How do you make saffron rice that actually tastes like saffron? Read on.

I’ve often struggled with saffron rice. You put the threads in with your rice and all you end up with is tiny pockets of yellow without much flavor throughout. And yes, I’ve tried the hot water trick with the saffron threads to let it “bloom” without much more success. The delicate threads are just too expensive to put in a dish when it barely imparts flavor, right?

saffron rice

Somewhere on the internet (I forget where) I discovered the secret. Crush a pinch of the saffron into a powder and add that to warm water in addition to another good pinch of whole threads. Let me tell you, this completely did the trick. See how yellow my rice turned out?

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just crush the saffron using anything you have. The handle of a wooden spoon in a small bowl worked fine for me. I have noticed that you want the saffron powder and threads to sit in the water for a bit; when I’m making this, I do the saffron part at the very beginning before I start chopping anything else I’m making. A good 10 minutes works wonders, creating a lovely and strong yet delicate saffron flavor.

saffron rice

With the venison meatballs, this is a pretty basic recipe. However, in my attempts to make a more tender venison meatball I have learned yet another trick. Or maybe two tricks. First, mix it with a fattier meat. Make it pork, lamb, beef, whatever. I use sausage (with a somewhat neutral flavor to it) and it works great. Secondly, puree all the onions and stuff before mixing it in with the mince. It gives the meatballs a nice texture that’s a little less like an overcooked hamburger, which can happen often with venison meatballs.

saffron rice

Meatballs with Saffron Rice
For the rice
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 2 large pinches saffron threads
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
For the meatballs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves plucked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound ground hog or venison sausage
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • extra chopped parsley for garnish
For the rice
  1. Gently warm 3/4 cup of the water. Meanwhile, crush half the saffron threads into a powder with a mortar and pestle or with the handle of a wooden spoon in a bowl. Add the powder and the second pinch of saffron threads to the warm water and let sit 5-10 minutes. Then add all the water and saffron water to the rice, bring to a boil and let simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, cook the saffron with the rice in your rice cooker according to the cooker's instructions.

For the meatballs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the onion, garlic, olive oil and parsley to a food processor and pulse until puréed. In a large bowl, combine the purée with the meat and salt and pepper to taste until well combined. Roll into balls and put on a foil-lined baking sheet.

  2. Bake the meatballs for about 10-15 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve over the saffron rice and garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

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