Saffron is an exotic spice with its own unique color, flavor & aroma . Enjoy some facts about saffron & learn new recipes on the way.
I was so tempted to do an exclusive blog post on the uses and nuances of the most elegant, exquisite and priciest spice in the culinary world - you know where I am going with this right? Yep, you got that right. I am talking about saffron. I toyed with the idea for a long time. Finally, took the plunge and took pictures of this beautiful spice and asked my blogger friends to share recipes using this delicate spice.
Indian cooking is typically known to use a lot of spices in the dishes. Each of these spices has a specific role to play in the dish. Saffron is an exotic spice, even by Indian standards - typically used in Rice/Pilaf dishes and also in desserts - adding its own unique color, flavor and aroma to everything it touches.
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of saffron, I have to tell you something: No saffron threads were harmed in making of this blog post about Saffron. Each strand pictured here will be put to good use 🙂 .
Saffron is not just a spice to me, it is steeped in mystery and reverence.
Of course, the color, the fragrance and the taste can be explained due to the advances in science, but we still have not figured out a way to handle the delicate flower (crocus flower, the Crocus sativus) to extract the stigma. That process still involves manual labor, even in this century, with such technological advances. And imagine you would a lot of flowers (we are talking hundreds of thousands of flowers) to extract just a single ounce of saffron. Phew!!! No wonder saffron is called the vegetable gold or even red gold. But in a way I am glad that technology has not taken over saffron production and it looks like it has been the same way of cultivation and harvesting over centuries and many livelihoods depend on it.
It is said that perfection comes in small packages, saffron is the embodiment of that saying. As small as a pinch packs so much color, flavor and aroma.
It is like a power house of flavor.
I did a research on the chemical compounds in saffron, just to satisfy the chemistry buff in me. It turns out that there are more than 150 aroma-yielding compounds in it. Yep, just to yield the aroma!
I have tried to identify the flavor of saffron in the dishes. But I find it very hard to describe the flavor in words. It is so remarkable that it presence and absence (in dishes where it should be present) can be identified easily. Why try to describe something so beautiful and fail at it? So, I am going to leave it at "it tastes beautiful and exotic. Just wonderful."
I wonder whether there is any other spice so revered and steeped in mythology and rituals?
I have read a few stories about saffron and it's Greek roots. But I became more interested in learning about Saffron and Hindu mythology.
The color of the sky during sunrise and the color of Agni (fire) resembles the color of Saffron. Sunrise is considered a revered time in Hinduism for worship and Agni is worshiped as God.
No wonder Saffron has such a big influence in Hindu rituals.
Have you noticed the ascetics/rishis/munis robe color? Saffron, right? Imagine that people who have risen above all the worldly matters are allowed to wear saffron color clothes. This itself signifies the spiritual essence associated with the spice.
It is no surprise that the offerings to god during Hindu rituals mostly have saffron as one of the ingredients.
Saffron has lot more uses and not just in the culinary world. Saffron, has seen many a battle wounds (when used as a medicine to heal the wounds) during ancient times. Alexander the great is supposed to have used saffron to help him heal the battle wounds. Luckily for me I do not fight battles, so my use is restricted to the culinary use.
It is believed that Cleopatra took bath in saffron infused water. Oh my!!!!
One quick search about the cosmetic uses of saffron and you will find simple recipes for concoctions and masks to make your skin glow.
How much Saffron in "a pinch of saffron"?
If you are familiar with recipes that use saffron, you will find most of them say " a pinch of saffron". Yes, you will need only a pinch and that small pinch goes a long way. But how much is a pinch? We love to quantify everything and it makes sense since the way I pinch out the saffron threads may not be the way you do. So, let us quantify. Well, the thumb rule is that a pinch of saffron is about 15-20 threads. Now, whether you want to sit and count the threads or go with your gut feel of a pinch is totally up to you. I usually eyeball my saffron threads in the recipes.
How to Use saffron?
Crush the saffron threads using your finger tips and let it steep in either warm milk or warm water for at least 10-20 minutes before using in the dish. If you can steep it longer, please do so to extract better flavor. When a dish uses saffron, I typically start soaking the saffron threads to extract the maximum flavor before even getting other ingredients ready.
Recipes Using Saffron
I have some amazing blogger friends and some of them shared their favorite recipes using saffron. There is never enough recipes for us to try, agree? You will find a lot of desserts, a few rice dishes, some baked goodies and also a chicken recipe. So here we go....
Amrita shared her recipe for Kesar Pista Shrikand.
Pooja shared flavored Mango puree, Aamras.
Sonal shared her recipe for Kesariya Paneer Kheer.
Amarkhand or mango and saffron flavored yogurt by Rupali
If you are looking for a lassi flavored with saffron, check ourt Sandhya's Lassi Patiala.
Pineapple Kesari is a sweet dish and the recipe is shared by Naina.
Raksha brings her Basundi recipe to the saffron round up.
The recipe for these delectable Kesar Pedas is coutesy of Jyothi.
Anjana showcases her Semiya Kheer.
From Preethi, we have the Carrot Kesar malai Burfi.
Madhuri from MadAbout Kitchen brings to you Lacha Rabdi.
Anshu brings you matkas of Kesar Phirni.
If you are a fan of halwa, then try this recipe for Badam Halwa by Shaheen.
If you want to have a healthy dessert , give Richa's Apple Kheer a try.
Kritika brings you Basundi recipe from her kitchen.
One more sweet dish for you, this time from Priya and it is a yummy Aval Payasam.
Teena brings you the Matar Ka Halwa/Green Peas Halwa.
If you are a cookie monster, then Rafeeda shares her recipe for Saffron Olive Oil Cookies, especially for you.
Anitha is bringing these Motichoor Modak.
Kulfi with saffron? Bring it on Shailaja.
Sai Priya shares her recipe for Aromatic Himachali Sweet Rice.
Thanks Sowmya for sharing your Rasmalai recipe.
This classic Bengali dessert Bhappa Sandesh is shared by Alka.
If you want to try a saffron rice recipe, take a look this Saffron Flavored Dry Fruit Rice by Waagmi.
This quintessential Kaju Katli recipe is by Farrukh.
Anvita adds a twist to the regular Sandesh Mithai.
Aish shared these lovely White Chocloate Saffron Turmeric Truffles with us.
Seena brings you Palada Pradhaman.
Meera shared her recipe for Absolutely Heavenly Badam Kheer.
Jayashree baked a Mango and Saffron Opera cake. Check it out.
Something for everyday snacking? Check out this Saffron Flavored Pistachios by Huma.
Ice cream you say? We got you covered. Here is Rekha's recipe for a Mango Coconut Milk Icecream.
Radha shared her recipe for the delicious Malai Pedha.
Here is Brijdeep's recipe for Saffron Chicken.
Here is a recipe from my blog and it is a twist to the classic Italian custard, Rose and Saffron Panna cotta with Berry Compote.
I highly recommend you to watch this youtube Video (BBC Documentary - The Spice Trail) and visit Morocco and Spain to see how saffron is planted, harvested and used.
Did you like the article? Would you like us to work on some other spices in detail? If so, please let us know in comments. We love your feedback.
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Till we meet again…