Saffron – The World’s Most Expensive Spice
Delicately hand harvested, saffron is the words most expensive spice. Here’s why.
Each saffron crocus or plant has three flowers and each flower has three stigmas. The flowers are hand picked before the sun rises in the morning, before it gets too hot. The plants are taken inside where the stigmas are patiently hand picked and dried. In the drying process they lose about 80% of their weight – it takes approximately 150,000 flowers for one kilogram of dried saffron!
The good news is, that whilst it’s very expensive, you need very little because the favour is so concentrated (especially if you go for the A Grade rather than the B Grade which is still very high quality but a different section of the stigma, closer to the base of the flower). A little really does go a long way.
How to Use
The flavour is woody, honey-like and earthy and it adds a beautiful red, golden colour tone to the dish. Whilst you can just put the stigmas straight into a dish, if you take just a pinch and pour hot water over the top (a tablespoon or two), the water really draws out the deeper flavour, aroma and golden colour. Let it steep for a minimum of 10 minutes but longer is better and if you have time overnight is ideal. The stigmas will be very pale once all the flavour has penetrated the water.
Be aware, if you use too much, it can taste quite soapy so be careful how much you use. If you have any of the saffron infused water left over, just put it into ice cube trays and freeze it for next time.
Store in a cool, dark dry place. Never store in the fridge or freezer.
Saffron is especially good when used in cooking seafood dishes such as bouillabaisse and paella. It is also used in risotto and other rice dishes.
Here are two of our favourite recipes made special with a pinch of Saffron: