Video: Saffron – the World’s Most Expensive Spice

Known for its distinct flavor and ability to give food a golden yellow color, saffron is a highly-prized spice that is primarily produced in northern Iran.

It comes from the stigmas of crocus flowers that thrive under the region’s dry climate. Knowledge of saffron’s intricate cultivation that has been passed in Iran from generation to generation.

Besides cooking, saffron is also used in traditional medicine to treat cardiovascular issues and for possible cancer prevention.

Watch video at You Tube (3:22 minutes) . . . . .


Spanish Pudding with Caramelized Sugar Topping


2 cups milk
pared rind of 1/2 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
4 egg yolks
7 tbsp caster sugar
1-1/2 tbsp cornstarch
freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Put the milk in a pan with the lemon rind and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lemon rind and cinnamon. Place the egg yolks and 3 tbsp of the sugar in a bowl and whisk until pale yellow. Add the cornstarch and mix well.
  3. Stir in a few tablespoons of the hot milk, then add this mixture to the remaining milk.
  4. Return to the heat and cook gently, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Do not allow to boil.
  5. Pour the custard mixture into four shallow ovenproof dishes, about 5-inch in diameter. Leave to cool, then chill for a few hours, overnight if possible, until firm.
  6. Just before you are ready to serve, sprinkle each pudding with 1 tbsp sugar and a little grated nutmeg.
  7. Preheat the grill to high.
  8. Place the chilled puddings under the hot grill, on the highest shelf, and cook them until the sugar topping caramelizes by turning brown and crunchy. Leave the desserts to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Cook’s Tip

The dessert should be served very soon after the topping has caramelized. The caramel will stay hard for only about 30 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Best of Spain

In Pictures: Food of La Dame de Pic in London, U.K.

French Fine Dining

The Restaurant

Eating Chocolate, A Little Each Week, May Lower The Risk Of Irregular Heartbeat

There’s delicious news for chocolate lovers: New research suggests the sweet might help keep a common and dangerous form of irregular heartbeat at bay.

The study of more than 55,000 people in Denmark found that those who favored chocolate tended to have a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that raises stroke risk.

The study tracked people’s health for more than 13 years, over which time more than 3,300 cases of atrial fibrillation emerged.

The study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect. However, compared with people who ate a 1-ounce serving of chocolate less than once a month, the risk of atrial fibrillation was 10 percent lower among those who ate one to three servings a month, 17 percent lower among those who ate one serving a week, and 20 percent lower among those who ate two to six servings of chocolate a week.

But the benefit then leveled off, with a 16 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation among adults who ate one or more 1-ounce servings of chocolate a day.

“Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake,” lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, an instructor in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

Cardiologist Dr. David Friedman said that although study did have its limitations, “it made a sweet suggestion that there is a potential link with higher intake of chocolate consumption and less development of atrial fibrillation events.”

However, he stressed that cardiovascular health relies on more than just chocolate intake. Factors such as regular aerobic exercise and other healthy behaviors “could be a benefit as well,” said Friedman, who is chief of heart failure services at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in Valley Stream, N.Y.

According to the study authors, prior research has suggested that cocoa and cocoa-containing foods can benefit the heart. That’s because they contain high levels of flavanols, which may improve blood vessel function.

But Mostofsky stressed that “eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems.”

Instead, “moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice,” she said.

Dr. Rachel Bond helps direct women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Looking at the study data, she noted that “it appears that people who do regularly consume chocolate are also those patients who had less health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“As these other health issues are known to predispose people to atrial fibrillation, it is hard to say whether eating chocolate was protective or if this population is generally less predisposed to irregular rhythms,” Bond said.

Still, Bond said that in her own practice she is “currently recommending to my chocolate-loving patients the consumption of dark chocolate — in moderation.”

The study was published online in the journal Heart.

Source: HealthDay

Cut Calories, Lengthen Life Span?

Limiting calorie intake may slow aging, a new study suggests.

Previous research has shown that calorie restrictions slow aging in worms, flies and mice, so Duke University researchers wanted to see if it could slow biological aging in people.

“Biological aging is the gradual and progressive deterioration of systems in the body that occurs with advancing chronological age,” said study author Daniel Belsky, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke, in Durham, N.C.

“If we can intervene to slow the rate of biological aging, it may be possible to prevent or at least delay onset for many age-related diseases and disabilities,” he explained in a university news release.

The researchers looked at 145 people who achieved a 12 percent reduction in calorie intake over two years and a control group of 75 people who did not restrict calories.

At the start of the study, the average biological age of participants in both groups was 37, and their chronological age was close to that at 38. Biological age was calculated by readings that included total cholesterol, blood pressure and hemoglobin levels.

During two years of follow-up, biological age increased an average of 0.11 years each 12 months in the calorie restriction group and an average of 0.71 years each 12 months in the control group. This was a statistically significant difference, according to the researchers.

“Ours is the first study to test if caloric restriction can slow measured biological aging in humans in a randomized setting,” Belsky said.

“Our findings suggest a template for developing and evaluating therapies designed to mimic the effects of caloric restriction to ultimately prevent chronic diseases,” he added.

The study was published online May 22 in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Source: HealthDay

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