Recently, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. In London, it’s unusual to have your anniversary in January, but not in New Zealand, where we married. It is strange to remember in London, on a chilly winter’s day, the glorious sunshiny day we had, warm enough to have canapés on the terrace and to go outside to look at the stars after dinner.
The first few wedding anniversaries we had were not easy. The very first one is memorable for the fact that we didn’t get to eat our special anniversary meal together because one of us was pacing the room with our wailing newborn. I was ill for another, and jetlagged for a third. Happily, this one was lovely. As it falls shortly after Christmas and New Year, we do not usually go out to celebrate, but have a meal together after the children are in bed.
One of the things about celebrating your anniversary in the opposite season to the one you married is that it’s quite difficult to recreate any part of your big day. My wedding flowers were white hydrangeas- not easy to come by in London in January. Our menu had food suitable to a New Zealand summer- lamb, fresh berries. You can get these but they are imported and not quite the same.
Generally, we embrace this. This year we had some early narcissi on the table, and instead of summery food, we went for the exact opposite, warming and wintery food for one of the first really cold nights this year. It is delightful to be in a cosy room, reminiscing about a glorious summer’s day some years ago while listening to the wind and rain. We wondered if you celebrate in the correct season, whether or not you compare the weather with that of your wedding day. Is it depressing if the anniversary weather is glorious and the wedding day was not? Does an anniversary flower purchase necessitate a hunt for the specific wedding flower type? I have always enjoyed winter weddings, so maybe a winter anniversary gives us the best of both worlds.
Back to the warming and wintery food though. This year we decided to make tartiflette, a wonderful dish from the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France. Wikipedia tells me that the name comes from tartifla, a word for potatoes in the Arpitan dialect, now rarely used in the region. It is made with potato, onion, lardons and Reblochon. Reblochon is a soft cheese made in the Savoy region. Wikipedia has some fascinating facts about what the name means should you wish to know more (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reblochon). It is wonderful, especially when melted. The French and Swiss do many amazing melted cheese dishes, all of which are fairly stodgy and quite delicious. Tartiflette is no exception.
We used the recipe from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries 3, but it was also published in the Observer (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/02/raclette-tart-artichoke-tartiflette-recipe-nigel-slater). He uses Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, but potatoes alone would be fine if you prefer. We made a half portion to serve 2 and it was simple. We made it in an earthenware dish that was one of our wedding presents and ate it at the kitchen table, while reminiscing about our wedding.
Nigel Salter’s Tartiflette-Serves 4
floury potatoes 600g
Jerusalem artichokes 400g
smoked lardons or pancetta 250g
olive oil a little
red onions 2, sliced
crème fraîche 300ml
parmesan a little (optional)
Peel the potatoes and artichokes then steam or boil them in deep, salted water until tender. They take roughly the same time, so you can cook them together. Drain and cut each one into thick slices. Don’t worry if they crumble a little. Cut the pancetta into short, thick pieces. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, add the lardons or pancetta and cook over a moderate heat with the occasional stir, until the fat is golden. Transfer the pancetta to a plate, leaving behind the oil and fat. Peel the onions, then slice thickly. Add them to the oil and pancetta fat and cook for 10 minutes, until pale gold and soft.
Put the sliced potatoes and artichokes in the pan with the softened onions, and continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until they have coloured lightly here and there. Stir in the cooked pancetta.
Cut the reblochon into thick slices. Spoon a layer of the potato, onion and bacon into a dish, add a few slices of reblochon then more potato mixture. Finish with spoonfuls of the crème fraîche and, if you wish, a fine grating of parmesan.
Bake the tartiflette for about 40 minutes until bubbling.