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Planning Retirement Online

Let's Party!

 

October 2011 

Let's party in later life article series...

This series looks at some of the more unusual ideas to help you celebrate with style and panache – at affordable price levels, of course!

To see the full list of articles see the main Celebrating in Later Life page

This month –   Top caviar for a top treat!

by LaterLife features editor Sally Smith

What better way to celebrate a special occasion than with special food, really very special food!

Caviar

Real caviar for instance, at perhaps £250 or more for a few small eggs, is not something that is on most people’s everyday shopping list. But what a thrill it can be to taste this extraordinary food.

Today the word caviar is bandied about and can be associated with the roe of a range of fish such as salmon, trout, lumpfish and whitefish. But true caviar comes from the roe of the sturgeon.

The roe is a term for the fully ripe internal ovaries or egg masses of fish; a sturgeon is a fish that is native to mainly the temperate and sub-Arctic rivers and coastlines of Eurasia and north America.

Real traditional caviar comes from the roe of the wild sturgeon species living in the Caspian or Black Sea, and from these, the roe of the beluga sturgeon is considered the very best indeed. The beluga is a very large fish that matures late and can live for well over 100 years. Its eggs are usually larger than those found in other species of sturgeon and are soft, ranging in colour from pale silver-grey to black

Second to beluga caviar is sterlet caviar from the sterlet sturgeon which produces small golden eggs and was once restricted to Russian czars. Other top quality caviars include the roe from the ossetra and the sevruga species of sturgeon.

Today the roe can be obtained from the fish without killing it; in many cases the fish is simply anaesthetized and then popped back into the water. When the roe is obtained, it is divided into three categories; the mature, well developed loose roe is considered the very best followed by the moderately mature and then the young roe.

Raw or unpasteurized caviar is definitely the ultimate in caviar – if the label includes the word malossol, you will know the roe is preserved with a minimum of salt. Some sort of preservation is essential because caviar is extremely perishable and must be refrigerated immediately until it is eaten. There is also a range of other caviars available at a wide range of prices, including pasteurized caviar which has been lightly cooked, giving the eggs a different flavour and texture (this will last longer); pressed caviar (usually a combination of several different roes) and even farmed caviar - some fish farms are now producing what is said to be very acceptable caviar.

But it is the flavour and the kudos - and the price - of beluga caviar that lifts it into the league of top luxury treats.

Caviar this good deserves the best and suggestions are to serve it in a crystal glass or porcelain bowl on a bed of crushed ice although you can buy special caviar servers. Traditionally it is served with a mother-of-pearl or gold spoon but wood or glass serving utensils would be fine. Metal can impair the flavour and plastic of course would simply not do!

Caviar can be spread over dry or lightly buttered small pieces of toast or unsalted bland biscuits and crackers; some like to squeeze a drop or two of fresh lemon juice over or garnish it with a little crumbed hard-boiled eggs or today, creme fraiche. To eat it the Russian way, spread the caviar over blinis (small whole wheat pancakes that are available today in many supermarkets) and add a dab of sour cream.

Interestingly, caviar is a very good source of vitamin B12 although it does contain high levels of cholesterol and salt. Let’s face it, though, no one buys beluga caviar for its health giving properties!
What to drink with caviar? Well, of course, being Russian, vodka is the traditional drink. But for a modern celebration here in the UK, a good champagne goes beautifully with caviar and could top off the perfect treat for that special celebration.

 

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