Rumi Spice Saffron Risotto – Learning about the origination of Rumi Spice, it’s founders and how to harvest and use saffron in recipes like Saffron Risotto.
When you hear that a spice company was created by 4 military officers with Harvard and West Point backgrounds, what would you imagine the product is? If I told you that the company, Rumi Spice, works with Afghan farmers to bring the highest quality saffron to us, would you realize that their mission is to cultivate peace in Afghanistan? You would be right if you said yes.
I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to a dinner held at The Blanchard Restaurant in Chicago to learn about the company’s origination and more specifically how to use saffron in your dishes. Kimberly Jung, Emily Miller, Keith Alaniz and Carol Wang built this company after years of working in Afghanistan while in the military. With their understanding of the business landscape and strength in partnership development, they saw a way to help the Afghan farmers improve their opportunities. By sourcing saffron from local farms, Rumi Spice is employing more than 300 women as well as investing in to the agricultural and manufacturing infrastructure of the area.To understand this a bit better:
“Over 80% of the Afghan population is reliant on the rural agricultural economy. The success of the saffron industry not only helps farmers and the women providing direct labor, it touches ever member of the village…Connecting Afghan farmers with the global market is key to unlocking the economic potential of Afghanistan”
Let’s talk about saffron. One of the most valued spices used in recipes. It comes from the interior of the amethyst colored saffron crocus and providing a golden orange hue in dishes. Given the fragility of the filaments, saffron is hand harvested. The intense care to separate the tiny red stigmas in the center of the crocus from the petals, stamens and flower is why it needs to be done with such a delicate hand.
The unique depth of flavor that comes from saffron adds dimension and flavor to risottos, sauces and desserts. Real saffron tastes slightly fruity, floral and a touch bitter. As a result of the labor in harvesting the red threads, you may notice that it is a bit more expensive than other spices. But, when you take a spoonful of that risotto, you won’t care. It will be something you gladly invest in.
Held with such high regard, you can imagine why the top restaurant chefs choose Rumi Spice. In Chicago, you will find it at Naha and The Blanchard. In fact, at our dinner, Chef Ryan Burns made a number of dishes with saffron used in very different ways. Here are a few examples:Chilled Beausoleil Oyster – Saffron Infused Melon Granite, Ham, Celery, FingerlimeCorn and Salmon Roe – Corn Crepes, Corn Pudding cooked in Husk
Cognac Cappucino – Forbidden rice crispy, Elderflower, Cucumber, Ginger
Looking to grow, the team landed on Shark Tank where they educated the Sharks on their story and use of saffron. In the end, Mark Cuban understand all that this business opportunity entailed for all parties and chose to invest their business. To watch the episode, see here.
The important note to realize when you source saffron for your own cooking needs is to make sure what you purchase is authentic. Rumi Spice can be found at some local Whole Foods, on Amazon and on the brand’s website.
Now, what should you make with the saffron? My go-to dish is risotto. It’s a base that you can adjust to suit whatever flavors you want or whatever ingredients you have in the fridge. To really get the full experience of the saffron, I am sharing my Saffron Risotto recipe with you. Using the right type of rice – arborio – and the best parmigiano reggiano cheese, will make all the difference.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
To learn more about Rumi Spice, Saffron and to find recipes, please visit Rumi Spice’s website.
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, warm
- 2 cup Arborio rice
- 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced in small pieces
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Saffron, large pinch
- 2 tablespoons butter, optional
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In sauce pan, keep stock warm throughout cooking process.
- Pour wine into a measuring cup. Add saffron threads.
- In saute pan, warm olive oil, add onions. Add salt if desired. Cook till translucent.
- Add rice, blending till all covered in oil and onions. On low heat, stir till rice has some lighter markings on each piece of rice. See rice photo for what cooked rice should look like. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the wine and saffron. Stir to mix. Wine will reduce considerably and become incorporated into the rice.
- A cup at a time, add warm stock. Stir often until each cup is absorbed before adding the next cup of stock. Continue until stock is almost all absorbed. About 20-30 minutes.
- Turn off heat. Add butter if desired. Then add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Gently stir.
- Adding salt may not be necessary as your stock and cheese are salty.
- Once saffron is added, it will turn the dish a pretty yellow/orange color. By adding the saffron to the wine in advance, it will help mellow the saffron before adding to the rice.
- This recipe is a base for you to add anything you like from vegetables (peas, asparagus, mushrooms) to proteins (shrimp, calamari).
- Risotto can be served as a side dish or main course.