> Nothing is more delightful, decadent and happy than the French 18th century art adorning the walls of the Wallace collection. We went there this morning for a pre-valentine’s day stroll among the paintings by Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau and we ended up staying there for a light lunch served in the airy conservatory cafe.
The Wallace collection is host to a cornucopia of gorgeous and glamourous love scenes painted by some of the greatest artists of the “Siecle des Lumieres”. Its beautiful classic rooms are furnished with pieces that once belonged to the Petit Trianon of Queen Marie-Antoinette. These incredible pieces of furniture were in most cases bought at auctions held by the revolutionaries and brought to England – which probably saved them from neglect and destruction.
In stark contrast to the shops of Oxford Street that are on its doorstep, the Wallace Collection is a peaceful oasis of calm, beauty and luxury. Away from the mad Valentine’s day compulsive shopping, I had a lovely time, re-discovering Boucher, Watteau, Fragonard and Nicolas Lancret with my daughter. The boys were in rapture in the armours and weapons galleries while we admired the beautiful “Madame de Pompadour” by Boucher and a lovely boy dressed as “Pierrot” by Fragonard.
No art has ever felt as happy, carefree and sensual than the art of that period in France. Boucher paints nymphs and gods, shepherds and milkmaids with a loving, tender and caressing brush. Their naked and offered flesh is as fresh and tempting as a plump brioche or a jug of cream!
If art were edible, one would choose those gorgeously dimpled shoulders and pink cheeks to bite in: They are so far from any idea of real flesh, so close to that of cupcakes – that you can forgive the impulse…
My idea for an equally decadent and irresistible pudding to serve to your Valentine is the following:
A sinful “Tarte Chocolat Caramel” from a French blog I love by Clothilde Dussoulier.
First make a shortcake pastry and line pie tin. Wrap with cling film and reserve in the fridge.
For the caramel filling
Brown sugar 90g
Honey 1 Tbsp
Crushed Maldon salt
Creme fraiche 80g
For the ganache layer
Dark chocolate 280g
Creme fraiche 80g
Preheat the oven ot 180°. Bake the base for 20 min. Leave on a rack to cool.
Prepare the caramel by combining the brown sugar with a spoonful of water in a pan and let it melt on low heat. Swish the pan around to help but do not let it bubble up. When it turn a darker amber, add the honey and stir, then add the salt and cream.
Remove from the heat to add the butter and blend well. Pour into the cooled baked case and reserve.
Prepare the ganache: Put the cream into the same pan and let it heat up to bubbling stage. Remove from the heat and break the chocolate into it. Blend well with a wooden spoon.
Pour the ganache over the set caramel and cover well and evenly.
Let it cool down then return to the fridge and let it set for one hour.
This is a very indulgent but irresistible pudding to anyone who has enjoyed “millionaires slices” in their childhood! My daughter, for one, is very partial to it and even if I try to be a good mother most of the time and give healthy options to my family, I feel everybody should be entitled to a fair amount of chocolate on Valentine’s day…
To follow on our footsteps:
The Wallace Collection, Manchester square London W1U 3BN – open daily 10 to 17