Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Rare and expensive, you need a bit of courage to use saffron.  Saffron comes from the stamens of a crocus plant.  It is expensive because it is harvested by hand and takes a lot of plants to produce a small amount of saffron.  About 85000 flowers are needed to get one pound of saffron!

Saffron's original use was probably as a dye.  Saffron gets a mention in the Song of Solomon.  Buddhists used saffron to dye their monk's robes.

Saffron is even grown in France!  Iran grows the vast majority of the world's saffron.

Saffron has a long history of medicinal use including treating: digestive ailments, rheumatism, jaundice and hangovers.  It is also supposed to have strong antioxidant properties.

I like to use the strands rather than getting powdered saffron – which is often not pure saffron.  You just steep a few strands in hot water and a glorious colour should emerge.  The colour will deepen the longer you let it steep.  Use it sparingly. If you overdo the saffron your food will start to taste bitter.  Store it away from the light – but not in your fridge.

Used in rice and seafood dishes.  Saffron is often added to the French fish soup – bouillabaisse.  Can be used in baking.

Add your saffron at the end of your cooking.  Don't use more than a pinch.

Try adding it to mashed potatoes. Try poached pears in saffron syrup

My recipe using saffron – Saffron Coconut Rice

BIBLIOGRAPHY - with thanks to Auckland Libraries

Cook's Encyclopaedia of Spices by Sallie Morris & Lesley Mackley
Discovering Vegetables, Herbs & Spices by Susanna Lyle
Spice Market by Jane Lawson
Spicery by Ian & Elizabeth Hemphill
Spices & Natural Flavourings by Jennifer Mulherin
Spices by Sophie Grigson
Spices Condiments and Seasonings by Kenneth T Farrell
Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen by Elizabeth David
The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander


  1. Such a wonderful spice. And although it's expensive, a little goes a long way. I bought some once in a standard spice jar, and the checkout person said 'this is ringing up a very high price for an empty jar...' I had to reassure him that this was OK...

  2. Paella... not the same without it! Although I love it used as a sparing drizzle on top of a biryani before baking in it's little pot.


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