There is something wonderfully regal about using saffron - it is expensive, it leaks its amazing colour onto everything in sight once in contact with moisture, it has been used for thousands of years as a dye and colourant for paint and cloth and it has the most wonderful distinct flavour. I love it above all else in the world of flavourings.
With rice, in cauliflower and potato dishes, those otherwise pale elements are just begging to be coloured in yellow. For me it transforms a dish into something rare and special.
I poached some rather ordinary Rocha pears this evening in saffron, vanilla, a little ginger and some lemon zest. They emerged from their hot bath shining, picture perfect and delicious ....
These would make a near-perfect dinner party dessert as they are light, healthy, delicious and look amazing.
For 4 you will need:
4 Rocha pears ( or another firm pear variety), peeled but leaving stalks
125g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, split in two
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch saffron strands
Place all the ingredients into a small deep saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 35-40 minutes until the pear is soft but still has a bit of a bite to it. I served these with some of the poaching juice and a creme fraiche/yoghurt mix, roughly measured as 2 parts creme fraiche to 1 part vanilla yoghurt with the added vanilla seeds from the other half of the pod used in the poaching. It was really good.
When I make these again for a dinner party, I will core the pear, ensuring not to damage the top stalk, meaning that guests can eat the whole thing without having to cut around the hard core. They would also taste great with a good quality vanilla or ginger ice cream.