Saffron: 8 super facts and 4 great recipes to try

From fabric dye to flavouring, saffron – one of the most expensive and sought-after spices in the world – has had a lot of very different uses over the years. Learn a little more about this colourful spice, then use some in one of our favourite recipes.

1.Talk about pricey – saffron is the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The bad news is that it can cost up to £3,200/lb… the good news is that it only takes a very little amount to give flavour and colour to a recipe. 


2. Why so expensive? Essentially, saffron is the stigmas of the purple saffron crocus flower. The plant is harvested in the autumn and the process is completely done by hand. It takes about 80,000 flowers to produce just 1lb of the spice.  

3. The best quality saffron is a deep red colour, and has a honey-like aroma. Don’t be fooled by labels (there are many ‘knock-offs’ out there), so make sure you get your saffron from a reliable source. Always try to buy dried whole stigma rather than powdered saffron as it can be adulterated with other spices to increase its volume and selling price. 

4. The word saffron comes from the Arabic word zafaran, which means yellow. 

5. Iran is the top producer of saffron, yielding about 90% of the world’s supply every year.  

6. How to use it? There are three main methods. You can either add it whole to the preparations, reduce it to a paste with a mortar and pestle, or infuse it in a cup of hot water and add the water to the recipe.  

7. Not only is saffron known and used for its distinctive colour and taste, but it’s also said to have countless health benefits. Some say that saffron can help the digestive system, easing stomach discomfort. 

8. In the middle ages, adulteration (expanding its volume with other spices) was a serious crime that was punishable by death.

Does all this talk about Saffron make you want to try out a few recipes? Look no further! Why not try…

Seafood stew with saffron

Asparagus, saffron and almond pilaf

Spiced lamb chops with saffron yogurt

Patrick William’s jerk chicken brochettes with saffron couscous

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