Cooking with Saffron
What’s the most expensive food in the world? It’s likely not wagyu beef or caviar. For every ounce of it, there could be saffron.
The vibrant, yellow, and spicy spice that is commonly found in Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern dishes can run between $5,000 and $10,000 per kilogram. (By contrast, Japanese wagyu runs only in the lower $100s per pound. Even the most expensive Osetra caviar is priced around the $2000 mark per pound.)
A tiny amount can go a long way; just a few grams of saffron could add a variety of meals with a vibrant, delicious flavor. Its price, which is higher than average, may seem odd in the spice store, but once you’ve tasted it, a few dollars might seem like a modest cost to enjoy the elegance and awe it adds.
Here is how to cook with saffron.
How do you define saffron?
Saffron is famously referred to as “threads,” which are actually the stamens of a flower called the crocus Sativus, which thrives in the hot climates described above.
It’s not the rareness of the flowers which makes saffron expensive; however, it’s their short calendar time for blooming, their small yields and the cost of harvesting their fragile reproductive components. (We’re talking about laborious tasks using Tweezers here and not extracting machines for stamens.)
After harvest and drying, the crocus in sativus stamens are dry and packed, and they should appear as fine, red trumpets shaped like petals with an elegant yellow tendril.
Related: Growing Saffron
What is the taste of saffron?
As with some of the most intricately flavored food items such as Chartreuse truffles, truffles and so on, Saffron’s exact flavor is hard to define. It’s like it’s a saffron-like flavor and nothing else tastes like it (which is the reason it’s so awesome). Its flavor could be described as sweet, heady, or even bright. Floral but not in a musky way. Sweet, yet earthy.
Despite all this complexity, it is a great match with a myriad of other dishes, including pasta and rice to meat and vegetables (and even desserts).
Says Azita Mehran, Persian cook and the author on the website Turmeric and Saffron: “In Persian cuisine, saffron is used in both sweet and savoury dishes, like the majority of dishes made with polow (rice) dishes and the tahdig (crispy top layer of rice) as well as many Khorsh (stew) recipes, grilling chicken, sholeh-zard (saffron rice pudding) as well as in saffron sherbet and saffron tea.”
In addition, the fact it has the same biological characteristics as vanilla allows it to perform the same function. Cooking with saffron does not require it to be at the center stage, but it does help to enhance the richness of all other ingredients it comes in contact with.
Also read: Iranian Saffron vs Indian Saffron
What is the best way to cook with saffron?
The better question is, what should you utilize saffron? As we said, it doesn’t care about its dance partners and is able to dance with the precision of masters and makes everyone who is around it look stunning. A good starting point for cooking with saffron includes rice that is comfortable, warm and cozy.
“The most effective method to utilize saffron is to grab tiny slivers of hairs and grind it to an extremely fine powder using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice mill. Place the powdered saffron in small bowls, then add three teaspoons of boiling water (or hot liquids such as soup or stocks) then, give it an easy stir, cover and let it sit for about 5 minutes or so to reveal the scent and color prior to adding it into your food.”
Toasting the powder of saffron in olive oil over low heat will assist in infusing it into whatever delicious food you’re cooking.
It’s true that ounce for it’s one of the most expensive food items in the world. But that doesn’t mean that you should not include it in your food even if you’re on a tight budget. Simply a little is enough for a variety of fantastic recipes. So, take advantage of its vibrant red powerhouse and sprinkle saffron over everything.