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Saffron is by far the most expensive spice in the world. The flower that dresses the best dishes of Mediterranean cuisine in gold and that, like so many other things, was brought to the West by the Arabs, who introduced it to Spain as early as the 9th century, is very expensive, by force.
Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of the pistils of a flower that has to be picked by hand; each flower, from a plant related to lilies calledCrocus sativum , it has only three stigmata. And it takes more than 30,000 - or 10,000 flowers - to get a quarter of a kilo of saffron. That has a price.
But, for many years, hobbyists have had a perfect substitute: food coloring, which is a mixture of cornmeal, salt, tartrazine and orange yellow. It is an additive used to make food more appetizing and attractive by giving it the characteristic golden color of Mediterranean countries and is widely used in soups, rice dishes and all kinds of stews -the recommended dose is one tablespoon of product for every four people-.
It can also be replaced by a more natural mixture based on paprika with turmeric, it will give the characteristic color of saffron to meals and a very good flavor.
Safflower is another very inexpensive alternative. The Egyptians used it to dye fabrics. It belongs to the thistle family and, as such, it grows very well in full sun and for the most part in somewhat humid lands where thistles grow spontaneously. In India it is called Kardi. In the kitchen the flowers can be used to make stews, dishes with vegetables and meats. They provide mucilage and color to food, being a good substitute for saffron.
Calendula is a flower widely cultivated in orchards and gardens with excellent medicinal properties for skin treatments. But it is also used in cooking and is called the "poor man's saffron." Calendula petals are a natural food coloring.
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