Friday, November 5, 2010

The spice of life

Posted by PicasaAh Spain!

My younger sister recently visited our brother who lives in Barcelona, he is an interpreter there. 

Of course I had my request for her to lug back in her suitcase.

Saffron and paprika, the spices of the gods.

Both of these can be expensive here. Finer grocery stores and specialty food stores carry the best, and when it comes to spices, only the best will do.

Do not confuse  your everyday Hungarian paprika with Spanish paprika, they are completely different spices and taste nothing alike, you cannot use them interchangeably.

Above I have one kilo of Agridulce (bittersweet) and Ahumado (smoked). I use this on vegetables, potatoes, fish, chicken, you name it.

Then is a nice big box containing 10 grams of saffron threads. This is a flavor that one must never live without.  In fact, tonight I am making risotto milanese, a heady rice dish fragrant with saffron.

Coming from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound which explains why it is the world’s most expensive spice.
According to Greek myth, handsome mortal Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph Smilax. But his favors were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower. 
A native of the Mediterranean, saffron is now imported primarily from Spain, where Moslems had introduced it in the 8th century along with rice and sugar. Valencia coup (coup√© meaning “to cut” off the yellow parts from the stigmas) saffron is generally considered the best, though Kashmir now rivals this reputation. Saffron is also cultivated in India, Turkey, China and Iran. 
My brother added the cassis as a gift, I will make a lovely sparkling wine cocktail with it. 

This came from a spice wholesaler in Barcelona. I discovered it during my first trip there many years ago. I told my brother we were off to buy saffron at the wholesaler and he said "No, no Kristy, there is no such place in all of Barcelona."  His friends all agreed, yet I insisted that I had the address, we were on a mission.

Off we went, and low and behold, arrived at an amazing spice wholesaler!

Here I am with my son, a four years ago at the same store. Those are bins of paprika behind us.

So how much did this cost? 36 Euros, or about $45.00. I am not going to factor in my sisters air flight and food, she was going anyway!
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