Greek saffron is considered one of the best varieties in the world, of excellent quality, aroma and color.
If Hermes had not accidentally killed his mortal friend Crocus in the Greek myth, we’d never have got the wonderful flower, with its deep purple petals and beautiful aroma.
In Kozani, a small town in northern Greece, flowers from the Crocus sativus plant are cultivated by the Saffron Producers Cooperative, which is based in the village of Krokos. Here, some of the best quality, organic and Protected Designation of Origin-certified saffron is grown and marketed as Krokos Kozanis.
Each flower has only three crimson stigmas, meaning that around 170,000 flowers are required to yield one kilo of saffron. Considering the patient process of harvesting it, it’s no wonder this is one of the most expensive ingredients in the world. Kozani saffron can be bought as whole threads or powdered, either in little glass vases or paper envelopes.
“Greek saffron is considered one of the best varieties in the world, of excellent quality, aroma and color”
COLOR AND FLAVOR
In cooking, saffron as a spice goes very well with rice in pilafs and risottos, or in lemon sauces for chicken or in vegetable or fish soups. It can also be used with pastas and lentils.
Saffron lends its vibrant orange color and distinct flavor to whatever dish it is added to.
Just a small amount is needed for the desired effect. For example, in risotto, two or three grams are more than enough for six people. If powdered saffron is used, it must first be diluted in warm water before being added to a dish, while intact threads must be soaked in hot water for an hour before use. Saffron water can also be added to dough for bread, cakes and cookies.
Food aside, saffron gives a wonderful flavor to drinks like tea, hot chocolate, chamomile and herbal infusions.
FISH WITH SAFFRON
A Recipe by Chef Nena Ismyrnoglou
Preparation: 20 minutes • Cooking time: 35 minutes
INGREDIENTS (serves four)
• 1 kg white fish, such as cod or perch, cut into medium-sized pieces
• 3 onions, finely sliced
• 3 g Krokos Kozanis saffron (threads or powder)
• 100 ml vinegar
• 70 ml olive oil
• 4–5 sprigs of parsley without stems, finely chopped
• Salt, freshly ground pepper
In a medium-sized pot, add the onions, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper, half the saffron and 700 ml of water, and bring to boil over a medium flame for around 20 minutes until the onions soften.
Meanwhile, heat the vinegar in another pot for 3–4 minutes over a low flame with the remaining saffron. Season the pieces of fish with salt and pepper and dip them, one by one, in the vinegar for 30 seconds until they are well coated. Add them to the pot with the onions and cook for a further 5–6 minutes until the fish is firm.
Remove the fish with a slotted spoon onto a serving plate, and continue boiling the remaining sauce for 4–5 minutes until most of the water evaporates. Drizzle the sauce around the fish and serve with seasonal wild greens.