A TASTE OF PERSIA
Ancient Persians loved life and that comes across in the intense flavours of their cuisine. Rice infused with saffron together with turmeric flavoured casseroles form the basis of a colourful and varied exotic dishes. But saffron is the spice that remains constant in the Persian pot. It is one of the most expensive spices in the world, and is known by many different names - the spice of kings, the spice of life, among others. Naturally, the flower from which saffron is produced does not need a lot of water to flourish which makes it suitable for the humid mountainous provinces of the arid region. They are also associated with healing powers and the reason why certain flowers were sacred in ancient beliefs. The heat of the spice is known to cool body temperature down during hot weather, prevent some illnesses, and is thus used in abundance. So spices became a priceless trading commodity in the old world from which great civilisations built unprecedented wealth. They were the most sought after currency, especially after they started to revolutionise taste buds and the global table. But in particular the Persian table is never complete without meat, poultry and fish. In this land of plenty, most rivers flow in the northern and western provinces and are home to some of the most extraordinary native fish species such as the brown trout. Nevertheless, it is from the Caspian Sea that the Persians were able to survive on a diet of over 155 different verities of unique species. It is also not unusual for savoury dishes to have a slight hint of sweetness. There is a whole philosophy based around adding fruits to some dishes. It adds a depth of flavour to a nation with a serious sweet tooth. Even a popular side dish of olives infused with garlic and various regional herbs is soaked in pomegranate juice. And of course olives is another ingredient that is heavily used in Persian cuisine. Indeed, for thousands of years the people of this vibrant region depended on agriculture and farming for their livelihood. But the adverse effects of over-fishing and global warming are threatening the diet their ancestors has long lived on.