by Tamara Dumas
People who love caviar would agree that the dictionary definition of caviar doesn't do it justice. Described as "the pickled roe of sturgeon or other large fish" these words fail to capture the decadence and luxury behind this delicacy. Slightly salty, grainy and flavourful, proper caviar, melts in your mouth like butter, with mellow nutty undertones.
What dictionary doesn’t tell you is that the caviar is one of the oldest delicacies. Before raw oysters, Champagne or truffles were deemed a delicacy, caviar was coveted by kings and the aristocracy. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Russian tsars were all known to impress their guests with highest quality caviar.
There are some other fascinating facts about caviar that dictionary might not necessarily tell you.
The oldest written account of caviar dates back to the 1240’s during the epoch of Mongol ruler Batu Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson. Believed to be a Russian invention, word ‘caviar’ actually comes from the Turkish havyar which comes from the Persian word for egg (khayah).
The reason for the word’s origin is that the world's best caviar is produced in the Caspian Sea, which is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. So Russians were not the only ones who had the access to this delicacy.
The world’s best caviar comes from three varieties of sturgeon: Beluga sturgeon (Beluga caviar), Russian sturgeon (Osetra caviar), and stellate sturgeon (Sevruga caviar). Low supply is not the only reason for high price of this delicacy. Another, less known, reason for high price of the caviar is that the people who make caviar must undergo an apprenticeship that lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 years. They are called Ikrjanschik (from Russian word for caviar - ikra), in case if you want to impress someone with your knowledge.
As to the health benefits, caviar is rich in calcium and phosphorus, as well as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins B12 and B6. Historically, caviar was prescribed to alleviate depression. and they weren’t wrong; recent studies show that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids – caviar is rich in omega-3s – may alleviate symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. High fives all around!
As Kamran Shedy, founder of Caviar Artisan, has shared with us during the caviar tasting, the real caviar ranges in colour from light to dark grey and yellow-grey to brown-black. Allegedly, red 'caviar' doesn't actually come from sturgeon, it is a salmon roe and technically isn’t a caviar in its original meaning. Kamran continued, “The best way to eat caviar is off of your hand.”
We were told to make a fist, after which Kamran carefully spooned a dollop of caviar onto the indentation that forms in between the thumb and pointer finger. The caviar expert added with a sense of importance: “Always use a pearl, glass, or wooden spoon when handling caviar; metal spoons give the eggs an unpleasant metallic flavour. And that’s not what you want when you spend all that money.”
“Avid caviar fans will tell you that the finest, most expensive caviars are older, larger eggs that are lighter in colour,” said Kamran, opening yet another tin of sumptuous caviar, “while the caviar darker in colour is younger, with a less intensely fishy flavour. It is a fact worth remembering when choosing for caviar. The most expensive caviar might not be simply for your taste... yet.”
And a last very important tip: Caviar should never be frozen, as it will end up mushy. It is best served -some people say- in a crystal or glass bowl over ice. When preserved properly, fish eggs rub against each other and the friction can be heard. Allegedly, the sound of good caviar when it’s packed is distinctly recognizable as something similar to a cat’s purr.
If you are ready to indulge yourself like a royalty, visit Caviar Artisan website. As to me personally, I was so taken by the fascinating facts and mesmerised by the luxury and exclusivity of the caviar that I couldn’t resist stocking up with a bit of caviar goodness.
Avid caviar fans will tell you that the finest, most expensive caviars are older, larger eggs that are lighter in colour
Another, less known, reason for high price of the caviar is that the people who make caviar must undergo an apprenticeship that lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
Healthy Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with lobster and caviar
Caviar to chefs is like expensive paint to artists and is used often in restaurants, but that doesn’t mean home cooks can’t be cooking with it, as well. I say cook, but really caviar is used as a garnish in cooking. Dolloped on top of crème fraîche and smoked salmon or sprinkled on creamy scrambled eggs like in this recipe, it adds a rich quality to your food that cannot be replicated by anything else.
8 large eggs, beaten
1/4 Cup milk
1 1/2 Pound cooked lobster meat
2 shallots, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped tomatoes
4 Tablespoons chopped chives
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons créme fraîche
1 Tablespoon American sturgeon caviar
Heat up a large skillet. Melt the butter and add the shallots and tomatoes. Sauté until crispy. Add the eggs and scramble . Add the lobster meat and toss lightly. Add the salt, pepper, and chives. Place in 4 bowls. Top with crème fraîche and caviar.