Monday, September 19, 2011

Tasmanian saffron - more precious than gold.

Terry & Nicky Noonan gave up their secure jobs on the mainland and moved to Tassy in 1989. They were keen to make a living from the land, but with only three sloping acres, they needed a small crop that could be hand harvested and easily shipped. Shopping one night they came across a jar of imported saffron, which at $14 for 125g became the seed of their inspiration. In 1991, after mountains of research and preparation they imported 5000 saffron corms (stem bases) from Europe, and became Australia's first producers of Saffron.

Tas-Saff is now a thriving commercial saffron producer and has developed a network of 50 growers throughout Australia and New Zealand, all producing premium grade Saffron to meet the worlds demand for Australian saffron.Their journey has not been without many trials, which have taught them to spread the risk over many farms in many locations.

Saffron is the world's most expensive spice first cultivated in 2300BC in Kashmir. It was valued as a spice, a dye and for its  medicinal properties.Saffron is the most commonly adulterated, copied and misrepresented spice. As saffron was traded like gold in medieval times, saffron forgers were buried alive or burned at the stake.

Saffron is still expensive because it is incredibly labour intensive with processes which cannot be mechanised. In order to extract 1 kg of saffron from crocuses, the stigma's of almost a quarter of a million flowers must be hand picked, dried and bottled. "It takes about an hour to pick a thousand flowers" says Terry. For 45 days in Autumn the delicate purple crocus flowers appear in the morning and must be picked quickly to get the newest and freshest flowers before they wilt in the sun. The stigmas are nimbly twisted from the flower by hand, then dried for two hours before being packed into tiny 100mg glass jars which hold the stigmas of 20 crocus flowers.

The Noonans small packing and processing facility is carefully climate controlled and all processes require gloved hands, netted hair and fine tools more suited to a jeweller. The quality of their handling of the precious spice is one of the many factors which make their Saffron premium quality. Tas Saff Saffron is HACCP certified, Extra Category 1 Saffron and has been accredited to SQF 2000 - the worlds leading food safety and quality management standard.

The high quality means that Tas-Saff saffron goes a long way - far less of it is needed in your cooking. Each stigma is whole and un broken, so to achieve best results Tas Saff saffron should be infused in liquid for 24 hours to get the best flavour and colour. Saffron has been described as having a woody, honey-like, oaked-wine, tenacious aroma, and bitter lingering, appetite stimulating taste. Saffron is high in anti-oxidants.

gershgoods distributes the gourmet retail packaged 100gram vials in display boxes of 12 units, and two foodservice sizes in1gram and 5gram bags.

Saffron Rice

  • 50 - 100mg Tas-Saff saffron
  • One and a half cups of Australian long grain rice
  • 20 grams butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups of quality chicken stock
Remove lid from Tas-Saff saffron vial and fill with almost boiling water.
Leave to infuse for 24 hours.

Use a heavy saucespan with a tight fitting lid.
Prepare saffron as per instructions below.
Heat butter and oil in a deep saucepan and cook onion until soft without colouring.

Add rice and cook for a further minute, stirring all the time to ensure the rice is well coated with butter and oil.
Stir in approx. 3/4 of a cup of stock then add your saffron infusion, stir and mix well.

Add the remainder of stock ensuring that all the saffron is rinsed out of the cup.
Stir well, then cover tightly and cook gently for 20 minutes.
Remove lid and stand for a few minutes to let steam escape.
Turn rice with a fork to fluff up and serve.

Serves 4 to 6 people.