Food Friday: Valentine's special
Our blogger Caroline Hennessy's latest recipe is something cheesy for Valentine’s Day: Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans

Valentine’s Day can be such a terribly angst-ridden occasion. As a flighty teen, there was a big build up: I’d be simultaneously longing to get a card from my object of desire, knowing that would never happen - and terrified that I’d get the pity card from my mother. Oh, the advantages of growing up!

Now older and wiser and several different Valentines down the line, each with their own ideas about

celebrating - or not - it’s never been a feast that I’ve warmed to. A Valentine’s weekend in Carlingford at a B&B that had maroon bathroom fittings to match the red walls, wine carpet and, yes, even a claret-coloured ceiling, plus a breakfast room full of silent couples cured me of any desire to jump on the V-Day bandwagon.

So instead of trying to desperately trying to make your night meaningful in a restaurant full of tables for two having a compulsory dinner à deux, think of staying warm and cosy at home with your loved one.

We like to go cheesy at the cottage for Valentine’s Day, with a fondue of mature Hegarty’s cheddar, palmsized Coeurs Neufchatel from Cork's Iago, a Vacherin Mont d’Or – or this Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans. It's easy, involves very little preparation, and takes just minutes to become irresistibly unctuous and ready to be consumed with lots of nibbly bits, making it a perfect supper after the smallies go to bed.

While it's in the oven, lay the table with two plates and whatever takes your fancy for dipping into the runny cheese: crunchy apples and slightly underripe pears; cubes of sourdough bread crisped up in the hot oven; dried apricots; thin crackers (I used crunchy Cranberry and Hazelnut Crackers from Foods of Athenry); gherkins to cut the richness; some thinly sliced Gubbeen chorizo and salami; and a good salad. A simple bowl of floppy leaves, with a mustardy dressing, or last month's crunchy Winter 'Slaw recipe is perfect. Pour a glass of something nice to make it into even more of an occasion – a gently hopped red ale or saison (Black Donkey's Sheep Stealer works especially well) from an Irish microbrewery, some local cider or even a zesty sauvignon blanc.

When your cheese is warmed through and happily bubbling, serve it up and eat by candlelight.

Note: you won't need a dessert afterwards but a few pieces of high-quality dark chocolate from an Irish bean-to-bar producer like Wilkie's Organic Chocolate, Burren Chocolatier or Clonakilty Chocolate will finish off the meal in a suitably luxurious fashion (are you listening, St Valentine?).

Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans

This makes the perfect after-the-kids-go-to-bed feast. Serves just two.

  • 1 individual Coolenney brie, approx 200g
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 50g pecans, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Freshly ground black pepper, flakes of sea salt
  • Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan bake.
  • Put the brie in an ovenproof dish with sides and cut a cross into the top of the rind, pushing the sprig of thyme into the cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is soft and runny in the middle - the length of time depends on the age of the cheese so keep an eye on it. Remove from the oven.
  • Meanwhile, toast the pecans over a medium heat in a dry frying pan until warm and fragrant.
  • Remove from the heat, pour over the maple syrup and toss together. Season with plenty of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt then remove to a plate and allow to cool.
  • Pull the cut rind back from the top of the warm cheese, sprinkle with the crunchy pecans and serve warm with crusty bread and crackers, thin slices of pear or apple and a good salad.
  • Recipe by Caroline Hennessey. She blogs at Bibliocook.