Saffron is a unique spice characterised by its slight bitter taste and aroma; these tasting notes come from its chemical components called picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye called crocina, which gives food a golden yellow colour. This makes saffron an appreciated component in many dishes around the world. To ensure you draw the colour out of saffron and that it's evenly distributed throughout your paella dish, saffron threads should be lightly toasted to release all the essential oils and aromas, pounded to a fine powder and infused in warm water or stock for about 30 minutes before using. This preparation method will ensure you get the best out of the king of spices.
Toasting, pounding and blending saffron
Always choose good quality saffron from La Mancha. The characteristics of the land and the extreme weather, with very cold winters and very hot summers, as well as the cultivation and elaboration methods that have been kept throughout the years make La Mancha saffron so unique. Saffron from La Mancha carries the guarantee of Protected Designation of Origin which certifies its origin, quality and production method.
To toast the saffron, you will need to fold a piece of tin foil into a small rectangle or square parcel, tucking the edges up so you can easily pick it up. The tin foil protects the saffron threads from drying too much or burning. Place the foil inside a small frying pan. Heat the frying pan gently and when you start to feel the heat on the palm of your hand, add the saffron threads and toast for about 30 seconds, be careful not to burn them. This will release the essential oils and aromas that will help intensify the flavour of your dish.
Pour the saffron threads from your tin foil parcel into a pestle and mortar and pound them gently until you obtain a fine powder.
Pour about 2 tablespoons of hot water or stock and mix well with the mortar. The saffron powder will blend better into hot liquid releasing all of its aromas and beautiful dye, so when you pour it into the paella rice, the saffron liquid will spread evenly.