If Greek olive oil is known as liquid gold than Greek Saffron – better know as Krokos Kozanis – is Greece’s powdered gold and it is the rarest and most valuable spice in the world. Saffron is an ancient spice cultivated since the time of Homer. It is the spice of love and life, well known for its medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties. It is renowned the world over for its exquisite aroma and vibrant color.
Krokos is an excellent stimulant and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have been long proven. Furthermore, it prevents platelet aggregation and improves cerebral function,
It also lowers cholesterol, improves digestion, prevents nausea, soothes infant teething and is being researched fro cancer preventive properties.
The ideal climatic and soil conditions of the area of Kozani in Northern Greece has allowed krokos -saffron to be exclusively cultivated there for the last 300 years. At harvest time the seductive purple flowers are painstakingly picked by hand. The use of spades or tractors are strictly forbidden in such a delicate crop.
It is within the purple petals of the flower that the two or three strands of the precious spice exist, and it is these red strands that have supported the economy of at least 40 villages in the area of Kozani.
The finished product is highly sought after in the culinary, medicinal and cosmetic markets of the world. Iran and Spain are competitors but Greek saffron is regarded as the finest in the world.
The Krokos Kozani Cooperative produces 1.5 to 2 tons of saffron a year, which sells for up to €2,000 ($2,600) a kilo. The farmers export the highly delicate stigmas of the saffron crocus to the United States, France, Germany, Canada and Australia.
When used sparingly, krokos adds a rich golden color and unique flavor to foods that is hard to describe. To me it tastes like the earth and the sea combined. Its uses in cooking are many. You can use it in soups, cheeses, sauces, over chicken, it is absolutely delicious in seafood, adds exotic flavor and color to pasta and rice dishes. It can also be used in spirits, teas-especially iced, ice cream and other deserts.
But don’t take my word for it – go out and get some of your own and try it in these two fabulous recipes:
Fettuccine with zucchini and Krokos Kozanis (saffron)
100gr shredded onion
700gr zucchini cut in matchstick-like strips
1 cup cream
½gr Krokos Kozanis (saffron) threads
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt, freshly ground pepper
Prepare the sauce. Cut the courgettes in half end-to-end and with the use of a teaspoon remove the white pulp. Cut the remaining courgettes in half rounds. Sauté the onion in a pan with the butter until all its juice is absorbed. Add the courgettes and Kozani saffron. Stir and sauté. Add the cream. Meanwhile you have already boiled your fettuccine in plenty of salted water and drained them. Pour half of the sauce in the pot were you boiled the fettuccine and empty the pasta back in. Add the rest of the sauce on top. Stir well, add the parmesan and freshly ground black pepper and stir some more. Best served hot.
Orange cupcakes with Krokos Kozanis (saffron)
100g skinned hazelnuts ground
175gr golden caster sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 large oranges
4 medium eggs
200ml olive oil
Generous pinch of Krokos Kozanis (saffron) threads
85gr icing sugar
Heat the oven to 180°C. Toast hazelnuts over medium heat, stirring frequently until browned. Leave to cool, then mix with semolina, caster sugar and baking powder. Finely grate the zest from one orange and combine with the eggs and oil. Beat well with a spoon, then fold into the dry ingredients. Pour the mixture into a non-stick cupcake pan and bake for 15-20 mins, until risen and firm to the touch.
While the cupcakes are baking, pare the zest from the other orange and cut into very thin shreds. Put in a saucepan with the juice from both oranges, the Krokos Kozanis and icing sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 5 mins.
When the cupcakes are done, leave them to cool slightly, then remove and place onto a plate. While they are still warm, skewer well and spoon the syrup over.