When you come to cook with us in Val d'Isère you're not only starting a lovely journey to a beautiful little town in the heart of the French Alps, we will also take you on a (culinary) journey around the world. You will not only learn how to use interesting ingredients, you will also hear quite a lot of facts about all sorts of foods that might sometimes be interesting and sometimes quite mind-boggling.

What if I told you that we were going to use gold leaves to decorate our food - you'd probably be wondering, if we're actually wasting your money?! So no - we're not.

We do make saffron risotto though, - and would you ever consider calling us crazy for this?

Here are some interesting facts for you about saffron:

Harvesting saffron is a very labour-intensive task. It's taken from the saffron crocus bulb (Crocus Sativus), a flower that blooms in autumn. Each saffron bulb only produces one single flower, and the actual saffron spice comes from its three stigmas. From one freshly picked flower you won't get more than 30mg of fresh saffron threads - which equals only about 7mg dried saffron. For 1g of dry saffron, you need approximately 150 flowers, and 1kg of flowers will produce as little as 12g of dried saffron!

There are four different grades of saffron (I being the highest, IV the lowest), and luckily you can buy a decent quality without spending a day's salary. The grades are depending on three different aspects: flavour, colour and aroma and the grading is actually done by - believe it or not - ISO professionals in a lab!

You also have different names for different saffron grades from different countries. Some of the most common commercial ones being Sargol (I) from Persia, Cupe (I) from Spain, Red Saffron from Greece and Mongra and Lacha from India. For one gram of grade I saffron, you usually pay between £5-£10.

But prices can be much higher, as this story shows: the UK used to be a traditional growing country for saffron as well, but that was back in the days. The tradition has long gone, as the task of growing and harvesting is too labour- and therefore cost-intensive. But there is one little corner in Essex, which was the heart of saffron production during Tudor times. In the village of Saffron Walden David Smale has revived saffron growing after discovering a few crocus bulbs in his backyard. It is currently a very small production line, but just as in Medieval times highly sought after English Saffron: you can buy 1g of his Saffron at Fortnum & Mason for £75, which is about triple the current gold price. And this makes a backyard full of these beautiful flowers truly a field of gold!


Following our CAN YOU COOK competition?

You still have until Tuesday evening to send us a photo of your Pad Thai entry. The best 5 dishes will be posted on Facebook for voting from Wednesday. The top 3 entries enter our leader board and begin to collect points which transfer to a direct discount of your course fee.

For more details and the recipe check out last weeks newsletter here..

Below is our tutor entry, can you do a better job?
Can you cook Pad Thai?