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Bringing Iranian culture & food to Australia: Exploring Saffron & More with Parya Zaghand

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In today’s Food Talk series, we talk to Parya Zaghand, Founder of ‘Saffron & More’, an authentic food brand that focuses on bringing unique, authentic and mouth-watering ingredients from Iran to Australia. We’ll learn about her origin story, and her inspiration for Saffron & More will take us through a vibrant culinary journey nested in culture and traditions. 

How did it all start?

Saffron and More started with an intention! To build a bridge between the East and the West! To share the beautiful Persian Food Culture, stories and ancient applications of the ingredients and why they are used, the spiritual and philosophical meanings and reasons behind them with people here in Australia. I was at the time (in 2014) working in the corporate world and decided enough is enough! I wanted to do something from a place of heart and care. The story can be found here. 

While working in the corporate space (Telstra) we had a florist who would bring in flowers every week to the office and would always give me some flowers for myself, he heard that I was leaving and asked about the adventure and kindly put me through to his friends at Chefs warehouse, the universe was aligned and they were in the market to buy some quality saffron and the aroma, flavour and colour of our Saffron took them down the memory lane of the guys travelling through the Middle East so love was at work and the Saffron sold itself.

Click here to watch Parya talk more about the story of Saffron & More

Can you tell us a bit about Persian culture & food and how you shaped ‘Saffron & More’ to become a premium Persian ingredient supplier in Australia?

When talking about the rich culture of Iran, we can rave nonstop about the food, the art, the scenery, the history and so on. But at the heart of everything are the people and their warm — albeit not much talked about — hospitality. There’s an old Iranian saying, “Mehmoon habib-e-Khoda ast,” which translates to “A guest is a blessing by God.” In a land where the kettle never rests, expect to be invited to enjoy good tea, be served delicious food and be greeted with ear-to-ear smiles. In any competition for the title of the world’s friendliest people, Iranians would be definite finalists.

Food in Iran is serious.

It is the pivot point of Persian culture; essential to everything. There is a meaning and a bigger reason behind the ingredients used in every dish. It’s all about the balance. The ancient philosophy of cold and hot food is linked to the ancient Zoroastrians of the Achaemenian and Sassanid. This philosophy once was shared with other civilizations including China, India, and the mediaeval West.

Most beef, fish, rice, dairy products, fresh vegetables and fruits are considered as cold. Based on your nature, season or illness, you eat cold or hot foods. Even today, the way foods are combined and served takes into consideration. For instance, walnut, a hot food is combined in a dish that includes pomegranate or fish, a cold food, to make the dish balanced and delicious.

From cultural aspect, food was considered to be an art providing enjoyment to both body and enlightenment to the mind and rise to the spirit.

Iranians refined the taste and flavor of food and how it is presented although it still retains roots in its ancient sources. Iranians cook based on what is in season so the food is as fresh and as best quality as it can be. Fragrance during cooking and at the table plays an important role, the same as the taste. Presentation of food is a major factor. Food is garnished so that it pleases the eye.

Throughout history, the art of Persian cooking expanded to all the Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, & Syria. Today, when dishes are made, culinary history of Persian cooking is noted.

Iran was first to use many common herbs such as basil, mint, cumin, cloves, and coriander. Many different foods originated or introduced in Iran such as oranges, pistachios, spinach, saffron, sweet and sour sauces, kabobs, almond pastries, etc. 

Iranians refined the taste and flavor of food and how it is presented although it still retains roots in its ancient sources. Iranians cook based on what is in season so the food is as fresh and as best quality as it can be. Fragrance during cooking and at the table plays an important role, the same as the taste. Presentation of food is a major factor. Food is garnished so that it pleases the eye.

Women have had a great influence in the history of cooking in Iran. The best chiefs were women. From the palaces of Persian kings to housewives, women have had fabulous skills in the preparation of food. Therefore, homemade food is precious and more appreciated than that of food prepared in a restaurant.

Saffron threads are to be picked and threaded and packed ONLY by women as they are the most delicate and have sharp eyes and attention for this precious spice. 

What makes good quality saffron?

A reliable source! Make sure you get your hands ona  traceable source where you know where it actually has come from. Our saffron is traceable to the packet being packed by which staff and at what date/time in the factory!

Our saffron threads hail from the saffron heartlands of Qaen, in the Khorasan province of northeast Iran. Guaranteed 100% organic and of premium quality.

As Saffron Threads find their way into more kitchens, it’s key to remember one important thing: Not all Saffrons are created equal. How do you distinguish the cream of the crop from low quality ones?

Use the 4S Test:

See: Top-quality saffron threads are dark red that may have a tiny yellowish tail while low-quality saffron may appear waxy.

Smell: The best saffron has a pungent smell due to high levels of Safranal and Picrocrocin while poor-quality ones will have almost no aroma.

Savour: If you pop a saffron thread in your mouth and it’s sweet, don’t buy it. Grade-A saffron will have a slightly bitter taste.

Stroke: Touch the saffron threads. If they stick together, walk away. Good saffron threads should be dry and don’t stick together.

How did you develop your ranges?

We started with one product: Saffron! We were called ‘Saffron Only’ back in 2014! And the magic is created and unfolded by the blessings and abundance of this one unique product. The opportunities came by and we were introduced to other suppliers in Iran by our main supplier for products other than Saffron; and the team in Iran and at the factory who had by then became very familiar with the standards of the Aussie market helped us developed a range of premium quality products that are handpicked and sorted 3 times before they are packed and exported to Australia. We feel the market, we create the need for beauty and exotic flavours and colours in the food scene. The aim is to bring unique flavours and add vivacity and zest to plates and recipes/formulas. It doesn’t matter if the product is truly unknown and unheard of, we still work on it with passion and create a space for it. 

 

The passion that Parya has for her business and Iranian culture is truly inspiring. We are proud to source ingredients like saffron from ‘Saffron & More’ and we encourage you to check out her range of authentic ingredients to level up your dishes at home. 

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