Saffron is one of the world’s costliest spices, but fortunately you only need a pinch of this savoury ingredient to get the most out of it. When shopping for this spice it’s easy to purchase poor quality brands that are mixed with fillers that adulterate it, or to misuse the fresh strands.
Since it’s so expensive, it’s best to know how to prepare the spice and the fresh strands when in your kitchen. You also want to know how to bring out the full flavour of the spice and how to use it in your recipes so it enhances your dishes and doesn’t overpower them. Consider a few simple tips you might remember when working in your kitchen.
1. Look for colour
It’s always best to avoid powders when shopping for spices as these are likely to be adulterated by other ingredients and they are never as fresh. When shopping for fresh saffron, look for long threads that are uniform in length so you know they’ve been prepared at the same time and will be fresh. They should have a deep red or orange colour that is also uniform. You can see samples here. A pale or uneven colour or white streaks running through the threads indicate a poor quality, so look for rich colour when selecting your spice.
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2. Crush by hand
The long threads you buy are very delicate and can easily crumble under your fingers, so you want to crush them by hand rather than trying a food processor or other machine. A mortar and pestle is good for the job. Be sure you count how many strands you crush at once; a pinch is about twenty threads or strands so don’t overdo it. The spice has a very bold flavour and since a little bit goes a long way, you want to keep track of how much you prepare at once.
3. Soak for better flavour
The flavour of saffron is best released when it’s used in liquid, so be sure you soak any strands you need to use for a dry recipe. If you add threads or strands to soups, stews, or rice dishes you won’t need to soak it but when cooking with chicken or fish, it’s best to marinate the strands ahead of time. This will release their full flavour and give you the best results in your cooking.
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