DAVID WOODS: Tasty homemade hearts show your love in spades

Parmesan tart with a heart crisp
Parmesan tart with a heart crisp

Love is in the air at the Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel, based at the airport’s north terminal, as executive head chef, David Woods, gets ready for Valentine’s Day...

The countdown is on for Valentine’s day – the event that galvanizes chefs to make show-stopping creations to enhance the magic of the evening.

Use an icecream lid to cut out heart template for the Parmesan crisps

Use an icecream lid to cut out heart template for the Parmesan crisps

But sometimes a simple heart is all it takes to turn a dish into a romantic gesture.

My senior sous chef, Shaun Van Den Bergh, has created a Parmesan tart – rather like a savoury crème brulee on a crispy pastry base – as a starter for our Valentine’s menu, and adorned it with Parmesan heart crisps.

In true Blue Peter style, use an ice cream lid to cut out perfect hearts to act as a template. Place the template onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and sprinkle each heart with grated Parmesan. Carefully lift off the template without disturbing the cheese and bake in a preheated oven, 170oc, for three to five minutes until crisp.

When cool, use to garnish this tart, or a risotto, or pop into a bowl of soup to float just before serving.

David Woods

David Woods

However you use them, he or she will get the message.

To book a table at La Brasserie, Sofitel’s 2 AA rosette restaurant, call 01293 567070 (select 3 for dining) or email SLG@sofitelgatwick.com. Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Share your Valentine recipes with us on Instagram by tagging @SofitelLondonGA.

Parmesan Tart

For the shortcrust pastry base:

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

100g cold butter, cubed

1 to 2 egg yolks, beaten

For the topping:

200g egg yolk (approx. 8 eggs)

200g parmesan cheese, grated

910ml whipping cream

2-4 teaspoons of truffle oil to taste

Salt and pepper to taste


Whiz the butter and flour in a food processor with a pinch of salt until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk a little at a time until the mixture turns into a dough. You don’t want a sticky dough, so you may not need to use all the egg yolk.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a half centimetre thickness. Cut out a circle to fit a 20cm diameter spring-form, loose based round tin.

Prick the pasty base with a fork and line with a circle of baking paper. Add baking beans (or rice) to weigh it down. Bake at 180oC for about 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden.

It helps to seal the tart if you brush the tart case with egg yolk at this point and return to the oven for one minute. Leave to cool.

To make the topping, bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the grated Parmesan and a few drops of truffle oil to taste.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks slightly and continue whisking as you pour over the cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour this mixture onto the pastry base and bake in a low oven 95oC for about 55 minutes until set. When cool, remove the tart from the tin.

To serve, cut the tart into wedges and warm in an oven, 120C, for five minutes, decorate with Parmesan heart crisps.

Chef’s tip

Parmesan crisps will keep in an airtight tin for up to 5 days. They make perfect nibbles either on their own or used for dipping.

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