Saffron is an amazing oil, but if you’ve ever bought a bottle of it or used it to flavour chocolate, then you have probably seen some “exotic” colours come on the colourless, tasteless or astringent oil – you may even have heard a few people say “I can have any oil, I just need yellow and brown, saffron in white”.
Saffron’s origins lie in India, where it has been used as a flavouring for centuries. It was then exported to Britain in the 16th Century; by the mid-19th Century, it was widely traded throughout the colonies, and by the 1920s is usually being used as an ingredient in food, perfume or cosmetics. In particular, saffron oil was in high demand as a skin-conditioning and anti-irritant, and also in cosmetics. It was especially popular in India, and was used as a food colour in the early 20th Century.
In many parts of the world, saffron oil is still widely in use, as a base or flavouring, and often added to drinks, cooking oil, tea and other aromatics. There are a few notable instances in the world today of these traditional uses being criticised, however, and in 2013, the Food & Drink Federation of the United Kingdom, the world’s largest food and drink trade association, urged the UK government to reconsider its use of saffron oils. The warning, which came in an article in The Guardian, was in response to a BBC advertisement for a saffron-branded drink, The Wok and Whisk, which used a saffron-based colouring to help differentiate the ingredients. Since the ad was published, the food and drink industry has called for the UK government to reconsider the advice, and has even campaigned against the use of saffron in UK advertising.
What are the benefits of using saffron oil?
From the point of taste, saffron is a light yellowish colour, almost translucent. It is strong in flavouring, as well as having a soothing effect on the body. It has been used for centuries for these purposes – in India, it is believed to have medicinal properties.
Some recipes using saffron oil claim to benefit from its cooling effect. The French author Gaston Leroux, for example, called for saffron oil to be made into a hot drink in his book Le Décasse, which was
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