JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Saffron mash

Dagmar sent me saffron from the back of her kitchen cupboard, and I've had a very merry week reading cookery books to decide what to cook with it. I associate saffron above all with Cornwall, with the smell of the bakery in Market Jew Street in Penzance, and the beautiful golden cakes you can buy there. When we were staying at Prussia Cove, my friend Susan, who is a wonderful cook, once made us a delicious saffron-scented fish stew after an early-morning trip to the fishmonger in Newlyn. Elizabeth David's book on yeast cookery gives a recipe for a Cornish saffron bread - no good for us, because it's enriched with lots of butter, just like a brioche. The next obvious place to look is in Claudia Roden, because saffron is such a feature of Middle Eastern cookery: delicious-sounding rice recipes, which I will try another time, but I'm the only member of my family who truly likes rice. My elder daughter Eleanor, who is a drama student, was visiting, and her favourite food is mashed potato, so I decided to cook Simon Hopkinson's saffron mash, from his book Roast Chicken and Other Stories, which has recently been voted the best cookbook ever (astonishing - to him as well - because although it's good, you wonder how the voters forgot about E David, J Grigson, C Roden, etc etc etc). I hadn't made it before, and I thought it might make me feel more enthusiastic about the book (it worked). We didn't quite finish it, and the next morning, the fridge was delicious with the scent of saffron, so that I am now determined to remember to use saffron more often in my cooking.

Simon Hopkinson's saffron mash

900g floury potatoes, peeled
1 tsp saffron threads
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
200 ml milk (SH specifies creamy; I, of course, used skimmed)
200ml olive oil

Boil the potatoes. Meanwhile infuse the saffron and garlic in the warmed milk. Drain and mash the potatoes. Reheat the infusion and add the olive oil. Add the saffron to the potatoes and mix well (he suggests using an electric mixer, but I just carried on with the potato masher). Stand in a warm place for half an hour to let the saffron flavour develop.

PS just before writing this, we had homemade pizza for lunch, topped with a little tomato sauce, some anchovies, and a generous cutting of chopped parsley and chives added as the pizza came out of the oven. As I was eating it, I thought next time I might add some raisins and capers soaked in an infusion of warm water and saffron, a sort of homage to Venice and the spice route rolled into one! I also wondered about adding a little saffron into the pizza dough, but I can't help feeling that there may be a reason all the saffron / yeast recipes also include lashings of butter ...

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