Among the many highlights of the National Multicultural Festival are the numerous Middle-Eastern stalls and the morsels of exotic food and drink they have on offer. As Peter and I made our way through the crowds, we came upon a stall hosted by The Cultural Section of The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Canberra. The gentleman on the stall handed us a cup of exquisite iced water that he referred to as 'Persian limon'. Having just devoured a platter of Greek lamb, octopus and fetta-laced salad, this beverage was the perfect thirst quencher on a searing hot afternoon. As more and more people gathered around there was no time for photographs, nor did I manage to ask the fellow his name. But I did quickly ask what was in his drink.
A simple combination of saffron, sugar, lime and water garnished with mint, was how the stall holder explained his Persian limon. He showed me a plastic bottle containing imported lime juice. Later at home, I made two batches one with lime squeeze (the type you can buy in a plastic bottle from the supermarket), another with freshly squeezed lime juice. Both versions were palatable. Here is my recipe:
PERSIAN SAFFRON AND LIME WATER
4 cups water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
1/4 cup lime juice
mint leaves, to garnish
ice cubes, to chill
Combine the water and caster sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the saffron strands, gently bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight, allowing the saffron to infuse into the lime syrup. Strain and pour into a jug with ice cubes. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve well chilled. Serves 4-6.
Note: Since publishing this post, I've made contact with Azita, who writes a lovely blog at Saffron and Turmeric, that this is known as sharbate limoo-zaferan in Persian. Azita says it's a cool summer drink.
It was interesting to hear an interview with saffron grower, Nicky Noonan, on ABC RN's First Bite program recently. I had interviewed Nicky's husband, Terry, for my column, Stirring the Pot, in 1995. Terry and Nicky were the first to grow saffron in Australia on farm in the Huon Valley of Tasmania. The first corms came from Holland and had to be quarantined and then acclimatised (a three year process). Their award winning product is now grown on 70 farms across Australia and New Zealand, and considered category 1, world class!
Does saffron make a regular appearance in your spice box? What's your favourite recipe using saffron?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.