Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Saffron is the three stigmas of the saffron crocus. They are delicate and thread-like, each measuring 2.5 - 4 cm (1 -1.5 in). Its colour is a bright orange-red, and in high quality saffron this is uniform. Saffron bearing white streaks or light patches is inferior and when light specks appear in its powdered form it suggests adulteration.
Bouquet: Strongly perfumed, with an aroma of honey
Flavour: A pungent bitter-honey taste.
Where to Buy Saffron
Most specialty food shops carry saffron, though if it has sat on the shelves for too long it may have lost flavor, so look for bright color. There are a number of places to purchase online, though we recommend purchasing through one of the reputable dealers associated with Amazon and their trusted and secure online ordering.
Preparation and Storage
Because of its expense, intense flavour, and strong dying properties, very little saffron is required for culinary purposes and the key is to distribute it evenly throughout the dish being prepared. It can be crushed to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. It is easier however, to steep the saffron in hot water— a pinch to a cup will create the desired flavour and colour. Good saffron should expand on contact with the water and a cup should be sufficient for 0.5 kg (1 lb) of rice. Powdered saffron is added directly to the required ingredients of a dish, though we recommend against buying saffron powdered, as it is so frequently adulterated. Store in a cool dry place, out of the light.
Saffron appears in Moorish, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Its most common function is to colour rice yellow, as in festive Indian pilaus and risotto Milanese, where its delicate flavour make it the most famous of Italian rice dishes. It combines well with fish and seafood, infamous as a key ingredient of Spanish paella as well as bouillabaisse. In England, saffron is probably best known for its use in Cornish saffron buns where it is paired with dried fruit in a yeast cake.
Health Benefits Of Saffron
Herbalists claim that American saffron possesses anti-cancer activity, but these claims are yet to be evaluated critically by medical experts. However certain compounds and saffron have positive effects in lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides among heart patients. In ancient cultures, saffron was used to relieve stomach aches and kidney stones and also as an agent in improving the circulation of blood.
Some independent studies suggest that the use of saffron meet have beneficial effects on enhancing memory. While some medical research demonstrates the beneficial properties and activities of saffron such as memory enhancing, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, the medical lobby at large is skeptical about the many claims of saffron.
Cooking with saffron is popular in the Middle East, Spain and Italy. It imparts a wonderful aroma as well as color to the food. Saffron contains carotenoids and medical studies have proven to show that it helps in enhancing oxygen diffusivity in the plasma and other liquids while improving pulmonary oxygenation. The carotenoids in saffron are known to inhibit skin tumors and improve arthritis in various independent medical studies. The numerous active constituents in saffron are also known to bring about a positive effect on people with neurodegenerative disorders and memory impairment. Massaging the gums with saffron helps in reducing soreness and inflammation of the mouth and the tongue.
Saffron is usually used in its dried form and is expensive as a spice and as an herbal supplement. When choosing saffron as an herbal supplement, opt for whole saffron threads instead of powdered saffron, as the threads tend to have more medicinal properties and the powder is likely to be adulterated.
Saffron must be used sparingly when cooking as too much of it can impart a bitter flavor to the food and cause people to fall sick. In large quantities saffron is known to be lethal. Saffron is also used in many cosmetic preparations for enhancing and lightening the skin. However utmost care must be taken in the consumption of saffron. Doctors strictly recommend the use of saffron during pregnancy as the herb possess the property of raising the body temperature.
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