Ask any visitor what is the most captivating thing about Morocco, they will definitely talk about the vibrant colours of this beautiful African country. The Moroccan culture has always shown a profound inclination towards the use of bright colours in their clothes, utensils, art and craft, and home décor. Not only this, when it comes to Moroccan cuisines, most of them are also quite colourful in appearance. This is because of the use of flavourful, aromatic, and colourful range of spices found in Morocco.
The wide range of spices used in Morocco was brought here by traders a long time ago, who themselves were influenced by the Persian tradition of spicy and juicy meals. Some of the most common spices found here include Cayenne (felfla), ginger (skinjbir), cinnamon (kerfa), paprika (felfla Hlouwa), turmeric (kherkoum), aniseed (nafaa), black pepper (yebezar), sesame seeds (jinjelan), cumin (kaymoon), and saffron (zafrane).
On visiting a local Moroccan market, called a Souk, you will definitely encounter heaps of whole as well as grounded spices stacked outside the shops to attract your senses. Although all these spices have specific importance in Moroccan cuisines, there is one special spice that stands out, and it’s Saffron. It is a widely known fact that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, which can be as expensive as £5000 for a single kilo. The reason why saffron prices are so exaggerated is the fact that it is extremely labour-intensive to cultivate, harvest, and then package. Most people think that saffron is an expensive herb or flower, which is not right because it’s not a whole flower. It’s actually the stigmas of a purple flower called Crocus. Each flower has only three saffron petals in it that are to be picked with care. Usually, women are given the responsibility of picking saffron petals using hands and separating them from the flower.
This semi-sweet yet slightly bitter-tasting spice is used in a number of Moroccan recipes. It not only adds flavour to Moroccan meals but also adds a vibrant red colour to them. However, it is used in a minimal amount. Usually, a pinch of saffron is enough to enhance the flavour and colour of a meal. Moreover, it is also used as a dye to colour clothes red or orange, and let’s not forget that it’s also used as an essential ingredient in perfumes and cosmetic items. Along with these uses, this expensive spice is considered very useful in the medical world too. It is used several herbal medications to treat toothaches, severe menstrual cramps and improve appetite and detoxifying process of the body.
In Morocco, saffron is cultivated in a small town known as Taliouine. It is located halfway between Taroudannt and Ouarzazate. The town is located in the edge of the Sirwa Mountains and you can visit it whenever you want to. Visitors are allowed to visit these huge farms, see the picking of the flowers, buy fresh saffron, and learn more in-depth about its history and uses.
How Saffron is used in Moroccan cooking?
Saffron is an essential ingredient in Moroccan cuisine, I always have it in my kitchen and try to use it where possible. No matter what I’m cooking, a pinch of it is just what my dishes need to get that fragrant flavour and get that extra “it”. I love using it in tea, and of course tagines, it’s that special.
In Morocco, we use Saffron in very different ways.
For tea: In our Moroccan mint tea, we usually add some threads of Saffron to the tea to make it more flavourful and give it a flowery scent.
For cooking: while cooking, we might use Saffron in very different ways, either we add it as threads at first, or, fill a glass with hot water, put some Saffron threads in it, and let it sit there for a couple of minutes and then use the water to flavour the dishes.
For baking: We might sometimes use Saffron as a way to add some flavour to our bakeries and cookies by adding it crushed to the dough.
Saffron is certainly essential in Moroccan cuisine, so, have you ever tasted it or used it in one of your dishes?