Saffron is the oldest spice that we have used for cooking for centuries and in a many parts of the world.
The oldest traces date from the era of Zohac – King Zohac’s cook flavoured the back of a calf with old wine, saffron and rosewater.
Aroma and taste of saffron
Its very distinctive aroma is hard to define. Chefs and specialists describe it as like honey with metallic notes.
It has a slightly bitter taste, slightly sweet, with an astringency which develops in the mouth.
Saffron releases its flavour most often in the aftertaste, the bitter, liquorice and woody side remains intense, with a piquant note on the tip of the tongue. It is used in cooking both as a spice and a colourant. Saffron is extensively used in Arab, Indian, Iranian and central Asian cuisine. The sun shines on our plates!
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Bourride (a stew of angler fish) and fish soup, aubergines, bouillabaisse, soft caramel, scallops, lobster cooked in a court bouillon, spiced roast pigeon, diverse meat or fish terrines, desserts, jam, mustard, cheese, liqueurs, wine…
In Bresse, Clon cheese is an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese flavoured with saffron.
In our department and the south-west:
It is found in regional recipes such as: Montärol (a Quercy soup), Albi tripe, snails, clams, Quercy lamb, saffron cake, melsat (a type of white pudding), jellies, desserts and fruit salads.
Italy: Milanese risotto, spaghetti with saffron and ricotta, saffron cake…
Iran: chelow kebab, halva, rechteh polo, rice with saffron, raz el hanout, shirin polo, yoghurt…
Uzbekistan: wedding plov, a rice-based speciality…
Morroco: tagines, chicken stew with olives and potatoes, Atlas lamb with saffron and coriander, zarda pullao, mrouzia (a sweet and sour dish of mutton or lamb, chemoula….
India: biryanis, milk-based sweets, gulabjuman, kulfi, ka meetha, lassi with saffron (a yoghurt-based drink. Thandai is a refreshing drink made from saffron, almonds, fennel, poppy seeds, rosewater, cardamom, sugar and cold milk..
Switzerland : cuchaule (a saffron flavoured brioche cooked for the Benichon feast-days…
Sweden: lussekat saffransbuller or luciabuller – little cakes cooked for the feast of St Lucy.
How to use saffron
Saffron is a flavour enhancer.
It can enhance sweet and savoury dishes, and cause a taste explosion. Saffron is used as an infusion*. The longer it infuses, the more it develops its flavour.
* Soak the stigma in a little warm water (milk, cream...) for 4 hours or more before adding it to the dish.
Saffron needs little cooking – ideally it should be added ten minutes before the end of cooking. This way its colour and flavour harmonise best in the dish. The number of stigmas depends of the quality and size of saffron, for the Saffron of Quercy we recommand you 2 or 3 per person.