I remember starting an odd little short story inspired by saffron when I was about twelve. My parents were avid listeners of NPR when I was growing up and I fancied Garrison Keillor’s fabulous stories from A Prairie Home Companion. I’d learned about saffron being The World’s Most Expensive Spice and started imagining tiny garden plots that could yield big money. I’d even considered using my backyard to start my own crop, blissfully unaware that the New England climate might not be suitable for saffron production. The story, if I remember correctly, was about an unassuming saffron farmer trying to survive in a small town riddled with landmines. I didn’t complete the story. The loose ends were too difficult to tie up.
The delicate filaments of the saffron crocus are handpicked and dried individually. To produce a pound, 200,000 stigmas must be picked from flowers that yield up to three threads per season. It costs $70 for an ounce. Precious.
Saffron has been used in many traditional cuisines, including Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean. Rich in flavour and deep yellow in colour, the delicate spice is often used to flavour rice, breads and seafood dishes. Saffron’s metallic flavour and sophistication are surprisingly adaptable and versatile. I was lulled by the bitter field grass scent and rusty aroma. It reminded me that the simplest answer is often the best. A few threads sprinkled on top of yogurt complimented my stuffed peppers perfectly.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce
Ingredients (makes 2)
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 king oyster mushrooms
- 8 oz of ground beef
- 3 cups of shredded green cabbage
- 6 minced cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of cooked basmati rice
- ½ tsp rosemary
- 2 tbsp red wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- ½ tsp salt
- cooking oil
For the sauce:
- 1 cup yogurt
- pinch of salt
- pinch of saffron
Preheat oven to 175ºC/ 350ºF / Gas mark 4.
Halve the mushrooms lengthwise and sprinkle oil and salt on them. Bake them in a lightly oiled pan for 30 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms into a blender and blend into a paste.
Cut the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds and pith from inside. Wash and sprinkle with oil and salt. Roast for 20 minutes.
Using medium high heat, brown garlic in a fry pan with some oil. Add ground beef and stir until evenly browned. Remove from heat and transfer ingredients into a bowl with the mushroom paste.
Using the same pan, stir-fry the cabbage until translucent. Transfer cabbage into a blender and blend into a paste. Add to the bowl with other ingredients.
Crumble the cooked rice into the bowl with other ingredients. Add soy sauce, salt, rosemary and red wine. Mix well.
Carefully stuff the mixture into peppers and replace the tops. Bake for 30 minutes.
Combine yogurt with salt and saffron.
Drizzle yogurt sauce on the peppers and serve.