Saffron

Powdered saffronWhat is it?

  • known as the world’s most expensive spice, it is produced from the red dried stigmas of the Safffron Crocus plant. Each plant only produces three threads of saffron and these have to be picked by hand as the flower is so delicate.
  • more than 85,000 flowers are needed to produce just one kilo of saffron!
  • saffron looks red when uncooked but transforms any dish into a distinctive yellow colour when cooked-that’s why paella is yellow!
  • be warned-it also stains anything it comes into contact with a bright yellow-including fingers!
  • it is prized for its delicate flavour and is used widely in the Mediterranean
  • Spain is one of the main consumers as well as producers.

Buying and Cooking Tips:

Saffron is available to buy in two forms: threads and powder.

Saffron threads:

  • this is the superior product and it is reflected in the price.
  • the threads are simply the roasted, dried stigma of the plant- so you know you are buying the unadulterated article.
  • you only need a small amount for each recipe as it can add a bitter taste to food if used too liberally.
  • will last about a year if stored properly in a cool, dry, dark place.

To use:

  • grind a pinch of threads in a pestle and mortar and then transfer to a small jug of hot water.
  • saffron should then be left to infuse in the water (about 20 minutes) before using.
  • remember: too much saffron can spoil a a dish- so go easy on it.

Saffron powder:

This is best option for for novice cooks as it is :

  • sold in one portion sachets- which makes it easier to assess quantities.
  • isĀ  ready to use-simply add to the recipe (a bit like adding stock powder)
  • the downside is that the powder can easily be blended with cheaper spices-check back of packet.

Did you know?

Henry VIII had his own way of dealing with the saffron cheats of the time-he sentenced them to death!

 

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