Saffron is produced from the stigma of the crocus flower which grows in Asia Minor. Most of the world’s saffron is produced in Iran, but Spain exports most of this spice. Saffron is used as a spice in rice, risotto, seafood, and other recipes. It flavors the food and tints it with a yellow hue. Saffron is used in Indian recipes as well as those from the Middle East. Saffron flavored food is also popular in Cuba, Latin America, and South America because since people appreciate foods that their Spanish ancestors brought from Spain.
Safron is one of the oldest spices in the world. It was supposedly used by Cleopatra as makeup to color her face and to give her a fragrance as well. In India, safron is still used as a medicine for nausea, and it’s used for only the most important Hindu religious celebrations as an offering to the gods. This spice is used sparingly because of its’ cost. It takes 570 threads to make one gram of safron, and 190 flowers are needed.
Cooking with safronis very easy, and it’s much like using any other spice. It is popular to use powdered saffron, but fresh safron is usually better since the spice is sometimes mixed with less expensive spices to stretch the amount of safron used in the powdered spice. Fresh safron is sold in thin threads that are reddish in color. The darker the red, the better the quality of the spice will be.
It may take a little practice if a person has never cooked with the spice before. Most cooks claim that it’s best to only use a pinch of the spice when cooking. They say that the flavor is stronger the day after the dish is prepared which is another reason to use small amounts of the spice. If too much safron is ingested, it can actually cause death.
In Latin countries, such as Cuba, Latin America, and South America, cooking with safron often means that a special occasion or holiday has arrived. A popular dish from Spain, Arroz con pollo, or Rice with Chicken, is a classic that is almost always served at these times. It is very easy to make, and not many ingredients are necessary. Pieces of chicken are rolled in a flour mixture of salt, pepper, and paprika, and the chicken is browned in a skillet. Rice is then cooked with chicken broth and safron is added for a special flavor, along with onion, garlic, and tomatoes.
There are also very delicious Safron Couscous recipes. Only one-eighth of a teaspoon of crushed safron is required for one of these recipes. Onion, salt, and the safron are sautéed in butter before the safron is added. To make a linquine seafood dish, safron is simmered in white wine. Only one-half teaspoon is used in the recipe. After a fish broth sauce is finished, the wine with the safron is added, and poured over shrimp and mussels. The dish is then topped with cheese and baked.
Indian dishes frequently call forsafron, and the spice is used in Indian dessert dishes as well. One of these is Vermicelli Kheer. The vermicelli is broken into small pieces and is roasted. It is then topped with a milk sauce after the milk is boiled down and thickened. Sugar, raisins, cinnamon, cardamoms, and saffron are added to the sauce. Another Indian dessert is Khirini, a milk pudding with rice that is flavored with saffron. Threads of saffron are placed on top of the dessert for decoration.