This is a very tough question to answer, but with this recipe, it’s possible to get pretty close.
If you look closely, you might be able to see tiny green spots in the brown rice cooked with saffron (and the other spices). The green spots look like a bit of black pepper, like on a fried egg. The more important question, of course, is: how do saffron and other spices affect the flavor of your curry?
Saffron is rich in polyphenols, which have antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimalarial properties. Many studies have shown that saffron is a powerful antioxidant, the best that one can ask for in a spice. The polyphenol content in saffron grows when exposed to heat, and the polyphenols increase as the saffron absorbs heat. But there are also many studies showing that saffron can enhance the effects of other spices. A couple of the studies that I saw mention saffron as an enhancement agent were done by Prof. David W. O’Sullivan’s group at Yale University in the ’80s. The study published in Nutrition and Food Science by the Yale group, published in 2010 for the J Agric Food Chem, stated it was possible to produce and use saffron as a polyphenol enhancer in a commercial spice blend.
What about saffron’s flavor? For the most part, it’s fairly bland. Some studies on saffron have suggested that it is an excellent flavor enhancer. One, however, was published in “Food Nutrition” in 1997. It’s not in a scientific magazine, so you can’t necessarily rely on this experiment or the paper’s conclusions. It stated that “The flavonoid content of spices is not known. This suggests further investigation of the flavonoid content and the impact of saffron on flavor.”
What about the other spices? The same thing can be said for other spices used in Indian curry dishes. For example, ghee—a hot, greasy butter typically made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk—also doesn’t contain many natural flavors. The one exception is ground cardamom powder, which tastes more like a cardamom-infused paste than like some sort of natural spice. The taste is actually rather mild, and can range from a mild cinnamon note to a slightly bitter or pepper-y sensation.
So, saffron is rich in polyphenols, and it
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