Saffron: origins, recipes, medicinal virtues…
A few kilos. That is the weight of the saffron harvest each year in Touraine. And yet, saffron is one of our iconic local produce: also called “red gold”, it is the most expensive spice in the world!
From the flower, crocus savitus, to the saffron
It seems that saffron comes from Crete, the largest Greek island. From this central location, the precious spice has been taken to the Middle East and in India. In France, the saffron production was at its height during the 19th century before declining…. But it never totally disappeared!
The saffron flower is a variety of crocus blooming in autumn. The bulb is planted underground (7 to 15 cm). In autumn, it is time for harvest. Three orange stigmas are separated from each charming purple flower and dry for more than a year. The spices are then stored in a dark place inside an airtight container. For 1 gramme of saffron, you need 150 flowers. Fortunately for us, 4 or 5 stigmas are enough to spice a dish!
Medicinal virtues and recipes
Saffron is not only used as a spice but is also employed in the making of perfumes and tinctures. Saffron is known to have an anti-depressive function, to help digestion and may have a positive action against some cancers, multiple sclerosis and macular degeneration.
But talk about our French gastronomy! In Touraine, several chefs use this precious local spice like Christophe Duguin in his restaurant Au Chapeau Rouge (Chinon).
French rice pudding with saffron
Ingredients for 6 persons: 1 litre of milk, 180 g of round-grain rice for desserts, 80 g of powdered sugar, 5 saffron stigmas, 80 g of butter.
Blanch the rice until the water boils. As the water starts boiling, drain and rinse the rice with cold water. Boil the milk and add the rice, stir your preparation non-stop. After 6 minutes, add the sugar and the saffron. Go on stirring. After 12 minutes cooking, stop heating and add the butter still stirring. Pour into ramekins. Eat when it is still warm, it is even more delicious!
Potato gratin with saffron
Ingredients for 6 persons: 1,5 kg of potatoes, 1 onion, 25 cl of fresh cream, 18 saffron stigmas, 200 g of grated cheese, 10 cl of white wine, salt and pepper.
Peel and slice the potatoes. Chop the onion. Infuse the saffron in the cream. In a dish, put the slices of potatoes and the chopped onion in layers. Sprinkle with cheese. Add the saffron cream and the wine on top. Put into the oven for 1h30 (180°C, th 6). Do not forget to savour this gratin with a glass of Chinon or Bourgueil wine!