I realised recently, that as much as I adore the flavour of saffron, I rarely get around to using it. It certainly is an expensive spice, but you need to use so little that I think it’s definitely worth keeping as part of your spice stock. Just don’t use too much in a dish, or it’ll taste like medicine!
The obvious uses for saffron would be with rice, in a risotto or pilaf. But I prefer it when paired with tomato and chilli in a fragrant, tangy and sweet sauce.
I’ve used this particular sauce before to go with potatoes as the classic Spanish tapas dish patatas bravas, but this time I thought I’d use a selection of vegetables to make a more interesting and balanced meal. Some beans would be been good too, only it didn’t occur to me until I was eating it! This is also where the name came from, I think verduras means vegetables in Spanish, I’m afraid I had to google it so forgive me if it’s wrong!
The sauce is all about the balance between the fragrant saffron, the heat of the cayenne, and the acidity of the tomatoes. You may need to adjust the salt and sugar levels depending on your tomatoes. I find that as a rule of thumb, equal amounts of salt and sugar, about a quarter teaspoon of each per tin, tends to work to temper any overly acidic tinned tomatoes.
makes 2 servings
For the sauce-
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oil
1 400 g tin of tomatoes
a small pinch of saffron, soaked in a little warm water
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
For the vegetables-
2 potatoes, diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
150 g mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar or other sweetish vinegar
a little parsley for garnish (optional)
First get the vegetables cooking. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the potatoes and celery on a medium heat for 30 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes. They should be dark golden brown in places, and cooked through. Add the mushrooms, and stir fry on a high heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the heat off, and toss the vegetables in the vinegar.
For the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion on a medium heat until starting to brown. Add the garlic and cayenne, and stir over the heat for 30 seconds or so (if using garlic powder add it in the next step). Add the tomatoes, saffron (and its soaking water), paprika, thyme, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble merrily for 15 – 20 minutes until reduced by about a third. I blend the sauce at this point, but you can leave it chunky if you like. Season with black pepper.
Serve the vegetables drizzled with the sauce.