Saffron has allured us with its golden hues throughout time. It was the darling of the Medieval kitchen, the saviour of the apothecary’s chest and gave cloth a regal glow. Unlike many spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, saffron can be successfully grown in England. From the middle ages through to the eighteenth century there was a thriving saffron industry in this country. Some people even claimed English saffron was the best to be found in the world. So renowned was the town of Chipping Walden for saffron production that it adopted the spice’s name at some point during the fifteenth century (it is now known as Saffron Walden). Despite its expense, saffron was used extensively in British cookery particularly during the medieval era. It was also valued for its medicinal properties and was said to cure everything from melancholy to the plague. However, as tastes change our ardour for saffron waned and so with it the need and desire to farm it. By the end of the nineteenth century saffron production in England had all but disappeared, although there is a current day revival. Saffron is now a spice more commonly associated with ‘exotic’ dishes from distant climes. Given its lavish reputation (saffron is the most expensive spice in the world) it is no wonder that most people do not have it in their spice cupboard. Sam Bilton will show you how a few saffron fronds can make your repast a thing of great beauty and wonder to your dinner guests.
• Chapter One: Saffron's journey to England
• Chapter Two: Saffron's journey to England
• Chapter Three: English saffron production in the past
• Chapter Four: Saffron as medicine
• Chapter Five: Saffron in the kitchen
• Chapter Six: The decline and rediscovery of saffron
• Chapter Seven: Recipes
Sam Bilton in a food historian who blogs at Comfortablyhungry.com. She is a committee member in charge of awards at the Guild of Food Writers. Her first book, published in 2021, is First Catch Your Gingerbread. She is spending the summer in 2021 giving demonstrations of baking at the RHS Hampton Court, and the RHS Tatton Park, both huge horticultural shows which get a daily airing on the British national TV, the BBC. These broadcasts go out worldwide. She also gives baking demonstrations in her home kitchen in South East England. She is married with two sons.