Saffron is the First Lady of spices. Called safran in French, saffron in German, zafferano in Italian, azafran in Spanish and kesa, kesram, khesa or zafran in India, by weight, it is the most expensive spice in the world. One cannot imagine Pilafs and Biryanis, bouillabaisse or paella without this vital ingredient. Saffron appears in Moorish, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Its most common function is to colour rice yellow, as in festive Indian pilafs and Risotto Milanese, where its delicate flavour make it the most famous of Italian rice dishes. It combines well with fish and seafood and rice. It is also used in some Indian desserts and meat dishes. In England, saffron is used to very good effect in Cornish saffron buns where it is paired with dried fruit in a yeast cake.

Saffron’s high cost is due to the fact that the threads are the actual stigma of a particular crocus flower and must be harvested by hand. Fortunately, a pinch or two of saffron is more than enough to spice up a kilo of rice. Saffron needs moisture to release its flavour so the best way to use saffron is to soak the threads in hot or warm liquid (water or milk) for about 10 minutes and add this to the recipe. You can also simply toss the crushed threads in with the rest of the ingredients but you will get a stronger and better flavour by first soaking the crushed threads and then adding them.

I am including the recipes of Dum Ka Murg and Vermicelli Dessert, both of which are very easy to make and are extremely aromatic because of the strands of saffron used in both these dishes. All the ingredients in the Chicken dish are cooked together.

Dum ka murg (Vegetarians, use 600 grams of paneer instead of chicken)



1 kg Chicken (you can use drumsticks or boneless chicken too)

2 Onions sliced and fried crisp in oil or ghee

1 cup Plain Yogurt, beaten

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup cashew nuts

1 teaspoon Red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder

2 Tomatoes finely chopped

1/3 cup Oil

1 inch Cinnamon stick

6 Green Cardamoms

4 Black Peppercorns

1 tablespoon khus seeds

½ tablespoon sesame seeds

½ teaspoon shah jeera

½ coconut grated or a small carton of coconut milk.

1 pinch Saffron

Salt to taste

1 bunch Coriander leaves, 1 bunch Mint Leaves

6 Green chillies washed and finely chopped.

Bay leaves to line the dish.


Grind khus, sesame seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, coconut, tomato and cashew together. In a mixing bowl, add beaten yoghurt, crushed fried onions, ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, shahjeera, green chilli, ground ingredients, saffron, lemon juice, coriander and mint and mix it all well. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. If this is left overnight, the flavour is better and the chicken is softer.

In a large cooking dish, add oil. Line the bottom with bay leaves. Arrange pieces of chicken or paneer and pour over the marinade. Cook on high for 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover with a lid and put a weight on the lid. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until done.

Garnish with chopped coriander and mint leaves. Serve with rice or rotis.

Vermicelli Dessert


3 tablespoons roasted fine vermicelli

3 tablespoons sugar, or as per your taste

1 liter milk

1 tablespoon raisins

2 tablespoons ground cashews or almonds

A few strands of saffron.

1 tablespoon ghee.

Chopped almonds and pistachios (optional)


Soak saffron in half a cup milk. In a sauce pan, fry vermicelli in ghee for a few seconds, add raisins and cashew/almond paste. Pour in the milk. Stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil, add saffron milk and let simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Remove and serve hot or cool and refrigerate. You can garnish with chopped almonds and pistachios.


20 responses »

  1. If you like saffron, you will love rigatoni with braised chicken and saffron cream. It is unbelievable.

  2. Shernaz says:

    Beyniaz, If you keep tempting me with such yummy dishes, I am going to die without eating them…sadly not permitted rich foods. Anyway keep the recipes coming so I can share them with others. Thanks.

  3. knot2share says:

    Thank you so much for tempting me to cook the vermicelli dessert (we call it Semiya Payasam in Malayalam). On the stove right this very moment simmering away with just one difference or maybe two – I did not add the cashew paste but fried them in ghee to add it and the final picture may not be as tempting as yours!! 🙂

    Will try the Murg-dum over the weekend.

  4. nadi says:

    am making the vermicelli on Eid. thank you Beyniaz

  5. Irene says:

    Must treat myself to a meal cooked by you some day!

  6. Beyniaz says:

    Thanks Om. Never tried this dish without saffron and the chicken is really soft and tender every time i make it.Maybe a combination of yogurt and lime too.

  7. prakash narayan says:

    Nice blog, and definitely mouth watering! i have one question though – Does saffron make the meat more soft and tender? Like for example, we use raw papaya in meat dishes just to soften up the meat. So, is saffron having that kind of quality?

  8. Sonal Shree says:

    Honestly I never felt like cooking Vermiceli at all till I came across this blog of yours. What temptation now!
    The Chicken dih too seems mouth watering. Where can I get khus and sesame? Are they known by the same name in Hindi?

    • Beyniaz says:

      Hi Sonal, thanks for your comment. Khus-khus is the name in Hindi, its poppy seeds in English; Till is what sesame seends are called in Hindi. You will get these at every kirana shop and supermarket.

      • Sonal Shree says:

        Thanks for guiding. Just one more question- there are 2 types of sesame seeds- white and black. Which one?

  9. Indrani Talukdar says:

    Very beautifully written, but what else can we expect from Beniyaaz? Very informative too. I love saffron-based delicacies BTW 🙂

  10. Beyniaz says:

    Thanks for reading this Vimala and for your sweet comment. 🙂

  11. vimala ramu says:

    Hi Beyniaz,
    Do you know that I went to Srinagar but never got to see a saffron plant because I could not recognise which one it was. Thanks for the informative write up about it. Vermicelli dish is my favourite .

  12. Shail Raghuvanshi says:

    Couldn’t have expected anything lesser from you Beyni. Nice to see that we are back especially you, with your mouth watering recipes.

    Keep it going Beyni:)

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