Welcome to Friday Food Reviews where I will be covering a different food or product each week and looking at… what are they? where do they grow, what can we substitute them for in a recipe, are they safe to eat, how to store them, how to use them, cook them, anything connected to that food. or product..all the why’s and the wherefores…it will, of course, be mainly my own opinion or a known fact…good or bad…there may even be a tried and tested recipe…or three…
This week it’s…Saffron…
Saffron is known as vegetable gold it comes from a purple crocus flower Crocus sativus…an orange-coloured condiment consisting of its dried stigmas used to colour and flavour foods.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world’s most costly spice by weight.
A beautiful spice used to colour a paella…derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food.
Kashmiri saffron is well known for its exotic aroma and as a flavour in culinary preparation. Kashmiri saffron has a deep dark maroonish-purple hue. While Persian saffron has about 70% of total world production, quality Kashmiri saffron is the best and finest.
However, the flowers must be harvested by hand, before or immediately after sunrise so that they are not damaged by direct heat from the sun. The flowers are very delicate, and many growers believe mechanical plucking damages the saffron crocus flowers. Each flower produces only 3 stigmas…It takes about 13,125 threads to weigh one ounce. .hence the high cost of $1,149 per pound.
Turmeric…at $2.05 per oz turmeric is a savvy swap for saffron at almost 100% savings…It is easy to grow and you can just pull what you like away from the rhizome or buy powdered turmeric.
Turmeric as a substitute for Saffron… provides yellow colour to your dish when cooked that is similar to Saffron however turmeric has ts own flavour and may not be a suitable flavour profile for some dishes.
For colour and a little flavour, per 10-15 threads needed you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon turmeric then add 1/2 teaspoon paprika for a little flavour.
Marigold…Marigold blossoms can also be used as a saffron substitute. They are able to effectively approximate the colour of saffron and add no awkward taste to the recipe.
The blossoms can be diced and added, or dried and then crushed into powder.
Annatto …Annatto seeds can be used as a substitute in Spanish cooking. The seeds can be added to hot oil and cooked briefly, which will give the oil a bright red colour and impart a subtle pepper flavour.
The seeds are harvested from the flowers of the achiote trees of Central and South America.
Sweet paprika …Paprika is a common substitute for saffron. It can easily reproduce the colour that saffron creates and does not have a harsh flavour that could affect the recipe. This spice is created by grinding down peppers that have been dried.
Cooks should avoid using smoked paprika when substituting for saffron because the flavour can be very strong.
Safflower, often referred to as the Mexican saffron, is gotten from a herbaceous plant with an orange-flowered thistle-like characteristic.
This plant is cultivated for its culinary value, the seeds are used to make safflower oil used in cooking, and the leaves are also edible. The leaves are yellow or orange-like, and it has a herbal, floral, and chocolaty flavour and aroma.
Made from Scratch…Paella!
- 2 cups of Aribo Rice
- 1 Litre of chicken stock with a few strands of saffron added.
- 2 Chicken Breasts cubed.
- A piece of Chorizo about 150 gm sliced and quartered.
- I onion.
- 3 cloves garlic.
- 1 chilli.
- I red Pepper.
- Half Kilo of Prawns.
- 1 kilo of Mussels.
- 5 baby squid.
- Half Lemon.
Cook Chorizo in tbsp Olive Oil until lightly browned add chopped onion and cook for 2 mins. Put in a dish and leave on one side.
Lightly Brown Chicken in remaining oil and put on one side.
Cook cubed red pepper, chilli, garlic until softened. and put in a dish on one side.
Add rice to the pan and stir to cover with remaining oil( can add peas at this point) and add the chicken stock with the saffron strands and cook on rolling simmer 5-10mins or until the rice has nearly absorbed all liquid. Add chicken and either continue to cook on the hob or put in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Check and top up with water or stock if required if rice is too dry.
Add the Chorizo and Pepper mix cook for further 10 mins checking and stirring or topping up stock if required. Add Prawns and cook for further 10 mins. Add Mussels and cook another 8-10 mins until open. Add squid for the last 3 mins of cooking.
Squeeze over lemon and garnish with lemon slices or quarters and if you have parsley in the fridge add some chopped as a garnish. If the rice still has not been absorbed by the stock I cook of on top of the stove until absorbed.
Then serve…….. this is very much a recipe where the amount of stock depends on rice absorption and also what meat or fish you have. If I have some to use or in the freezer then I might add or use chicken thighs instead of breast. The mussels we brought yesterday were quite big so we steamed them before adding to Paella or if I have just shelled Mussels I stir them through the Paella.
Really anything goes it’s just you and your imagination, as you make more you will learn how to adjust to your own taste and once the initial prep is done it is quite easy to make…enjoy experimenting. It can also be cooked on a BBQ and then you get that lovely crust the Spanish call socarrat, on the bottom of the pan…lovely.
Although there really is no substitute for the beautiful Saffron the alternatives above depending on your recipe are good if not perfect substitutes for saffron however for paella I always use saffron but for other dishes I have used alternatives like turmeric, sweet paprika and Annatto seeds…
Thank you for reading this post I hope you have found it informative...if you have any recipes where you cannot get an ingredient and wish to know what you can use as a substitute then please let me know and I will do the research for you…as always I look forward to your comments…Have a fabulous weekend xx