Choose the Best
As a rule of thumb, the deeper the color of the threads, the better the quality. Deep red with orange tips is considered to be the best. If the tips aren’t orange it might indicate that the saffron is inferior and has been dyed.
Inferior saffron can also look slightly frayed and worn. If you’re buying saffron in markets abroad, beware of cheap deals – the real thing is always expensive. Avoid anything that’s too yellow, as it is probably a fake. You can also buy ground saffron, but it loses its potency quite quickly and is sometimes adulterated with other ingredients such as turmeric.
A little bit of saffron goes a long way. A pinch is enough for most recipes. In some Moroccan dishes, saffron is competing against more pungent seasoning, so it’s not uncommon to find more generous quantities being used.
The best way to extract flavor from saffron is to crush the threads between your fingers and then soak the threads in hot (not boiling) water for 5 to 20 minutes. Add both the saffron and the liquid to your recipe of choice.
Store saffron in a tightly sealed container and in a cool, dark place to retain is flavor.
Saffron is a traditional ingredient in many famous dishes including Moroccan Couscous, Spanish Paella Valenciana, French Bouillabaisse and Italian Risotto alla Milanese. Saffron is wonderful in seafood marinades, tomato-based sauces and is lovely when steeped with green tea. Saffron fares well with white meats, chicken, poultry and lamb. In tajines, saffron gives a nice color and fragrance to the meat and vegetables. It can also be used in desserts, milk, yogurt and puddings.