Saffron in the kitchen… and now in the garden!

How lucky are we…

I recently discovered that we have a saffron producer in the area, and was lucky enough to track her down. I promptly ordered both some saffron as well as saffron crocus corms.

While Phyll from Saffron Willis provided a wonderful growing guide and tips on how to use the saffron, I decided to set to work and do a little research as well – hence the time lapse since my last post. There was little, or no information in my many gardening books, but I managed to track down some more information and have created my own growing guide.  It is available from the Vegie Patch drop down menu, but I will add it to the bottom of this post for quick viewing…

My cute little corms have now been planted into their own bed at the top end of the vegie patch and I just need to be patient and wait until autumn with great anticipation – it’s just a wee bit exciting, the thought of being able to grow your own saffron. Unfortunately I don’t have photo’s of my saffron crocus flowers, but all being well, I will repost in Autumn with some pics from my garden…

Of course I’ve had to try out the saffron as well and we have enjoyed a fish dish…

a duck dish…

and finally, a delightful pear dish…

– the recipes for which are all below.

John Dory with Tomato & Ginger Sauce and Saffron Potatoes
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr
This has to be one of my favourite fish recipes. I’ve been making it for some years now, but cannot remember where the recipe came from! The recipe has changed a little over time, but it is very similar to the original.
Category: Fish & Seafood, Main Course
Quantity: 4 serves
Author: sbaskitchen
  • 4 fillets of firm white fish skin on
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
For the Tomato and Ginger Sauce
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 800 g tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Saffron Potatoes
  • 10 small chat potatoes washed and quartered
  • 12 strands of saffron
  • 375 ml chicken stock
For the Yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Garnish and to Finish
  • 5 cm piece of ginger cut into fine julienne, for serving
  • 5 cm piece of cucumber deseeded and cut into fine julienne, for serving
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Handful of baby spinach leaves washed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil.
  • Coriander leaves washed
  1. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the grated ginger, garlic and ground coriander and stir.
  3. Add the tomatoes, brown sugar and lime juice, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper - cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree.
  4. Meanwhile combine the ginger, cucumber, salt, sugar and rice wine in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Combine the yoghurt and lime juice in a bowl, stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  6. Heat the remaining oil in a large non-stick, oven-proof frying pan, over high heat.
  7. Add the fish, skin-side down. Cook for about 4 minutes until browned and crisp.
  8. Turn and cook for one minute, then turn over again and place frypan in oven for about 4 minutes or until cooked as desired.
  9. Strain the juices from the cucumber and ginger. Set the cucumber and ginger aside and place the liquid into a medium sized bowl, together with the sesame oil and whisk to combine. Add the baby spinach and toss to lightly coat.
  10. Divide the tomato puree between four serving plates and then arrange the spinach and potatoes on each plate.
  11. Place a fish fillet, skin-side up on top, add a dollop of yoghurt dressing and garnish with coriander sprigs and the ginger and cucumber.

For the saffron potatoes
  1. Place the potatoes, saffron and stock to just cover the potatoes into a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until just tender. Drain.

You could use any white, firm fleshed fish for this dish.

You could make the sauce in advance.

An alternative to spinach would be rocket (arugula)


Saffron Pears
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
17 mins
Total Time
27 mins

I’ve read many recipes for saffron poached pears… This is mine!

Category: Dessert
Quantity: 4 serves
Author: sbaskitchen
  • 4 pears peeled with stems left intact and seeds removed with a melon baller
  • 2 cups sweet white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 10 strands of saffron
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean substitute 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 125 g granulated sugar
  1. Add the white wine, water, saffron, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, lemon zest, and lemon juice to a saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to simmer over medium heat
  3. Add the prepared pears and poach, uncovered, for 7 to 9 minutes, until they are tender, but not mushy.
  4. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the pears and set aside.
  5. Return the poaching liquid to a simmer, add the sugar, and allow the mixture to reduce by half in volume, about 6 to 8 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean from the syrup.
  6. Arrange the pears on individual serving plates and drizzle with the saffron syrup.
  • Delicious served with vanilla ice cream and maybe a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
  • I love to use Beurre bosc pears, they are not only delicious, but I also love their shape.


Spiced Duck Breast with Saffron Orange Sauce
Golden saffron orange sauce – the perfect accompaniment for duck…
Category: Duck, Main
Style: French
Quantity: 4 Serves
Author: Julie Malyon @ SBA's Kitchen
  • 4 large duck breast fillets skin on, excess fat trimmed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • For the spice rub
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp Maldon sea salt
For the sauce
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 French shallot finely chopped
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier
  • 10 strands of saffron
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp Maldon sea salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  1. Use a sharp knife to score the skin of each duck breast at 2cm intervals.
  2. Place the ingredients for the spice rub into a mortar and pestle and pound until you have a course powder.
  3. Massage the spice into the skin of the duck breasts.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Add half the duck, skin-side down, and cook for 4 minutes or until browned. Turn and cook for a further 3 minutes. Transfer to a large baking tray. Repeat with the remaining duck.
  5. Bake in oven for 8 minutes for medium or until cooked to your liking.
  6. Cover with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest.
  7. Thinly slice across the grain and serve with warm Saffron Orange Sauce.
For the sauce
  1. Use a zester to remove the rind from 1 orange. (Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to peel the rind from the orange. Use a small sharp knife to remove white pith from the rind. Cut the rind into very thin strips).
  2. Juice the orange, you will need ½ cup of orange juice.
  3. Place the orange juice, Grand Marnier, the French shallot, 5 strands of the saffron, the brown sugar and Maldon sea salt into a small pan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for five (5) minutes, and set aside to cool. (If time permits, allow to stand for a few hours to get maximum colour from the saffron)
  4. Strain the liquid into a clean pan and discard the solids.
  5. Add the orange zest and remaining saffron strands to the liquid and heat to a gentle simmer.
  6. Whisk in the butter, a piece at a time.
  7. Keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.
  • You may need an additional orange, depending on the size and juiciness of them.
  • If you don’t have Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, you can use dry white wine.
  • You could serve crispy roast potatoes cooked in duck fat or mashed potatoes with finely chopped chives as a side, but I parboiled some thick chips and cooked them alongside the duck – they took on some of the spices as they cooked.

Saffron Crocus – Growing Guide

Botanical name

Crocus sativus




Crocus sativus is more commonly known as the saffron crocus, or autumn crocus and is best known for producing the spice, saffron. Saffron is simply the three pronged stigma of the saffron crocus flower, and given that a single bulb can produce four flowers, theoretically one bulb can produce 12 strands of saffron. Harvested by hand and dried, it is much prized in the culinary world for both its flavour as a seasoning, and for the beautiful golden colour that it imparts. Saffron is an essential ingredient in Spanish paellas and Italian risottos, and is a common ingredient in Indian, Mediterranean and Italian cuisines where it is used to flavour and colour curries, sauces, marinades, desserts and sweets. Commonly infused in liquid, it can also be ground into a powder and stirred in.

The most expensive spice in the world gram for gram, saffron is said to be more expensive than gold.   This is understandable given that the fragile stigmas are hand picked, and to get just 500 grams of the spice, 80,000 crocus flowers are required. Saffron can retail from $10/gram, with local or high-quality imported saffron costing up to $100/gram. So if you have the right climate, it makes good sense to try and grow your own at home.


Saffron is grown from bulbs in well-drained soil with the violet coloured crocus flower appearing in Autumn.

Climate:  Saffron crocus prefers a cool climate with moist but well-drained soils

Difficulty:  Moderate

Dormancy: Spring to summer – After flowering the plant will continue to grow, resembling a small mondograss. Allow the green leaves to die off naturally, as a daffodil would, as during this time the corm is storing goodness and multiplying underground. You should avoid digging around dormant corms

Feeding:  Lightly fertilize twice a year, but do not overdo it.

Flowers:  Shoots will appear in autumn from mid-March to end April (in Australia). Pretty flowers of lilac or purple, often with light stripes, can appear at anytime once shoots emerge.   Flowering generally occurs over a three week period.

Harvesting:  Pick the flowers early in the morning, before the sun deteriorates them. Remove the three red stigmas from the flower and place on paper towel to dry out. This make take a few days. The dried stigmas are deep red to orange-red, wiry and very brittle.

Soil:  Well-drained soil

Sow and plant:  Plant the corms directly into raised beds or in a terracotta pot, tuft facing upwards. Plant new corms in summer or early autumn.

Spacing:  Plant corms 100mm deep and 100 mm apart.

Storage:  Store dried saffron stigmas in an airtight glass bottle in a cool dark place. If the air gets to it, it will diminish in strength.

Watering:  Do not water often, as corms prefer a dry soil and do not like ‘wet-feet’. Usually rain is enough, except in the extreme heat during summer.

Uses in the Kitchen

Saffron is characterised by its distinctive fragrance created by picrocrocin and safranal with the rich golden-yellow hue a result of the carotenoi and crocin content. These traits make saffron a much sought-after ingredient in many cuisines worldwide, but is best used sparingly as too much can give a medicinal flavour to a meal.

Differing from other spices, saffron should be activated before use by a method know as ‘steeping’ or ‘infusion’. This is done be adding the required amount of saffron strands to boiling liquid and allowing them to infuse for anything from 1 hour to 24 hours. The time required depends on the intensity of flavour, colour or aroma required. Usually 4-6 strands is all that is needed per half a cup of boiling liquid, but of course, this depends on the quality of the saffron you are using. Whatever liquid your recipe calls for, whether it is water, milk, juice white wine, stock, etc. you should infuse the saffron for more than an hour, preferably in a covered/sealed container.

Sauce is ready

Saffron infusing an orange sauce to accompany duck

How and when you add the infused liquid to your dish depends on the recipe. However as a rule of thumb:

  • For full strength flavour and aroma, add the saffron infusion towards the end of cooking, with low heat.
  • For full strength colour, add the saffron infusion at the beginning of cooking, with high heat.

Alternatively, you could add half of the liquid at the beginning of cooking and half at the end. Many chefs around the world use spirits such as Cointreau, vodka, gin etc…, adding it to sauces for increased flavour.

You can use saffron in rice dishes, mains, casseroles, sauces, desserts, sauces, baking and drinks. It pairs beautifully with saffron loves asparagus, rice, eggs, cheese, chicken, leeks, seafood, mushrooms and spinach and pairs with anise, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, paprika and pepper.










Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!




Note:  When I mention the name of a producer, or particular product, it should be noted that I do this because I believe in the people and/or their product.  I am not getting paid for the comment…

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