Red gold from Mallorca
The most expensive spice in the world has just been harvested in Mallorca. Saffron, laboriously derived from the beautiful lilac flower of the crocus sativus has been used as a seasoning and colourant for thousands of years around the Mediterranean area.
Known as red gold because by weight it is the most expensive spice in the world – largely because of the careful and labour intensive process that is used to extract the tiny powdery stems from the flower and the amount of flowers needed.
It takes an incredible 70,000 flowers – that's a few fields full – to make just half a kilo of saffron which will retail at around €14 per gramme. Here in Mallorca, our local spice merchant Crespi has its own fields full of crocuses, where around 350,000 of them have just been slowly and systematically harvested to produce a mere 2.5 kilos of saffron.
It's really popular for dishes in Mallorca and beyond and perhaps its most famous use is in Paella, the Valencian dish that has come to typify Spanish cuisine in the outside world. Here in the Balearics it is used in many dishes like fish stews and my winter warmer favourite, Sofrit Pages.
As you can see from the photo above it's a hearty 'country stew' with chicken, pork, lamb, sobrassada, belly pork, sausages, potatoes, onions and of course saffron to add the yellowy colour and enhance the flavouring. It's an idea dish to take in a taberna with a log burner and a glass or two of red wine!
However, like many spices, saffron has medicinal properties, chiefly being carminative ie being used to relieve flatulence, which you just might need after a large bowl of Sofrit Pages!