Saffron (Crocus sativus)
Saffron is by far the most expensive spice in the world. It has a delicate, sweet, almost honey like aroma with a taste that is difficult to explain. Some would say it has a sweet almost floral flavour. When used in cooking this spice also gives a fantastic amber like colour to the food.
This spice is the stigmas from the saffron crocus. These are harvested and dried to give the rich, red coloured threads. Crocus sativus is probably the most expensive spice to buy. This is because of the large amount of crocus flowers that are needed to make any quantity of the spice and also the amount of labour required to produce this delicious spice which has an awesome flavour and aroma.
Antioxidant- This spice contains several antioxidant compounds such as crocin, crocetin, safranal and kaempferol. These antioxidants are effective in fighting free radicals and oxidative stress in the body which cause chronic disease.
Anti cancer- According to studies the consumption of saffron have been shown to lower the risk of many types of cancer. This is especially effective in fighting free radicals in the body that cause chronic disease. Unfortunately the anti cancer effects from this spice are poorly studied in humans and await further research.
Vitamins- A, C, Folates, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Selenium, Zinc, Potassium, Sodium.
A lot of this spice originates from Spain and is usually of good quality. It is readily available online and, when bought in smaller amounts, it usually comes in a nice jar or bottle for the spice rack at home. Be wary of cheap deals as these are usually not that good and may have been blended with other cheaper ingredients, or even water.
This spice is very popular around the world but is particularly enjoyed in cuisines from Europe, Turkey, Middle Eastern countries and India. It is a delicious ingredient to add to rice dishes. Its vibrant colour, flavour and aroma can really bring this bland grain to life.
It is used in many rice dishes including risottos, biryanis and, of course, not forgetting, paella. Saffron spice is also fantastic to use with poultry and really gives a great colour and flavour to chicken. It is also delicious used with vegetables. Another common use for saffron is to bake with it, as it adds flavour and colour to breads and cakes.
For me, I like to cook this chicken recipe below with saffron as it is simple and tasty and the whole family loves it. Give it a try !
Serves 4-6 people
10 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
1 large onion diced
1 carrot diced
4 large cloves of garlic finely chopped or crushed
1 cup of basmati rice
1 litre of boiling water
2 chicken stock cubes
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads crumbled
2 bay leaves
1 cup of frozen peas
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
First add salt and black pepper to the chicken and give it a good rub in.
Put a large pan on to a medium to high heat and add the oil. Once hot add the chicken and cook until it goes a nice light golden colour. Remove the chicken from the pan.
Now add the onion and then the garlic, cooking until the onion goes soft or starts to change colour. Then add the carrot and the rice. Stir it into the mixture making sure its covered with the oil.
Take your boiling water and add it to the pan. Stir well and then add the 2 stock cubes. Once boiled turn the heat down to a simmer and, using the salt and pepper, season to taste.
Now return the chicken to the pan, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. If the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken is nice and tender, remove the pan from the heat and leave for 5 minutes.
All that is left is to stir in the frozen peas and remove the bay leaves and serve.