Saffron is the red-orange stigma of the crocus flower. Each flower produces three stigmas, which are delicately harvested by hand and then dried. This process makes saffron a very time-consuming ingredient to produce and thus the most expensive spice in the world! Saffron gives food a tint of pale yellow and a sweet, earthy honey flavour. It’s available in large supermarkets.
• 1.5L chicken stock
• Pinch saffron threads (see Cook’s tip, above)
• 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 brown onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 75g flat pancetta, very finely diced
• 2 cups arborio rice
• 150ml dry white wine
• 50g butter, chopped
• 25g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra, shaved, to serve
• Sea-salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to season
• Basil leaves, to serve
Put stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove from heat and cover with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, put saffron and 1 Tbsp warm water in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pancetta, cooking for 4 minutes or until onion is soft. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until rice begins to turn translucent. Add wine and saffron mixture. Cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed.
Add ½ cup of the stock and cook, stirring constantly, with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock, only adding more once previous addition is absorbed. (Takes about 20 minutes.)
Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and parmesan. Season. Garnish with basil and extra parmesan and serve immediately.