Saffron is the priciest spice in the world and its popularity can be easily remarked in the wide variety of saffron dishes offered by different cuisines. It is obtained only by handpicking and then drying the stigmas of a flower named Crocus, it takes about half a million threads to make a kilo, therefore its high cost. The saffron cultivation history goes back for thousands of years, and its effects and uses are numerous. From mood lifter and aphrodisiac to wound healer and perfume ingredient, it has been appreciated by many different cultures. Many studies have proven that saffron possesses high levels of antioxidants as well as disease preventing and health enhancing properties. But its main attribute remains that of food colorant and above all, a taste quality enhancer. Its golden-yellow hue and intense sweet aroma are remarkably unique.
Paella, the most popular of saffron dishes, at least in Spain. Also known as the national dish, it comes in many variants, some using seafood, others meat or chicken or mixed. The original is considered to be the Valencian paella that consists of white rice, chicken or rabbit assorted with vegetables and snails. All this appealing mixture is seasoned with saffron and rosemary. The seafood type, though, is the most sought for. Spain is not only home for quite a few traditional saffron dishes, but also one of the main saffron distributors in the West.
The Marseille fishermen’s original fish stew, Bouillabaisse. Now a fish soup, this dish was once a recipe improvised as to use the bony rock-fish fishermen couldn't sell to markets or restaurants. What makes this special from other fish soups is the mixture of spices and herbs in the broth and the serving method. Flavored with saffron, thyme and bay, this dish is usually accompanied with slices of bread and Rouille (a rust colored paste-sauce made of chillies, bread-crumbs, garlic and olive oil ).
The Italian primo, Risotto alla Milanese, is another of the saffron dishes that uses rice as a base. A common choice in Northern Italy. Put Carnaroli or Arborio rice in a pan with butter and a small white onion finely chopped, sprinkle with white wine and then cook adding a ladle at a time of a light vegetable broth and add the saffron, cook for 15-17 minutes. To finish the preparation add some more butter, Parmesan cheese and stir for a couple of minutes until you obtain a creamy and rich risotto.
The healthy option, Saffron Chicken. This easy to prepare dish requires only a few nutritious ingredients. Next to a few green vegetables, add saffron dissolved in a little bit of lukewarm water. Gently fry the veggies with chicken. In a different version, you could opt for saffron chicken with parsley and lemon, a recipe considered as one of the best in the world. It’s also healthy and low in carbohydrates.
Fanciful Persian Ice Cream with Saffron and Rosewater. Persian was the first language in which saffron usage was recorded. From starters to main courses and desserts, there is no doubt about the creativity engaged in Persian saffron dishes. A simple ice cream recipe to which one adds saffron and rosewater can become a glamorous and wonderful solution to make your regular day a glorious day. Mix the sugar with saffron threads and crush them until they turn into a powder, then add them to the ice cream’s basic milk blend and pour in some rosewater too. A few hours later, the only thing you can do is delight your senses with this fabulous delicacy.
Whichever of the mentioned saffron dishes might attract you, it’s worthy to acknowledge that the special taste of the spice will transform them into amazing culinary experiences.
Buon Appetito !