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Cardoons Au Gratin

ingredients

approx. 2lb (1kg) cardoons (see method)
1 lemon
vegetable stock
2 oz (60 g) small slivers of Parmesan cheese
2 oz (60 g) small slivers of Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
2 oz (70 g) butter
2 1/2 oz (70 g) white truffle, fresh or tinned (optional)
salt and white pepper

method

1. Have the vegetable stock prepared in advance. Reheat it slowly over a low heat, stirring now and then. Trim and wash the cardoons; you will need to remove the outer, stringy layer of the stalks with a potato peeler.

2. Cut into 2 in (6 cm) sections and drop them straight into a bowl of iced water mixed with the juice of 1 lemon as you prepare them or they will discolour. When the cooking liquid has come to the boil, drain the cardoons and add to it. The cooking liquid should completely cover the vegetables. Drain well.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) mark 6. Grease a wide, shallow ovenproof dish with butter and place a layer of the cooked vegetables in it. Cover with half the mixed cheeses (use a mandoline cutter if you have one to slice the cheeses wafer thin).

4. Dot half the remaining butter in flakes over the surface. Cover with a second layer of the vegetables, followed by the cheeses and remaining butter. If you are using a truffle or tinned truffle peelings, sprinkle these on top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the surface has turned a pale golden brown.

Serve at once.

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