Organic Saffron and Crocus Flowers

Tips on Using Saffron

Saffron is an exotic spice; its flavour and aroma are a sensory experience unlike any other. It cannot be substituted; a common mistake is to replace it with turmeric because of the colour, but this will profoundly change the flavour of a dish. You may also see safflower posing as saffron, so be aware of impostors.

As expensive as saffron may seem its intensely strong flavour, aroma and colour means it need only be used sparingly.

Filaments need to be steeped in hot liquid (not fats as saffron is water soluble) for at least 20 minutes, but they add a lovely, visual dimension to plain-coloured foods.

Filaments can also be lightly toasted and ground to avoid the need for soaking, but be very careful as they burn easily.

¾ teaspoon of filaments will give you about ¼ teaspoon of powder.

Avoid using wooden utensils when cooking with saffron as the flavour and colour can be absorbed into the porous wood.

Store in an airtight container away from the light.

Classic dishes with saffron are paella, bouillabaisse, risotto alla Milanese, Scandinavian saffron bread, biryani and pilau.

Sweat 6 finely chopped shallots and 2 crushed garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 125mls white wine, reduce to half then add 250mls cream or stock and ¼ teaspoon saffron powder or ½ teaspoon ground filaments. Reduce to half, add ¼ cup chopped parsley or dill and pour over steamed mussels, clams, scallops or fish.

Heat a good dash of one of your favourite citrus-flavoured liqueurs (for example, Grand Marnier, Limoncello or Cointreau) and steep a pinch of saffron in it for at least 20 minutes. Stir through 250mls of Greek yoghurt with a tablespoon of honey and serve with fresh fruit or polenta cake.

Add ¼ teaspoon powdered saffron and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme to the liquid you pour over a potato, parsnip or celeriac gratin.