Food and love are two things that have been inextricably linked for centuries, but as St Valentine’s day approaches, what’s the perfect way to bring the two together?
It’s entirely subjective and depends completely on individual taste. Grand gestures in world famous restaurants? Pulling out all the stops with a surprise multi-course meal cooked for your loved one when they return home? This can easily be tempered with the awkward moment you realise you’re too late booking a restaurant and every decent table is taken in town, or the recipe you’ve been following dramatically goes wrong leaving you with a devastating scene in the kitchen and a bemused other half, followed by a call to the local takeaway.
For me, the simple things are best; warm, hearty food, great wine, a touch of decadence and a flash of real luxury. And it can all be achieved in the comfort of your own home for less that the price of a decent meal, giving you some truly wonderful food to enjoy while relaxing on your sofa with a great movie.
The truffle season is coming to a close, but this ingredient more than any has been long linked to decadence, indulgence and love. It’s not cheap but worth every penny if used correctly. Like with anything, it’s good to buy the best you can. Fresh is always the best option, but there are some great preserved and tinned options from premium grocers, with a sweet, earthy, nutty or musky aroma that pairs perfectly with good cheese. And what could be more comforting that cheese on toast? Putting the two together is a combination that cannot fail. This recipe is a more luxurious take, using mascarpone and double cream to enrichen the dish, a bit like a rarebit, is significant meal in itself and needs nothing more than a bottle or two of good wine to give you (almost) all the satisfaction you need. White wines and champagne are the best to pair with truffles, particularly Burgundy, which has that touch of musk that brings the food, wine, and yourselves together beautifully.
1 lovely sourdough loaf (approximately 500g-600g)
50g mild olive oil
50 g shallots (finely diced)
30g black truffle (can be fresh, tinned, puree or shavings)
250g double cream
150g really nice strong cheese (such as British mature cheddar)
10g chives (very finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle of chilled white wine or champagne, significantly more expensive than usual (a good quality champagne of the great Burgundy’s is best)
Taking a sharp bread knife slice the bread across the loaf lengthways, first removing the top and bottom, then slicing the middle in to two extra-large slices of bread. Retain the top and bottom pieces and either turn in to breadcrumbs for another dish or feed to some very lucky birds in your garden
Grate the cheese and retain
Now you need to toast the bread. The best way to do this is in a grill pan so you get lovely char marks running across it that have a great flavour. If doing so, lightly oil the grill pan and toast on a medium heat on both sides until nicely toasted. Alternatively, brush with a little oil and pop under the grill until done on both sides
Now add a little more oil to a small pan and gently sweat off the diced shallot until soft, seasoning a little at the beginning
The add the cream and very gently start to bubble until it has reduced by about half. You need to stir continuously with a spatula to stop the cream sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan
Once reduced, add the mascarpone and gently bring to the cusp of a boil. Then add the cheese and drop the temperature. You just want to melt the cheese, so the sauce has a smooth consistency. Don’t boil, it will split the cheese and the finished dish will be greasy and a little unpleasant
Once the sauce is perfectly as one, grate in ¾ of your truffle if using fresh (its best to use a very fine cheese grater so the shavings are light and fragile, not coarse and bitty) and retain the rest. If using tinned, drain the oil and either grate or very finely chop and add everything at this stage. If using a puree, add everything too. Check the seasoning and add some sea salt to taste.
Allow the mix to cool slightly until it thickens a little and becomes spreadable. Place the toast on a chopping board and thickly spread the mixture on the top of each piece, carefully making sure it all stays on top.
Don’t let the mix cool completely before finishing as again the cheese could split once reheated, so move with relaxed purpose for the final stage
Pre heat your grill to its near, but not at, its highest setting, place the toasts on a tray, then put under the heat two shelves down from the top (to avoid burning). Grill until the top is bubbling and golden brown,
Remove from the heat and place on a wooden board, sprinkle with the chopped chives, give it a twist of freshly ground black pepper, and shave the last of the remaining fresh truffle on top if you are lucky enough to have some in reserve.
Take that chilled bottle out of the fridge, get a couple of glasses, and sink into the sofa with your loved one and enjoy the pleasure of sharing some properly indulgent time together