On the TWENTY FOURTH day of Christmas The Spice Trader gave to me:

SAFFRON

Saffron comes from a purple plant called Crocus.  It is derived from the Arab word 'Zafran' meaning 'yellow.'  Saffron is often known as the queen of spices.  The saffron crocus flower withers after a few days, and then the red saffron tufts are obtained. It is valued for its uniform yellow colour when soaked. It can be used to aromatise almost anything.  

There are various stories, myths and legends about the early use of red saffron in Greece during the 17th century when it was brought by traders from Austria.  They say that for 300 years, Greek red saffron was systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun and the rich soil.  However, today we hardly hear of Greek saffron.  The two countries where saffron is largely grown are Iran and Spain.  

History of saffron cultivation goes back to 3,000 years across many cultures, continents and civilizations. 

Romans, Greeks and ancient Egyptians and other  the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean, the saffron was one of the the most valued commodities particularly for use in perfumes and ointments.  In ancient  Egypt, Cleopatra used a quarter-cup of saffron in her warm baths because of its colouring and cosmetic properties. She is also said to have used it before encounters with her lovers with the idea that the saffron fragrance would enhance her romantic personaltiy.  Saffron baths were considered to be a luxury among the elites in Rome.  The ancient Greeks and Romans also prized saffron for its use as a perfume and deodoriser. They scattered it about public spaces such as royal halls, courts, and amphitheatres. They also used saffron in cosmetics such as mascara, stirred saffron threads into their wines, and used it in their halls and rooms as a potpourri.

Our SAFFRON has a rich aroma and you need only a pinch to add flavour. It is recommended to buy only whole STAMENS ( filaments). Powdered saffron is often adulterated with other ingredients. Our saffron comes in a bag. You can infuse it in hot water, broth, or milk before adding it to your dish. It is one of the ingredients in our RAS EL HANOUT and you will find it in English baking, Indian cooking, Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Here is a recipe for saffron and blood orange cake.

Makes 6 small cakes or 1 9 x 13" pan cake 

 GLAZE

Juice from 2 blood oranges, strained

1/2 cup icing sugar 

CAKE

Pinch of Iranian Saffron

1 1/8 cups coconut milk (not full fat)

1/2 cup coconut oil + more to grease pan

2 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Orange Blossom Water or Rose Water (optional) 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fine shredded coconut, unsweetened 

2 cups semolina flour 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. 

Warm coconut milk (do not boil) and steep a pinch of saffron threads for 5-10 mins and allow the milk to cool. Leave the saffron threads in the milk. 

Grease the pan with generous and even amount of coconut oil. 

In a large size mixing bowl, combine room temperature coconut oil with sugar and eggs and whisk well. Fold in the plain yogurt and floral water. Slowly whisk in the saffron milk. 

In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, coconut, baking powder and salt. 

Fold dry ingredients into wet and stir until well combined. 

Spoon the cake batter into your mould, or pan and bake for 45 mins.

Be sure to check halfway, the cake is done when the edges are golden and a fork comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, juice 2 blood oranges, strain juice and combine with icing sugar, add more or less icing sure to adjust the thickness. 

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