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Ingredient of the week: Saffron



Saffron comes in threads or powder form (Photo: Instagram @jogjaorganic)

Saffron, known in Kiswahili as zafarani, is one of the most expensive spices in the world. It costs about Sh1, 500 for a few grams, because it takes roughly 70,000 crocus flowers to produce just one pound of dried saffron. In Kenya, it is sold in two forms — threads and powder — and each behave differently when used in cooking. It is only available in some supermarkets and health shops.

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For cooking, saffron can be substituted with turmeric. The difference is that saffron adds a slight creamy/smoky aroma to dishes that turmeric does not. Saffron gives a soft, mild buttery-yellow colour whereas turmeric’s shade is more intense. Saffron has a distinctive flavour that can be overpowering if used excessively. It is best used when cooking meats, rice, desserts and curries.

Saffron adds a smoky aroma and buttery-yellow colour to food (Photo: Instagram @saffronprinceindonesia)

In some countries, saffron is used for religious purposes; it is also used as fabric dye and perfumery.

Studies show that saffron can reduce blood pressure and mood swings. However, if taken in large doses, it can act as a uterine stimulant and could cause contractions so as with any herb or spice, use saffron in moderation, especially when you’re pregnant.

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