Left to my own devices, I’d probably go for a full on cheeseboard of blues and softs. Don’t get me wrong, I adore hard cheeses, but there’s something about a ripe, smelly, aromatic and oozy cheese that I just can’t resist. Add to that a washed rind and I’m in love. Simply slathered on a hunk of freshly baked bread or smoothed on to a cracker is irresistible, but it’s not the only way to enjoy your favourite cheeses.
Tartiflette is a gloriously indulgent 1980s classic from the Haute-Savoie region of France. The dish was invented to promote sales of the French cheese, Reblochon, a soft washed-rind and smear ripened cows milk cheese. Tartiflette is a rich, unctuous potato dish and the perfect hearty fare after a hard day’s skiing in the French Alps. Traditionally, tartiflette is a gratin made with lardons and onion and topped with a heart-stopping wedge of Reblochon cheese. This simple dish is like dauphinois’ chubbier cousin, and is just the ticket to cheer your spirits on these cold, rainy days or as a warming reward after a final raid of the hedgerows to gather the last of the season’s blackberries.
Reblochon is indeed a giant among cheeses, but there are plenty of British cheeses that could give it a run for its money. British cheese has never been better or more varied, and I found a particularly delicious example at the River Cottage Canteen deli counter in Axminster last week. Helford White is a Gold Award winning, soft, washed-rind Cornish cheese, with a delicately pretty apricot-coloured rind and the kind of whiff you just know is going to make it a winner. Its squidgy texture and tangy taste worked beautifully in my British tartiflette, but if you can’t get your hands on any, Stinking Bishop would be an excellent alternative.
Most recipes call for crème fraiche or single cream, but I used clotted cream to give this dish an extra British touch and because I still had some knocking about in the fridge from the cream tea cupcakes I made the other day. I used individual cast iron Staub pots, but I have given the amounts for a large gratin dish to serve 6 – 8, in an effort to be more helpful.