Throughout history, saffron has been used for different purposes. From the civilizations of Mesopotamia to the present day, saffron has mainly been used as a spice for cooking, as a pigment to dye textiles and, from ancient times, in medicine. ( +info )
In Mediterranean culture, it is present in all kinds of dishes, because it combines with many ingredients, which shows the quality of traditional recipes, among which the most well known is rice, and also in new gastronomic creations that include saffron due to its diversity and peculiar taste.
On the Asian continent, including India, it is used mixed with milk, also in different traditional dishes. In the Middle East, it is frequently used for rice, deserts and it is very common to use it as an infusion in drinks such as tea or coffee.
In Italy, the famous Milan style Risotto has saffron as an ingredient, as does Bouillabaisse in France. It is typically used in pastry cookery in Sweden and the United Kingdom and to enhance fish flavour in Japan. In Spain, it is present both 'Paella' as well as 'Zarzuela de pescado' (an assorted fish and seafood dish), which are two of the most typical dishes in Spanish cuisine.
A papyrus from ancient Egypt mentions the medicinal properties of saffron. In ancient Greece, such doctors as Dioscorides, Hippocrates or Galen attributed medicinal properties to saffron as a stimulate for the appetite, for stomach problems, or a sedative for teething in infants, and also against coughs and bronchitis.
During the Renaissance in Europe, it was often mentioned in the Pharmacopoeias and collections of Renaissance recipes on curing products. It was used as a regulator for menstruation, a rejuvenator, antidepressant, aphrodisiac and against headache.
Cosmetics and Perfumes
In the olden days, aristocratic women used it mixed with liquids as a cosmetic. Face masks of saffron were used against spots and erruptions. Not only was it used to soften the skin, but also in makeup. In ancient Rome, it was used to perfume rooms and due to its disinfectant power. Nowadays, it is still used by the cosmetic industry, mainly as an ingredient of many perfumes and creams.
In some cultures, saffron is considered a highly precious product and is used as a prestige gift for events and social commitments at weddings, religious celebrations, parties, company gifts and important occasions.
Phoenicians and Carthaginians used it to dye brides' veils. Buddhist monks use it to colour their robes. It is used in India to paint the bridegroom during the ceremony. In Japan it is used to dye kimonos and the Irish use it to dye wool.
In biology, there is a product called safranin, which is used for dying and was originally obtained from saffron. It has also been used in artistic painting as a pigment.
Paprika is used as a condiment to prepare dishes. In Europe, for example, some traditional dishes include paprika in their recipes, such as Galician Octopus or Potatoes with Chorizo in Spain. In Hungary, where paprika is a fundamental condiment, it is used in a wide variety of dishes, the most famous of all being Goulash, a spiced dish prepared with veal, onions, red pepper and paprika.
In addition to being used as a condiment for cooking, it is also used in the food industry as a natural colouring and to prepare sausage meat, such as the different varieties of Chorizo.
It is also known in preparation of lineaments with medicinal properties. The lineaments are rubbed on the skin and produce a feeling of heat, that increases blood flow in the area treated.( +info )
Taj-Mahal saffron syrup dissolved in water is a refreshing drink and is also used as an ingredient in other drinks. Combined with other beverages, it is used to prepare cocktails. It is used a lot mixed with cold milk, with coffee or tea, as it dissolves swiftly.
Due to the large amount of energy it provides, it is used in revitalising beverages. It may be a substitute for chocolate granules for children.
The syrup is a complementary ingredient to prepare deserts, both as a topping to decorate or give a special flavoured touch, as a main ingredient or mixed with other ingredients. Its use in cakes, ice cream and yoghurt is delicious.