Many Middle Eastern recipes call for liquid saffron, while you’ll find that many recipes by non Middle eastern cooks will ask you to soak the saffron in water for 20 minutes or so before using it. What’s the difference? What do we mean and how do we get liquid saffron?
When you only soak the saffron in water, you are not utilising everything that this potent ingredient has to offer. You get the aroma, the flavour and the colour but the very substance of the saffron, to me, remains elusive when you leave it whole. So how do we get to the inner beauty and magic of saffron and how do we make liquid saffron?
Easy, we crush those little guys in a pestle and mortar first, with just a tiny pinch of salt or sugar to aid the grinding, then we soak it in water. Although it will last in the fridge for 2-3 days, I always make it fresh as I need it. How much saffron you use depends on what the recipe calls for. In the Persian Jewelled Rice recipe, we need 2 tablespoons, so, this is what I do:
- 1 pinch of saffron pistils
- 1 small pinch of sugar or salt
- 2 tbsp hot (not boiling) water (let it boil, then leave it until needed but for no more than 5 minutes)
- Place the saffron and sugar or salt in to a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Or to be specific, place it in the mortar and grind it with the pestle!
- Add the hot water and leave to soak for 15 - 20 minutes.
- Use in your recipe as required.
- I use all of it up, including the residue.
Total time does not include soaking time.