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Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Caviar   is Sturgeon’s eggs that have been brined or salted and allowed to mature. For the longest time, the Soviet Union was the sole producer of caviar. But since 1953 Iran’s Caspian Coast started producing 180 tons of caviar annually (Russia produces 1800 tons annually). Now the Caspian Sea produces 98% of world’s caviar.

I have read in Larousse that caviar was first brought to France in 1920’s following the Exile of the Russian Princes. In 1925, the Petrossian Brothers learnt that caviar was known to very few French people. Hence Charles Ritz formally launched caviar by permanently offering it at his hotel. Caviar became popular and associated with luxury ever since. There are 2 types of caviar: Caviar in grains and pressed caviar. The term “red caviar” is incorrectly used for salmon eggs, which are not ‘caviar’!

Types of Caviar  
Caviar can be sold Fresh or sometimes Pasteurised. There are 3 types of caviar. The types are determined by size, colour and sturgeon species.

Beluga Caviar
BELUGA this is the most expensive type and is produced by the largest species of sturgeon (about 800kg sturgeon). The eggs are dark grey, firm, heavy and well separated. These eggs are the biggest, but most fragile. When eggs burst, the caviar becomes very oily.

Osetera Caviar

OSETRA the eggs are smaller and more evenly sized. They are golden yellow to brown coloured and quite oily. This caviar is preferred by many over other types. They are viewed as a conoisseur's favourite.

Sevruga Caviar
SEVRUGA this caviar is produced by smaller sturgeons. The eggs are very small light to dark grey coloured. This caviar is the cheapest type.

Caviar is perishable and must be stored between -2 to +4 degrees (28-39F). Allow 50g per person (3 tbsp). To serve caviar, remove from fridge 1 hour before serving and serve cold, but not frozen, on crushed ice. Blinis, sour cream, or lightly buttered toast make excellent accompaniments. Never use lemon with Caviar as it affects the taste!

When shopping for Caviar it is essential you verify the origin, type and freshness. These are all indicators of quality and affect the price tremendously.

Photo from; http://www.listofdesire.com
Serving Caviar
Traditionalists believe that caviar should not be masked with accompanying flavours, instead it should be served plain and eaten straight with a pearl spoon! That is very true, caviar should never be hidden underneath layers of strong flavours, instead it should be celebrated as the star that it is, fresh and prominent.
But there are times when caviar can still be served with other flavours, it can be used to lend its unique texture, creamy experience, and hints of the sea, kind of like sea salt that bursts with creamy oil! Caviar is often used as garnish to many preparations such as seared or raw scallops, seared Ahi Tuna; or used in making of sauces, even in the making of dips...

In general, go for mild flavours to accompany caviar in order not to lose much on its fabulous flavour. Pair it with mild flavoured cream cheese, it also goes very well with salmon, and smoked salmon as well as with buttered toast and a shaving of salt. The most classic way to serve Caviar is on top of a blini topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and a spring of chives. I have earlier posted a recipe using Caviar to top new potatoes in my 5 Classic Cocktail Bites post.

Champagne Sorbet

However, my most preferred way to have caviar is atop a light and tangy Champagne Granita or Sorbet, the whole experience is just out of this world! From the cool of the ice granules in the granita, to its tang against the delicate pieces of caviar, that will pop oozing out their oils lending a creaminess to an otherwise hard texture of ice. Then the crunch from the sorbet with each bite revealing more of the champagne flavours, you just will not want the experience to end! Here is how I make it:

Beluga Caviar Atop Champagne Granita
You Need
Beluga or Osetra Caviar
1 bottle Champagne or Sparkling wine
4 tbsp Champagne vinegar or white wine Vinegar
8 tbsp water

In a large bowl, mix together the Champagne, vinegar and water. Freeze for 1 hour, once it is frozen, scrape the ice with a fork into a chilled bowl. Place back in the freezer until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, place 1 tbsp of Granita atop a clean and chilled oyster shell top with Caviar and sprinkle with finely chopped chives and parsley, sprinkle with a tiny sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper for garnish. Place all on a shallow plate filled with crushed ice.

Another way to serve this fabulous Granita, is to fill a Martini cup with the Granita, top with the caviar, sprinkle with chopped herbs and black pepper to garnish.

Caviar is super delicious, and is one of those foods you will need a bit of getting used to... However, it will grow on you, and you will just start to appreciate its flavour and texture. Serve Caviar this New Year's, impress your guests and enjoy the party :) 
Do you like Caviar? If yes, which types of Caviar do you prefer to buy, those wild sturgeon caviar or school grown caviars? If you don't, Do you think you will give this recipe a try and see if you change your mind? Let me know :)

Almost New Year's! YAY!