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In this fantastic article, “Flavor network and the principles of food pairing”, written by Ahn et.al., different ingredient pairings in regional cuisines and cultural traditions are analyzed with the objective to clarify if there are any underlying general principles at work. http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/pdf/srep00196.pdf

Sources like the “The Flavor Bible” are based on the food-pairing hypothesis, rooted in the idea of pairing food based on shared compounds as is common in Western traditions. Based on their data-driven approach, the authors found that in East Asian cuisines compound sharing ingredients is avoided, and that Southern European cuisine is closer to Latin American cuisines in signature ingredients than it is to Western European cuisine. If you don’t feel up to going through all the statistics in the article, please just take a look at it for the great visualizations of the differences in FOOD ART. It is enticing and invites you to experience and expand your world through your eyes and taste buds. Oh, and also through your NOSE. Exercise your senses!

 

SAFFRON

So what about saffron, does the experience warrant the effort and price of producing it? First of all there is the visual sensation, the intense color it gives to food and non-food. I ask Silvia to comment on the description of saffron in “The Flavor Bible.”

“Taste: sour-sweet-bitter”

According to Silvia, the aroma is sweet, experienced through your nose. The taste is bitter and after swallowing the taste is diffused and the bitter, but not aggressive taste, persists in the mouth. Saffron is not sour, except fermented saffron from Iran or Greece has this quality (after the saffron wilts, it obtains a hay-like smell). In Italy, the saffron is not fermented, however in Sardinia the saffron is wetted with olive oil, which gives it an acidic note. This process of wetting doubles the weight and should therefor be less expensive than pure saffron.

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“Function: Cooling”

Silvia does not understand what is meant by this, the function for her is digestive. Cooling is not a characteristic she associates with saffron.

“Tips: Add later in the cooking process, saffron is activated by the heat of cooking”

On this point Silvia disagrees. The aroma (sweet sensation) is lost above 50C°, it also loses its medicinal properties and is only bitter.

The way to use saffron is to let the saffron pistils soak in COLD water overnight. If you use powder, this time can be considerably less, about 10 minutes. Depending on your recipe you can adjust the amount of water you use. The water will extract the taste and aroma and is added to the dish at the end, when is cooled enough (below 50C°). The pistils can be added for visual sensation.