Spanning an illustrious history of over 3000 years, the crimson hued saffron was once the choice of spice for kings, pharaohs and emperors. But these royal leaders were not planning to have a meal with saffron they were more interested in its alleged aphrodisiacal qualities, and because of that, they valued it more than gold.
In today's culture, saffron is still a highly prized commodity for its medicinal properties and for its culinary applications. This beautiful spice comes from the crocus flower that produces tiny thread-like slivers called stigmas and are considered one of the most expensive spices in the world. It can command from $1,500 to $2,000 per pound. But that is for someone who is buying saffron for commercial purposes. For us home-chefs, you can buy much smaller quantities of saffron threads, and the good thing is, you only need to use a few threads at a time when cooking your specific dish.
Most of us are familiar with saffron as a main ingredient in Spanish paella. However, saffron is also used in many other countries from Central Asia, Europe, India, Iran and Morocco. Its distinctive fragrance is reminiscent of honey and hay, which sounds odd, but the end result is magic. Saffron is also known to produce a golden-orange coloring to foods which is why it is used in cheeses, curries, confectioneries, meat dishes, sauces and baked goods.
The reason why saffron is so expensive to buy is due to the intensive harvesting of the tiny stigmas that are extremely delicate and require hand extraction in other words it is very time-consuming. Plus, it takes a large number of crocus flowers in order to yield a marketable amount of saffron. For example, to produce one pound of dry saffron could require some 50,000 to 70,000 flowers, which is rather a large area of cultivation. Also, because the flowers can vary in size can cause another consideration for harvesting.
Some experienced connoisseurs of saffron often crumble and pre-soak the threads for several minutes before adding it to their dishes. This process extracts the color of the threads which adds more flavor and color to the dish.
So dont be put off by the idea that saffron is too expensive to use. In fact, a very minute amount goes a long way. Be regal, and create your own royal dishes at home by using saffron for making casseroles, or great tasting breads and even sweet treats.
We wish you all a very Happy Halloween!
In the meantime, I'd like to share this amazing recipe for making saffron bread rolls:
Saffron Bread Rolls - click link