Get "yellow fever" for saffron

Pumpking saffron orange soup by Ottolenghi

If you haven't cooked with saffron, the world's most expensive spice, you'll definitely want to after reading about the Ottolenghi saffron recipes featured in The Guardian. The name saffron comes from the Arabic word for thread, and the thin stigmas of the crocus flower do quite resemble thin crimson strands.

Harvesting saffron is a painstaking process that has so far defied mechanization. The flowers must be picked in the morning before they start to open, and the delicate stigmas must be removed individually, by hand. To produce 450g (1 lb) of saffron, you need about 70,000 crocus flowers. To put that number in perspective, 70,000 crocus plants take up the space of a football field. Factor in the hundreds of hours of labour for the harvest and it's no wonder the spice is costy, running about £5.50 ($8.50 USD) per gram.

But to many cooks, the results justify the price. Saffron adds vibrant color and a flavour that is difficult to describe, although the term "grassy" is often used. Thankfully a little saffron goes a long way, but when it comes to infusing the spice's unique flavour into a dish, "more is definitely more: give it as long as you can (ideally, leave the strands to soak overnight)." Some chefs instruct you to soak the strands until they have no color left in them. The longer you allow the colour and flavour to leach out into any soaking liquid, the more vibrant and flavourful the finished dish will be. Saffron is at home in dishes both savoury and sweet, so the sky's the limit when it comes to experimentation.

You can start with one of these saffron recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi from the EYB Library:

Chard and saffron omelettes from Plenty
Couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes
from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Poached pears with cardamom and saffron from Bon Appétit Magazine by Yotam Ottolenghi
Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts, and honey from Epicurious by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Pumpkin, saffron & orange soup with caramelised pumpkin seeds from  Ottolenghi.co.uk (pictured above)

1 Comment

  • mariadean  on  8/8/2018 at 2:31 AM

    Hey thanks for your useful article and i will be following your this method in upcoming weekend because guest will be joining us so i wanted to do something new that day, Can you please just verify that this saffron's gram are perfect to be use ? https://www.acesaffron.com/product/persian-saffron-5-grams-0-18-oz/ Thanks

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