* These guidelines have been developed with Norfolk Saffron. Larger quantities will be required if weaker brands are used.
Never throw saffron threads whole into your cooking. To get the most from your it, crumble the required number of threads into a small container, or ideally grind them in a pestle & mortar. How fine you grind saffron is up to you. Saffron is known as the sunshine spice, and the finer the saffron, the more uniformly yellow the food will be. Coarsely grinding or simply crumbling it into pieces 1-3mm long looks great in pilaus as it gives a yellow background colour with hotspots of rich orangey-red.
Make a saffron infusion by adding a small amount of pre-heated liquid (e.g. water, stock or milk depending on your recipe) to the container or mortar, then allow at least 20 minutes for the colour and flavour to infuse out. You can then leave it to infuse overnight in the fridge if you like. There’s no need to strain out the saffron bits unless you’re making something where crystal-clear appearance is important e.g. a jelly.
Saffron quantities for cooking are measured in grams, pinches, or numbers of threads. Assuming you don't have laboratory scales in your kitchen, by far the best way to get accurate results is to count of the number of threads required.
A saffron flower contains three joined threads, but for my advice below, quantities refer to single separated threads. Here are my top five suggestions for using saffron in your cooking.
Use 30 threads for 4 servings made with 300g (12oz) of Arborio rice.
Use 50 threads in a recipe to serve 4.
For a subtle, honeyed flavour only, use 15 threads per 450g (1 lb) flour. For a strong saffron flavour and a rich golden colour, use 60 threads per 450g (1 lb) flour.
Pastry and plain biscuits
Use 15-20 threads per 200g (8oz) flour. Use butter not margarine, for the best flavour.
Use 20 threads per 450g (1 lb) fruit. Infuse the saffron in a very small amount of water. Add it to the preserving pan's contents just before setting point is reached.