How to buy it
Shirazi Haider, the chef de cuisine at the Iranian restaurant Shebestan, uses vast quantities of saffron in his cooking. According to him, just because saffron may be bright red does not mean it’s fresh: ‘We have to be careful about artificial colouring’ he says. ‘Make sure to touch the product. If it’s not pure and the best of quality, the colour comes off on your skin’. He notes that saffron comes in three grades. Saffron labelled one is the best, and comes from Iran; two is good quality saffron mixed with corn cob, and three is a mix of more inconsistent qualities of saffron. He says you should look for yellowish threads with a rosy smell.
Where to get it
Haider advises buying saffron at the Iranian Spice Market in the Deira spice souk. That way, he says, ‘you can feel the texture and understand the quality, whereas in supermarkets, the saffron is packed and packaged’. Good quality saffron, he notes, costs Dhs10,000 per kilo.
How to cook it
To fully bring out the flavour of the spice Haider says you should dry the threads, then blend it with a sugar cube, which makes it more powdery. Then boil the powder in water to create a marinade for meat and rice.