Saffron, azafrán, is used extensively in Spanish cooking. It is, by weight, the most expensive spice in the world, but a very little goes a long way. It has a unique flavour and a beautiful golden colour which it imparts to many dishes.
It is obtained from the stigma of the purple autumn crocus, crocus sativa, and these are picked by hand and dried to produce the saffron threads. The flowers are grown on the high plateau of La Mancha and the collection begins just as the weather turns cold. It is back-breaking, intensive work which accounts for the high value of the finished product.
In cooking, the threads are ground into a powder and added directly to the dish or steeped in hot water first. Genuine Spanish saffron has D.O.P. status.