Saffron is the orange-red stigmas of the saffron crocus and a highly prized spice. It takes thousands of these stigmas to produce just 25g, which accounts for the high price of saffron. The dried stigmas contain a volatile oil and a colouring substance, which give a musty, honey flavour and bright yellow colour to rice or anything in which they are cooked. Saffron was at one time extensively cultivated in England, particularly at Saffron Walden, from which the town took its name. Saffron is available as strands or as a powder. Use saffron in very small quantities, about 9-12 strands are sufficient for 225g rice.
Uses: In the west of England, traditional foods include saffron bread and saffron cake. Widely used in Mediterranean countries, saffron is delicious in many chicken, shellfish or rice dishes and is an essential ingredient in Spanish paella.
To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
To prepare: Saffron powder can be added directly to food. Saffron strands are infused in warm water until the water is an even colour, then added with their liquid to the dish, usually at the end of the cooking time.