I noticed that I seemed to be posting a lot of sweet things, so I vowed to feature more savoury dishes. Luckily, that doesn’t mean than becoming too healthy, so a dish that consists of mostly cheese is today’s post.
Cheese fondue is one of those dishes that I rarely eat, then at some point I think “it would be a really good idea to make cheese fondue” and make some. It is the sort of food that should be tricky to prepare, but actually it is quite straightforward if you can be a little bit organised. Then you eat it, and while it is always utterly delicious (cheese! in liquid form! on bread!), you think you might have actually overdosed on cheese and vow not to eat it again for a long, long time. Months later, I’ll see some Gruyère in a cheese shop, and the cycle starts all over again…
Think of fondue, and you think of Switzerland. Maybe they make it in other Alpine areas, but frankly, I like my fondue to consist of heroic quantities of the Swiss cheeses Gruyère and Emmental. I like it with a hint of garlic and pieces of celery, and a little mustard and cayenne pepper or paprika. The celery really is inspired – when I lived in Brussels, it was quite common to be able to order a portion of cheese which was served with celery salt, which was a great flavour combination. In the fondue, it just gives it that little extra something.
Another novelty factor around fondue is that you just never sit down to eat it on your own. It just has to be a communal meal. This feels right to me – eating so much cheese on you own might seem a bit naughty, but with friends it is just fun. London is also, rather helpfully, blessed with a Swiss restaurant which serves good fondue. It’s called St Moritz, and is a kitsch celebration of Alpine culture, and I absolutely love it. Always makes for a fun night out, even if all you want to do afterwards is settle down next to a log fire for a nice snooze.
St Moritz is also great because you can order huge pots of fondue as a main course. I remember being shocked at a New York cheese restaurant, Artisanal, where you could only order fondue as a starter. I guess they just don’t appreciate melted cheese as much as we do here in Europe!
To make cheese fondue (serve 4):
• 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
• 50g butter
• 2 celery sticks
• 300ml dry white wine
• 350g Emmental cheese, finely grated
• 400g Gruyère cheese, finely grated
• 75g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
• 1/8 teaspoon mustard
• pinch freshly grated nutmeg
• pinch of paprika
• 1 tablespoon cornflour
• 2 tablespoons kirsch or brandy
• 2 baguettes, cut into chunks
Rub the garlic around the inside of a fondue pot, and discard the garlic. Add the celery and butter, and sautée on a very gentle heat for around 10 minutes until the celery is very soft.
Add the wine, and heat gently. In the meantime, mix the cornflour and the kirsch/brandy, and set aside.
Once the wine is hot, add the cheeses, stirring constantly until they are melted. Add the mustard, nutmeg and paprika to taste and stir well. Pour the cornflour mixture into the fondue, stir well, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring all the time.
When the fondue is ready, move to the table and place over a burner to keep warm. Serve with the pieces of baguette to dip in the fondue.
Worth making? Fondue is undoubtedly a little fiddly to prepare, but if you are organised – and have the right pan – then it is well worth making next time you want a good, satisfying, sociable dinner with friends. Just be sure to have some sort of fresh salad to balance all that cheese. And don’t plan anything too physical afterwards.