Designer dish with Soria truffle

Flavours to discover: black truffle and saffron


Condiments full of scent and flavour

Truffles are known as the black diamond, and saffron the red gold, of Spanish cuisine. Both epithets are based on the powerful aroma and flavour they add to the recipes, and on their great culinary value and high prices. We will tell you where they are grown, how to try them, and how to learn more about them.

Black truffle from Soria

The province of Soria, in Castile and León, produces excellent black or winter truffles, a highly prized ingredient in haute cuisine. They are usually harvested from December to March, and at this time of year you will have plenty of opportunities to taste them and find out more about truffles. Every year fresh truffle markets are held in several towns, and there are culinary events like Soria y Trufa and La Ruta Dorada de la Trufa. On these days, many restaurants in the province prepare special menus featuring truffles as the main condiment in all kinds of recipes. One of the curious things about truffles is the natural way they are harvested, sometimes called the “truffle hunt”. Truffles are a type of fungus which grow underground close to holm oak trees, and truffle dogs are used to locate them. These dogs are trained to find truffles by scent. When they find one, they stop and scratch the ground to show the harvester where it is. From January to March, some companies organise trips to the countryside to see the truffle hunters at work. You can view the available tourist packages on the Soria Tourist Office website.

Truffles from Soria

Saffron from Castilla-La Mancha

Spain is one of the main producers of this beloved spice, and almost all of it is grown in the Castile–La Mancha region. As well as enhancing other flavours, it adds scent and colour to many recipes. Paella may be the most famous Spanish dish to use saffron, but you can enjoy it in many more, such as cocido manchego and other stews and slow-cooked dishes, and even in desserts. The spice comes from the saffron crocus, which flowers in October and November. At this point the totally manual harvesting process begins - workers pick the flowers, remove the threads and “toast” them over a slow heat. If you’re visiting Castilla – La Mancha at this time of year, you can see the process for yourself. For example, during the Saffron Rose Fiesta to mark the harvest in Consuegra (Toledo). There are so many saffron flowers in the streets that you can try the traditional method of extracting the threads yourself. If you want to learn about the whole process, you can visit the Saffron Museum in Madridejos (Toledo).

Saffron threads