Saffron. Fragrant, vibrant, rich, irresistible. It’s got the charm and the elegance of a lady – ever so subtle yet poignant and memorable. It is expensive – in fact it is daubed as the most expesnive herb in the world. But one does not mind spending a little extra for all the fine flavour that it brings to a dish.
On my recent trip to Chennai, I came across some fine Kashmiri saffron and upon encountering it, I was transported. Of course I had to sell an arm and a leg to obtain a few measly gram of it (8g in total) but I was happy. This is as fine as Kashmiri saffron gets.
Saffron can be incorporated into sweets, rice dishes, drinks, etc and it is also used for cosmetic purposes. However, I am not prepared to smear on my face something as divine tasting as this so food it will have to be in. This is my tribute to saffron – a milky, thick drink that is in every sense, a royal treat for the senses.
Albeit a pricey one. I apologize if I am indeed, taunting you with this wonderful glass of saffron milk, but how can I not, having such a fine rarity in my hands! Let us call it, “an occupational hazard” and call it a day.
- Cook Time :60 minutes
- Yield : 4 servings
- Heat milk in a pan. Simmer it over a low heat with the slightly crushed cardamom pods until the mixture reduces almost by half.
- Stir in the saffron. Let the milk be infused with its flavour and colour.
- Add sugar as desired. Remove the cardamom pods.
- Let the mixture cool. Refrigerate until sufficiently cooled.
- Serve garnished with a few slivers of pistachios on top.
This in essence is a cup of liquid gold.
The saffron ever present – you can feel its fragrance the moment you raise the cup to your lips. The milk, having being thickened, glides slowly like sumptuous velvet on your tongue, exotic and sultry, a chapter from Arabian Nights. And in the midst of it all you find the piquant cardamom, not so obvious but definitely there piercing through the thickness of the milk. And enveloping it all is the saffron – like a perfumed evening breeze, cool and fragrant, tasting of gold. Consume in small doses – the richness will overwhelm and intoxicate. Yes, something so simple can be so good.
- When reducing the milk, make sure you use a large pan that is twice as tall as the milk quantity in the pan. This is to prevent the milk from spilling over. Stirring the milk as it boils also helps.
- I usually have this without any sugar. But a little bit of sugar does raise it to another level.
- Choosing good quality saffron can be quite a challenge for those who have not been initiated into this exotic spice. Saffron is deep red in colour, sometimes with yellow ends, sometimes entirely red. It smells divine, if it smells musty it means the saffron is old. It is also a challenge to find authentic saffron because due to the rarity of the ingredient, many sneaky merchants dye corn strands and other flower strands red, infuse artificial fragrance into it and sell as saffron. Real saffron strands look like flower strands – because they really are flower strands. They smell floral and upon rubbing between the fingers, they do not give out colour. If your fingers are stained red upon rubbing a strand between your fingers, then it is fake.
- If a strand of saffron tastes sweet as soon as it touches your lips, it is fake and has been artificially flavoured.
- Another test is the cold water test. Upon placing a few strands of saffron in a few drops of cool water, the real saffron does not give a lot of colour quickly. It takes at least 6 seconds for real saffron to diffuse colour. Fake saffron will immediately colour the water. Also, real saffron when diffused in some warm water gives a pale, bright, translucent yellow. With fake saffron, which really is a dye, the water will be a murkier, darker orange.
- Real saffron when infused in a liquid will float on top and will retain its signature deep red colour. Fake saffron will sink to the bottom and will lose their colour once infused.