Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saffron and yoghurt - Summer is coming

It's as good as summer now and the emphasis is on high impact flavour, shiny bundles of strawberries left at room temperature to steep in their own juices, fresh hams and what was left over from yesterdays joint served fridge cold with some tongue stinging mustard, and some lovely soft lettuces brought to life with no more than a squeeze of lemon juice are what’s filling my table right now. I'm seeingoung asparagus even, sweet little bundles of it, and at a decent price are must haves.

The glorious sun has to be good news after the long months of cooler weather and uncertainty. Produce is swelling and ripening, I've already mentioned those first new season peas from France, now I'm looking at some tiny turnips; perfectly miniature courgettes and broad beans. Looking forward to recieving some early peaches next week that I know will dribble down my chin.

For the first time in months the market vegetable stalls have something approaching variety and abundance not only in colour, but in their richness of aroma, the excitement is infectious... It's all about fresh, clean and full of flavour.

Saffron, tahini and yoghurt soup

Serves 4

1 egg yolk
Good pinch of cornflour
500g natural yoghurt
50g tahini
2 splashes of extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice and finely grated zest of about ½ lemon
Sea salt and white pepper
750ml light chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads, infused in 2 tblsp boiling water
3 tblsp of chopped parsley, mint, dill and basil

Easy to get wrong, a delight when this soup blends together. Take your time and the benefits are well worth the patience

Gradually stir the egg yolk into the flour, avoiding lumps, and then vigorously whisk in the yoghurt, this will prevent any curdling once you add heat to the soup. Add the tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, a pinch of salt and the stock, whisk again until all the ingredients are combined. Transfer to a saucepan and very gently heat the soup over a medium heat, stirring carefully.

Just like custard, keep a close eye on your pan at this stage, and never allow the soup to boil but remove from the heat just before it begins to simmer.

Stir in half the saffron infusion and all the herbs, and check the seasoning – at this point season generously with pepper and check for extra salt. Serve with a the remaining saffron drizzled at the end, and serve some oatcakes or even some of my rosemary shortbread on the side.