Saffron is extracted from the species ‘Crocus Sativus’ and it’s crimson threads are absolutely the most expensive spice in the world. It grows almost exclusively in a belt stretching from Spain to India with 90-95% of all saffron coming from Iran. It is hand harvested on plantations where it has been growing naturally from the beginning of time. Hand picking the crocuses is imperative to preserving and protecting the delicate threads which naturally vary in quality; meaning it also takes the keen eye of a trained professional to make sure that you’re getting the very best. It is only the longest and reddest threads that achieve top dollar and it takes 70.000 crocuses to produce just 1 pound of saffron threads.
Saffron is typically used for it’s aromatic qualities and the distinct yellow pigment that it gives off in sweet desserts as well as in savoury dishes, like in this classic from Spain.
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
400g organic free range boneless skinless chicken thigh meat
250g string beans cut in 4-5cm lengths
200g giant beans
2 big beef heirloom tomatoes grated without seeds
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
3-4 threads saffron
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 cups of paella rice.
To be cooked on LOW HEAT
- Put the olive oil in the centre of the pan and sprinkle some salt around the edge. Do not let the oil burn!
- Add the chicken & cook until golden brown and then push to the salt ring.
- Do the same with the string beans and finally the giant beans seasoning generously with salt and push to the salt ring.
- Add the tomato and stir everything together. Let it all cook down until it gets sticky.
- Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and the chicken pieces and allow it to cook down again.
- Pour one cup of warm tap water and add your saffron. Releasing the pigment and aroma.
- Repeat this process one more time.
- Add 3 cups of dry rice and then 5 cups of cold water and the cup of saffron water.
- Carefully stir everything together in the pan and let it simmer. The rice will start to float, it will thicken but you need to resist the urge to stir. Step away from the spoon!
- Once most of the liquid is absorbed into the rice put the rosemary on top and cover it all with a wet tea towel.
- Stay with it and watch the rice on the top, once this is all cooked through your Paella is ready, and delicious.
Suffice it to say that this time when we tell you it’s worth it’s weight in gold; it is. And unless you’re questioning your sanity while purchasing it you’re not getting the real quality stuff. If you happen to find yourself in possession of a pound or more, keep in mind that saffron is best kept airtight, cool (below 68o), dry and in the dark. Use one of our vacuum containers and keep it in the cool dark of your pantry.