Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world but luckily you use very little in most dishes. It adds a bit of understated glitz to home cooking.
Saffron comes from the stigma of the saffron crocus and it takes a half a million stigmas to make a kilo of saffron. You need only buy 2 grammes worth and you’ll have enough to make about eight to ten dishes for 2 people. Just use a small pinch of saffron threads each time.
How to reconstitute saffron before you use it
– You need to crush the saffron before using it and let it ‘bleed’ in some warm water or hot stock before adding it to a dish. That releases its flavour and allows the saffron to permeate the dish. If you add the saffron strands straight to the food you won’t get the full benefit.
– Saffron adds a distinctive golden colour to rice dishes and is a fundamental ingredient in paella. It’s good in vegetable soups too – add a little to pumpkin or squash soup and to curries to give them colour and character. It’s a natural pairing with fish (including bouillabaisse where it is essential) or add it to sauces or mayonnaise.
Where to buy saffron
You can buy a small plastic box of saffron weighing about 2 grammes in delis, middle-eastern shops and fine food shops. Be careful when you are removing it from the container. Sometimes the lid is hard to get off and you can spill it, so open it over paper towel so you don’t lose any.
You can find what is called ‘bastard’ saffron in markets around the world – when you shop in a Turkish market for example. If the saffron is cheap and selling by the handful, then leave it. It is not the real thing and has no flavour.
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