Cook UK

 

Custom Search
   
This site uses cookies. Learn more

SOUPS

BEEF PORK LAMB POULTRY FISH EGGS PIES & CAKES VEGETARIAN ETHNIC   SUBMIT YOUR RECIPE HERE

KIDS

SLOW COOKER JAMS BARBECUE     GAZPACHO PAELLA TAPAS   VIDEO RECIPES LATEST MEMBER RECIPES  
 
Diablo Sandwich Toaster Recipes
Baby Meal Recipes
Freezers and Freezing
Mrs Beeton Recipes
Cooking Dictionary
Cooking Techniques
Eating in Warwickshire
Contact Us



 

 

 

 How to Cook With The Spice Saffron

Saffron picture.
Saffron is made from the stigmas of the Saffron Crocus. Each plant has only three stigmas and they must be harvested by hand. This makes saffron the most costly spice in the world.

CLICK ANY PICTURE ON THIS PAGE TO ENLARGE IT

The major exporter of Saffron nowadays is Spain but other countries such as Italy, Greece and India also produce Saffron.

SAFFRON QUALITY
Close up strands of saffron Click the picture on the left for an enlarged version. Looking at this picture tells us something about the quality of this saffron. And quality is important as far as this spice is concerned when using it in cooking. In general terms the more you pay for saffron the better will be its quality. We have found that supermarket own brand saffron is poor quality. The aroma, taste and colouring capabilities are low. So pay a bit more and you are likely to be rewarded with a superior product.

First, check the depth of the red colour of the strands. the deeper the colour, the better the colour. Second, check how many of the strands are yellow rather the red. The more red strands, the higher the quality. In the close up of the picture above you will see that there are relatively few yellow strands and the red colour is deep and vibrant. Whilst this is not the absolute top quality saffron, it's in top 20% for quality. Always go for strands of Saffron, never ready ground saffron. Ground saffron may well contain ingredients other than saffron such as paprika.

COOKING WITH SAFFRON
Paella coloured with saffron Cooking with saffron is not as simple as throwing it into the dish with other ingredients! The classic and best way is to place the saffron in a dry pan on a medium heat for about 30 seconds, no longer. This will crisp it up slightly. Gently break the saffron into tiny pieces with your fingers - be careful when you do this because the saffron will now easily scatter. Sprinkle the saffron evely into the food you are cooking,

Alternatively sprinkle the saffron in a cup of warm water and leave it to soak for 15 minutes. Add the contents of the cup evenly to the dish.

Now consider what is the purpose of adding the saffron. Is it mainly for colour, taste /aroma or both? The paella above has many strong flavours in it which will overcome the taste / aroma of saffron. In paella the main reason for using saffron is to colour the rice. So in this case, add the saffron early on in the cooking process. This will allow the saffron to colour the rice well although the majority of its taste will be lost in the cooking process.

The picture on the right is of a chicken risotto. It is based on a traditional Milanese risotto recipe with some additional ingredients. For a traditional Milanese risotto, the taste and aroma of the saffron is critical because there are few other ingredients to overwhelm it. So add the saffron to this type of dish later on in the cooking process. How late is up to you.

The later the saffron is added, the more its aroma and taste will be apparent but the less colour it will impart to the rice.

ALTERNATIVES TO SAFFRON
As we mentioned above, saffron is very expensive and you may well wonder if there are any alternatives. Turmeric is often said to be a cheaper alternative to saffron as is paprika. The problem with turmeric and paprika is that they have very distinctive tastes and certainly nothing like saffron. Yes they will both colour rice but they will also flavour it.

if you really must use an alternative to saffron then use food colouring, but very little of it. It will colour food and has no detectable taste. In fact, restaurants which serve paella often use yellow food colouring and in general, the Spanish accept that saffron alone will not colour a paella to that desirable yellow colour.

In Spanish restaurants which serve paella, yellow food colouring is an accepted ingredient because the appearance of food compliments its flavour. However, saffron is a very valuable spice and the producers will argue otherwise. The proof though is in the cooking - adding even large amounts of saffron to a paella achieves very little of that yellow colour.

The question is, how much food colouring to use for colouring paella? From our experience 2 teaspoons will give a paella for four reasonable colouring. Be careful not to use too much otherwise a garish and unbelievable yellow colour will be the result.

If food colouring is not for you then turmeric which is well past its "sell by" date is the next best alternative. Age will have caused it to loose much of its flavour but not its ability to colour rice yellow.

Powdered saffron is occasionally sold and it is inevitably cheaper compared to saffron strands. The reason for the price differential is simple, the quality of powdered saffron is significantly lower compared to strands of saffron. In some cases, the powdered versions are adulterated with paprika or marigold.

HOW TO STORE SAFFRON
Simply keep it in its original container with the lid tightly screwed down. A cool, dry and dark storage place is the ideal. Light will degrade the colour of saffron.

WHERE TO BUY SAFFRON
The big supermarkets all sell a range of saffron. In general price is the key quality but not always. If you want to buy saffron online from a specialist supplier try Healthy Supplies for Spanish saffron or Sahar Saffron for different types of saffron.

As far as prices are concerned, a saffron is cheaper when bought online but the additional postage costs make the final price about the same as supermarkets.

OTHER ARTICLES ON SAFFRON
We have tried to explain how to cook with saffron but if we have not covered a specific subject are in detail you may find more information at Taste or Live Strong.

BACK TO PAELLA HOME PAGE

Cookuk Home Page

Useful Links

Privacy Statement


Copyright 2006 - 17 David Marks All rights reserved.