Saffron is a high-value spice that comes from “crocus sativus” a type of flowering plant that blooms during the fall season. This plant was used since ancient times and is still used even today. The demand for this product is always high and harvesting is labour-intensive which accounts for its expensive tag. Saffron is considered the King of Spices because of this.
Despite the hefty price, Saffron’s distinctive flavour and avowed medicinal benefits continue to appeal to millions of palates all over the world. To give credit to this amazing spice, I compiled 5 of the best recipes enhanced with the dried stigma of the Saffron flower and what other flavours complement with it.
- Golden Saffron Rice
2 pinches of Saffron threads (choose the best kind)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup minced yellow onion
2 cups white Basmati rice
3 ¾ cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
How to Prepare:
- Grind one pinch of Saffron thread into a fine powder in a clean mortar. Add another one pinch to the mortar but do not crush.
- Add ¼ cup of hot water and let the ground Saffron steep for about 5 minutes.
- Rinse and drain the Basmati rice and keep to one side.
- In a large pot, sauté the minced onion in heated olive oil until brown.
- Add the rice to the pot and sauté together with the onion for another minute.
- Pour the saffron water over the rice and mix thoroughly.
- Add the chicken stock and salt to taste.
- Cover the pot and cook the rice for about 20 minutes until tender.
The glorious red colour of the Saffron threads turns into golden yellow when mixed with rice. Serve rice in a ceramic bowl.
- Moroccan Bastilla
4 pcs boneless chicken thighs (you can also use breast part)
¼ cup minced onion
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1 ½ cup chicken stock
3 eggs, beaten slightly
25g unsalted butter, melted
100g almond flakes, lightly toasted
10 pcs. Filo or Phyllo pastry sheets
1 pinch Saffron threads
1 pinch black pepper powder
1 pinch of sugar
1 tbsp. salt
How to Prepare: Filling
- Preheat oven to 400˚F while you prepare the chicken.
- Coat the chicken with oil, salt and black pepper powder and oven-roast for 35 minutes in a deep roast tray until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool down before shredding into small strands.
- Sauté ginger first until brown and add Saffron threads and onion. Stir until onion is soft.
- Add cinnamon, a pinch of sugar, and the shredded chicken meat into the saucepan.
- Add chicken broth, season with salt and pepper and cover until boiling. Bring down the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the lightly beaten eggs and almonds, set aside to cool.
- Layer the Filo pastry sheets in a baking tray, coating the sheets with melted butter.
- The Filo sheets are very thin; you can use 4-5 sheets for every layer of filling.
- Tuck the edges of the sheets to seal and coat with butter.
- Bake the pastry in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Flip the pastry carefully to bake the other side evenly.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Sprinkle with cinnamon powder and confectioners’ sugar on top.
3. Chicken Tajine with Saffron
Chicken tajine is a spicy Moroccan dish cooked in a clay pot. This dish is also popular with North African people.
1 medium-sized chicken
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium size onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch Saffron threads (about 20 medium threads)
2 tsp. ground dried ginger
2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup olives
Salt and pepper to taste
How to Prepare:
- Cut the chicken into desired pieces and put in an earthenware pot. You can use a thick-bottomed pot if you don’t have a clay pot.
- Cover the chicken with diced onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger. Add black pepper, Saffron threads, cilantro and salt. Add the lemon juice.
- Add 1 cup of water and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Add water as needed.
- Add olives and continue simmering for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Best served with rice.
4. Moroccan Couscous with Saffron
This spicy Moroccan dish originated in Northern Africa and is a favoured dish in Morocco.
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. dried Saffron powder
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cups chicken broth
How to Prepare:
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil.
- Add Saffron powder and onion. Sauté until onion is soft.
- Add chicken broth, bring to boil.
- Add couscous, stir and remove from heat and cover for 5-7 minutes
- Sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley on top.
5. Milk with Saffron
Saffron has a very distinct scent and flavour that goes well with milk. You can buy canned evaporated milk with Saffron but you can also make it at home.
8 cups milk (evaporated milk is best)
¼ cup white sugar
8-10 Saffron threads
How to Prepare:
- Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and boil.
- Stir constantly to prevent lumps and avoid sticking to the pan.
- Boil for 3-5 minutes until Saffron has dissolved completely.
- Remove from heat and let the milk cool down a bit
- Drink while milk is still warm.
- You can also serve the milk with ice.
There you have it! You can make your own recipe or versions of any popular recipes using Saffron threads. You can use it to enhance the flavour of stews, puddings, sauces, rice dishes, pastries, and even ice cream! You can also pair it with apple, almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, citrus fruits, and many more
If you want to get more out of your Saffron threads and don’t mind waiting, steep in the water for 10-12 hours. Since this “gold thread” is very expensive you may want to use it sparingly. The good thing is, you can store Saffron thread in an air-tight container and keep away from direct sunlight. Keep in a cool, dark corner and it could last up to several years.