Psyche’s chocolate and raspberry heart

Valentine’s day is next week – so what to produce from a culinary point of view?

Well, one idea would be to consider making this very appropriate puff pastry heart with raspberry and chocolate. An obvious reason (apart from its heart shape) is that it is dead simple and everyone likes it.

Claude Lorrain – artist who painted Psyche outside Cupid’s palace

But if you want to be a bit more academic (albeit inaccurate) about it we could begin by taking a look at the painter (and cook) Claude Lorrain. Born in 1600 he was a French landscape painter who spent most of his time in Italy. He produced some stunning and magnificent paintings including the one at the top of this post depicting Psyche, outside Cupid’s palace.

The story of Cupid and Psyche

The story of Cupid and Psyche is a love story (bear with me, it all becomes relevant in the end). Psyche is the youngest and loveliest of three princesses, so lovely in fact that the citizens cease to worship Venus and focus their attention on Psyche.

Venus isn’t too happy about this, and she sends Cupid to shoot her with one of his arrows so that she falls in love with something hideous. Instead, cack-handedly, Cupid scratches himself with his own arrow and then falls in love with Psyche.

Sensing something is amiss, Psyche’s father, the king, seeks advice from the oracle of Apollo. He’s told that his future son-in-law will not be human, but instead a terrible dragon-like being. Psyche is dressed in funeral clothes, taken to the top of a cliff and left there.

The west wind carries her off and leaves her in a beautiful meadow where she sees a marvellous palace – the scene depicted in Lorrain’s painting. She goes in, is given food and drink, and every night an invisible being visits her bedroom and makes love to her. Soon she’s pregnant. Cupid tells her she must never look at him, or find out who he is.

But the path of true love, etc. To cut a long story short, Psyche’s envious sisters get involved and tempt her into lighting an oil lamp. It gets knocked over and in the process she sees Cupid, injures him, and scratches herself on one of his ubiquitous arrows, thus falling in love with him.

Cupid is spirited away to recover, and Psyche is left wandering forlornly and trying to fulfil a series of impossible tasks imposed by her angry future mother-in-law. She succeeds and the gods bless her marriage to a recovered Cupid, giving her ambrosia to drink and thus making her immortal.

Did Claude Lorrain also invent puff pastry?

Anyway, there is also an unsubstantiated idea that Lorrain was a keen cook as well as a painter. Further to this is the story, which is definitely not true, but delightful, so I will tell it anyway, that in the process of making a kind of layered, buttery bread for his sick father, Lorrain invented puff pastry.

If he didn’t, then who did?

This is definitely not true, as it looks as if puff pastry was invented by the Spanish about fifty years earlier. The first written record of puff pastry appears in Domingo Hernàndez de Maceras’ Libro de Arte de Cozina, which was published in 1607 when Lorrain was about seven!

In any case, this pud is perfect for Valentine’s Day, made just for two; but it also works well for larger numbers. It looks spectacular, and it survives quite well in an airtight container out of the fridge.

For other recipes using Nutella see:

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