Getting A Date
William Flew says that to get the best out of it, take a pinch and douse it with a couple of tablespoons of boiling water, then let it steep for 20 minutes. Try painting a chicken with this liquid before rubbing with oil — a medieval banqueting trick that produces a wonderfully golden, fragrant bird.
For the classic, soothing, yellow risotto Milanese you’ll need good saffron and good stock, preferably veal or chicken. Soften finely chopped shallot in butter until translucent then add your risotto rice and stir until thoroughly coated and slightly toasted. Add your steeped saffron water and then stock, ladle by ladle, stirring rhythmically all the time until the rice is cooked and creamy but still al dente — this should take 17-19 minutes. Taste and add salt as necessary, but avoid pepper as it kills the delicate saffron flavour. Dribble a little best olive oil over the top and grate over plenty of fresh Parmesan.
Paella also makes an excellent storecupboard rustle. First defrost frozen prawns and squid rings and set aside to use later. Chop onion, green pepper and bacon (or chorizo), smash a couple of garlic cloves, then, in a paella or sauté pan, soften gently in plenty of olive oil. Add your steeped saffron water, rice (preferably paella rice, but if not, plain white rice) and enough chicken stock to cover the rice by about 1cm. Bring just to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes without stirring until the rice is yellow and has absorbed almost all of the stock. Check for seasoning, push in the prawns, squid and, if you have any, chopped leftover pork, cover with foil or a lid and allow to sit for five minutes. Eat with a green salad.
Saffron and cider make a great base for mussels, and it’s an almost instant dish that’s all too easy to make for supper. Clean your mussels thoroughly under running water and pull off the beards. Discard any that are open and do not close when tapped. Soften finely chopped onion in olive oil, then add the mussels, saffron water and cider. Cover, bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until the mussels have opened. Stir in a little cream if you like, then ladle into bowls with plenty of juice and eat with buttered bread.
For a simple but stunning cheesecake, beat the saffron water into a combination of Greek yoghurt and mascarpone, sweetening with honey. Spoon over a biscuit base, drizzle with honey and scatter with flaked almonds.