Italian Food and Flavours

saffron: Zafferano

 At Italian Food and Flavours we are always interested in local artisan food producers.  Lo Zaff is an organic farm run by a hard working  Dutch couple, Annemieke and Casper, which produces top quality saffron. A spice that turns everything magically yellow, tastes bitter sweet in a honey and hay way and is full of antioxidants!

They have recently finished their annual  harvesting of the saffron crocuses which meant every morning the flowers being picked at sunrise and groups of volunteers then carefully removing the red stigmas by hand and discarding the remainder of the flower. Only using the red stigmas where the colour and flavour is more intense results in high grade saffron.

The saffron strands are then  dried and packed for sale direct to the consumer. This is the only saffron we would use to cook with and I highly recommend you contact them through their facebook page –

Delicious Nature – Organic farm – and buy direct from them. They sell the saffron beautifully packaged. See the products on their fb shop.

Their latest saffron product  is torrone allo zafferano and it’s proving to be very popular!

  A lot of hard work goes into the whole process from planting the bulbs to harvesting the saffron,  but Lo Zaff are passionate about producing the best possible organic saffron.  About 180 – 250 flowers make one gram of saffron so its a precious commodity.

Preparing Saffron for use in cooking:

Before cooking with saffron it needs to be steeped in hot water for 24 hours to release the flavour and colour of the threads

Preferred Method – For every teaspoon of saffron, add 3 teaspoons of liquid; using a spoon make sure that the saffron threads get properly soaked (do not crush the threads). The mixture can be left soaking for as long as 24 hours.

Toasting Method – Carefully and slowly toast threads in a heavy skillet over low heat (watch carefully and do not allow to burn – burned saffron threads are irretrievable and unusable).  Then grind threads into a powder and use as directed in the recipe.

Cooking with Saffron:

The rule is that a “little saffron” will go a long way. When determining how much saffron to use in cooking, remember that the saffron flavour will be stronger the second day. In general, just use a pinch in soups and stews that serve 4 to 6 people.

My husband had long ago tried saffron and wasn’t convinced,  but once he tried a dish made with Lo Zaff saffron he agreed that it adds a special quality to food and also turns it a lovely yellow colour. To me it tastes musky, warm, hay like oh I don’t know, it’s so hard to describe the flavour  – just try some!

The classic Italian saffron dish is Risotto alla Milanese, but it can be used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. Annemieke invites you to be creative when using saffron in your cooking. She has worked with some of the top chefs in Le Marche to produce whole meals around this precious spice.

Here’s the basic recipe for Risotto alla Milanese

60g  butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
1.2 litres  chicken stock
good pinch saffron
500g risotto rice
50ml  dry white wine
grated parmesan to serve


Melt 25g of the butter with the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the onion. Cook over a gentle heat until the onion is soft but not coloured. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil. Add the rice to the onion, stirring it for a couple of minutes until it looks glossy. Add the wine and stir until it has almost completely disappeared. Add the stock a ladle at a time, stirring continually and only adding more once absorbed. It will take about 25 minutes to stir in all the liquid and for the risotto to cook – it should be soft and creamy but there should be a very slight bite in the centre of each grain.

Only add the saffron at the end, after the last ladle of stock has been used so as not to lose any of its medicinal properties. Season to taste, then stir in the rest of the butter and cover with a lid. Leave for five minutes then serve with parmesan.