produce one gram of dry saffron threads. This labour-intensive method is one of the reasons the spice commands a high price.
Saffron contains many essential volatile oils, but the one that gives it its unique flavour is called safranol. It has medicinal properties and is believed to be effective in relieving mild depressive symptoms. Saffron can also help lower blood cholesterol and improve circulation.
This recipe was taken from East by West by Jasmine Hemsley; published by Bluebird Books; ISBN: 978 1509 858125.
Eastern Eye is offering five readers a chance to win this book. To enter, email Daksha Ganatra on daksha.ganatra@ amg.biz with a daytime telephone number and subscription details, or send a request to Daksha Ganatra, East by West competition, No 1 Silex Street, London SE1 0DW by Friday, December 22.
Saffron cardamom cottage cheesecake with millionaire crust
- 4 medium eggs, separated
- 100g (½ cup) light jaggery, finely chopped
- 400g full-fat cottage cheese or homemade paneer
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- generous pinch of sea salt
- seeds of 12 cardamom pods, ground
- 1 large pinch strands of saffron, infused in 1 tbsp of very hot water
- edible flowers, to serve (optional)
For the millionaire crust:
- 150g (1¼ cup) gram flour
- seeds of 6 cardamom pods, ground
- 100g (½ cup) jaggery, finely chopped, or coconut sugar
- 100g (½ cup) ghee or butter, plus extra for greasing
- pinch of sea salt
- Grease and line an 18cm (7 in) spring-form tin with baking parchment.
- To make the millionaire crust, toast the gram flour for 15 minutes in a dry heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure even toasting and to keep the flour from burning. At the end of this process, the flour should be fragrant and a few shades darker.
- Stir in the cardamom, jaggery, ghee and salt, stirring constantly to ensure that the ghee and jaggery melt and the mixture is as lump-free as possible. It will be liquid-like at first, but keep cooking for three-four minutes, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Ghee is absorbed quickly and jaggery doesn’t melt as easily, so you won’t get a thick, smooth mixture, but this is fine as long as it is well combined.
- Spread the mixture into the lined tin, pressing flat and evenly into all four corners with the back of a metal spoon. Transfer to the fridge and allow the mixture to chill for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan/ gas mark 3). To make the filling, place the egg yolks and jaggery in a food processor and blend for about two minutes until pale and well combined.
- Add the cottage cheese, vanilla, salt, cardamom and saffron mixture and blend again until completely smooth.
- Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold them into the mixture in four stages, using a metal spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and just set.
- Loosely cover the cheesecake with baking parchment for the last 30 minutes if it’s turning very dark. Remove and leave to cool to room temperature. n The base may be a little crumbly but is beautiful to taste. Decorate with flowers, if desired, and serve.