This dish, which can be enjoyed as an appetizer with crusty bread or as a main dish with steamed basmati rice—will make you fall in love with Persian saffron. If you are serving it as a main dish for 4 people, I would double the recipe. You can use any herb you like—that's the beauty . Make sure to peel and eat the shrimps with your hands, without cutlery—it's more enjoyable that way! —shayma
4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main
saffron threads, crushed into powder in a pestle and mortar
4 to 5 tablespoons
leeks, whites and tender green parts only, halved, thinly sliced into half-moon shapes and washed well
herbs of your choice (I use cilantro, leaves and stems; Italian flat-leaf parsley, leaves only; and mint, leaves only)
Divide saffron powder in two. To one portion, add the warm water, stir, and set aside. Leave the other batch as is, in powdered form. You will use it later.
Pat leeks dry before you begin to cook.
Chop herbs finely and set aside.
Place a large frying pan (I use a 12-inch) on the stove over medium heat and add oil.
When oil is hot and glistening, add leeks and sauté till they begin to wilt a bit, just about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not brown or overcook leeks.
Turn heat to medium-high and add shrimps and saffron water. Sauté till the shrimp shells turn pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add herbs, gently stir to combine, take pan off stove, and set aside.
Working very quickly (you don’t want the shrimps to completely cool down), place a small saucepan or frying pan on high heat and add butter. As soon as butter begins to melt, add the reserved powdered saffron, stir and pour this saffron-butter over shrimps. Gently stir to combine.
Shayma Saadat is a cookery teacher, food writer, stylist and photographer who focuses on the food of her heritage - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, which she refers to as Silk Route cuisine. Shayma lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey on Instagram @SpiceSpoon.