Saffron

Powdered saffronWhat is it?

  • the world’s most expensive spice which adds an orangey yellow colour and distinctive flavour to cooked dishes.
  • Spain is one of the main consumers as well as producers of saffron.
  • it is produced from the dried stigma of the Saffron Crocus plant. Each plant only produces three threads of saffron and the flower is so delicate, that these have to be individually picked by hand. It means that more than 85,000 flowers are needed to produce just one kilo of saffron, which explains why it is so pricey!
  • saffron threads are red but when used in cooking they add a distinctive yellow colour -that is why paella is yellow!
  • be warned-it also stains anything it comes into contact with a bright yellow-including fingers!

Buying and Cooking Tips:

Saffron is available to buy in two forms: in original thread form or ground to a fine powder.

Saffron threads:

  • are the premium type to use
  • this is the best type of saffron and is reflected in the price.
  • the threads are the roasted, dried stigma of the plant- so you know you are buying the unadulterated article.
  • though expensive you only need need to use several threads.  Adding too much saffron can make food taste bitter.
  • 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.
  • is  ready to use-simply add to recipe (a bit like adding stock powder)
  • however, due to its high value, unscrupulous producers will add cheaper spices to packets of ground saffron, so check you are buying the genuine article.
  • For an easy Spanish rice style recipe check out my post Saffron rice on a budget.

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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